Preparing to Do a Presentation

Dress for success. Whether you are doing a presentation at a conference, at a school, or at a business meeting, your presence is important. Know the appropriate attire for the event.

According to Lynn Hawkins, P. H.,D, a speaker must look professional. Even color matters. Did you know people wearing blue are considered trustworthy? If you have pale skin and gray or red hair, consider wearing a dark suit or dress color. If doing a television presentation, be aware prints and plaids tend to look as if they’re moving. Avoid them. French blue works well for most people. If you have an opportunity to see the venue ahead of time, use a color wheel so you don’t blend into the background. Opposites on the color wheel help make the speaker look energetic.

Spend time crafting your first sentence. It must grab the audience’s attention. If you are a writer, consider the first sentence of your speech equivalent to the first sentence hook of a book. If you have an audience of high school students, consider using music at some point in your presentation. Target your audience.

Posture counts. Don’t pace. Stay fairly still, but use gestures and direct your attention to individuals in all sections of the audience.

What else can you do? Avoid mumbling. Project your voice. Practice speaking loudly enough so you can be heard.

Maintain eye contact. Don’t look above the heads of audience members. Before you speak, take a moment to locate friendly faces in the audience. Look at those specific listeners first when you begin to speak, but don’t focus on an audience member long enough to make the person uncomfortable. 

The most important component of a successful presentation is the content. Be sure you know your material. Research. Check your facts and statistics. Be the authority in the room. Organize the material to make the greatest impact. 

A good speech should have an introduction, body, and dynamic conclusion. Leave the audience with a memorable quote or anecdote. If possible tie the conclusion to the introduction for the biggest impact. When writing a speech, prepare the body first. Then write the introduction and conclusion. After all, the purpose of the introduction is to lead into the speech. The conclusion sums up what you have said and drives your message home in an unforgettable manner.

Practice. Practice first in front of your cat, dog, or spouse if you are uncomfortable practicing before a live audience of your peers.  

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