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Tricks to Deliver an Impressive Presentation Every Time

Tricks to Deliver an Impressive Presentation Every Time

According to Forbes, 70% of Americans agreed that delivering good presentations has been critical for their success at work.[1] Delivering presentations and the communications skills which go along with it are a big part of not only work life, but college, and school too. Yet it is something a lot of us struggle with.

I recall one time, in college, I had to deliver a presentation on a topic, and the person before me was so pro, and covered so much of what I intended to cover, that I was left there, in front of the class mumbling and stumbling my pre-prepared speech. Fear of public speaking (Glossophobia) is so common that a stunning 75% of people suffer from it.[2]

Of course, fear of public speaking is only one aspect of why delivering a great presentation can be tough. You may find yourself having to condense weeks of research and pages of information and data into only a handful of minutes.

On top of this you could worry about the format and structure of your presentation (this is a big issue for me).

As it is important for professional or academic success, all these stresses can make presentations seem nightmarish. But they don’t need to be. In fact, your presentation and public speaking skills can be improved tenfold thanks to a handful of tips and considerations.

Many, many books have been published about tackling public speaking, many therapists specialize on helping people with this anxiety (of course, if you feel like seeing one may help, go for it!) but great improvement can be made without too much effort. See the tips below.

Drop Verbal Fillers

Every-day conversation and talk is actually pretty strange if you really pay attention and focus on it. We speak in run on sentences, sometimes don’t quite make sense, make points that don’t lead anywhere, and most of all, fill our talks with little verbal ticks and filler words.[3]

Filler words fill our spoken sentences with words like “um”, “ah” “like”, and “you know?” words, that don’t mean anything, and are only there so you can keep making a sound when you figure out what to say next. Its perfectly natural and pretty much everyone does them.

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We are all so accustomed these elements of casual conversation that we don’t notice them. However during a high pressure activity like delivering a presentation we can start to become really aware of it all, and start to kick ourselves for making them. Whats worse, is that they may have a genuinely negative effect on our presentations.

The solution?

Get rid of them.

But how?

A good tip is to record yourself in numerous conversations, then repeatedly listen to them. This will make you much more aware of how you use filler words and will be good step towards dropping them.

Though we don’t like silences, sometimes not saying something for a second, and taking a breath may make you sound more confident than filling your presentations with fillers.

If you need a little bit more help, there is actually an app designed to coach you out of using filler words called Likeso. [4]The app is programmed to pick up your use of filler words when you talk and reveal them to you as a percentage of your overall speech.

Getting rid of filler words will also improve your communication skills generally and make you much more articulate, merely by clearing away unnecessary filler.

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    Inform, Educate, and Entertain

    These three intentions should be core to your presentation. The same ideas were the foundation of the BBC, and were big parts of all of Steve Jobs ‘ presentations and product launches.[5]

    Entertaining those viewing your presentation (perhaps by adding an element of humor to your presentation or other elements) will ensure they won’t be bored during your presentation. Also if you entertain well, they will be drawn to you.

    Informing and educating is where you convey the substance of your presentation.

    Practice, Practice, Practice

    This is by far the most obvious bit of advice, but it is also by far the most important. Before delivering your presentation, you need to know it backwards, forwards, left right, up down, every way.

    If you can, try to memorize as much as possible. This might both help with nerves, but also make you come across as more confident and knowledgeable.

    People are naturally drawn to those they perceive as confident. So, if you deliver your presentation with confidence brought from practice, you may turn those people you’re presenting to, from intimidating judges, to a captivated audience.

    When practicing consider not only the words you’re saying, but how you’re saying them, and your movements and posture. A presentation is pretty much a performance. A piece of theater, and you are the lead actor.

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    Consider your body language

    Though we tend to think that communication is all about what we say, and perhaps tone. It is thought that 94% [6] of how we communicate is actually non verbal, this is a myth, however your gestures and body language are important parts of your communication.[7]

    You could be delivering the most beautifully written presentation ever, but if you deliver it without moving, timidly in the corner with your hands in your pockets. You will seem uninspired and well..boring.

      The good news is, gesturing is perfectly natural, if you make effort to deliver your conversation with confidence, this will show itself in your gestures.[8] All you need to really do is loosen up and the rest will take care of itself.

      If we begin to pay attention to our use of gestures, we may initially begin to feel a bit self conscious and may fight the natural urge to gesture. Don’t pay attention to these feelings, and your presentation will be all the better for it.

      Don’t be afraid to bring in sources and ideas that aren’t directly relevant

      This really only works in presentations when you have a decent amount of time in a presentation. But if a part of your presentation reminds you of something in history, science, or literature and it seems relevant. Don’t be afraid to work it into the presentation. Mark Levy, president of the branding firm Levy Innovation,[9] and the writer of Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight and Content[10] says the following :

      ““If you’re talking about, say, workplace productivity, it’s fine to talk about Pickett’s Charge [in the Battle of Gettysburg] or black holes or an idea from an Elizabeth Gilbert book that, in some way, relates to workplace productivity. Bringing in ideas from other domains keeps people awake and interested, and it’s actually how paradigm shifts are born”[11]

      This makes sense, after all, why are books like Machiavelli’s The Prince or Sun Tzu’s The Art of War still so popular?

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      I don’t believe its because Renaissance era Florentine politics and ancient Chinese warfare are common interests. But instead the lessons contained within (though I’d be wary of those who pay too much attention to Machiavelli) have been used and adapted successfully by those in business.

      Whether to read out loud?

      The advantages of reading your presentation from a pre-written script are at first, pretty clear.

      Focusing on the script will ensure everything you say is valid and appropriate, will help eliminate filler words as you no longer need to think about what to say, and means you don’t need to spend the whole time looking at everyone’s faces and wonder what they’re thinking.

      The advantages are obvious…however they are deceptive.

      It is always a good idea to have something on hand like a script or sheet of notes. However, relying on notes or a script completely will suck out all life from your presentation.

      Also if you are just standing there and reading, you will seem as if you haven’t practiced, and by extension have little interest or knowledge in what you are presenting. This can kill off your presentation entirely. As such, if you don’t think you can memorize the whole thing, you should work hard to find a good mid point.

      Featured photo credit: Judson University via flickr.com

      Reference

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      Last Updated on October 30, 2019

      How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

      How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

      Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

      In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

      Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

      You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

      What is the Stages of Change Model?

      Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

      Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

      Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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        The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

        The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

        The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

        The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

        1. Precontemplation
        2. Contemplation
        3. Determination
        4. Action
        5. Maintenance
        6. Termination

        How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

        To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

          Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

          Stage 1: Precontemplation

          At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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          For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

          Stage 2: Contemplation

          At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

          You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

          The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

          Stage 3: Preparation

          At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

          Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

          Stage 4: Action

          When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

          Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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          Stage 5: Maintenance

          After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

          Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

          Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

          Stage 6: Termination

          Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

          However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

          How long does each stage take?

          You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

          So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

          The limitations of this model

          The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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          Require the ability to set a realistic goal

          For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

          If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

          Difficult to judge your progress

          The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

          Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

          Conclusion

          The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

          While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

          Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
          [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
          [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
          [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
          [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
          [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
          [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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