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Someone calls out your name. They give some details about your professional life. The audience applauds. The chairperson looks at you. The audience looks at you. The applause dies down. Everyone expects you to say something but you’ve gone blank! Sound familiar?

Believe it or not, this is one of the most common nightmares among those who are going to give a presentation. In fact, three out of four people are more afraid of speaking in public than they are of spiders. In NELC we don’t have any data about those who fear meeting a spider while giving a presentation, but we can give you some tips about what to do if you have to give a lecture or present a new marketing plan. Especially if you have to do it in English as well.

First things first. Do some groundwork. Find out about the audience you are going to speak to: their age bracket, their positions, their level of experience and how much they know about the topic you’re going to discuss. Find out how many people are coming. Then you can decide whether it’s better to speak from a podium or move around the room, for example. If you haven’t already done so, immerse yourself in the subject you’re going to talk about. This will give you self-confidence and you won’t be afraid of going blank.

Look for a surprising or funny angle on the subject in question, which you think is interesting. Your enthusiasm will rub off and your listeners will want to know more. That brings us to the matter of how to keep the audience’s attention. Let’s put it this way: the first 30 seconds are crucial. This is the time when you win over or lose your audience. Start with something that makes an impact (a power opener), such as making your audience think by presenting a problem, providing surprising data related to the topic you are discussing, or telling them a personal anecdote.

Another trick to avoid losing the interest of the participants is to briefly go over the main points at the end of each section. You can use expressions like these ones: Just one more thing before we move on; Let’s put together everything we have mentioned before moving on; What we have been talking about...

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Let’s move on to presentation of slides. The English use an acronym that describes very well what to do here: KISS, “Keep It Short & Simple”. Don’t forget to use colours either.

And now that you have all the material, it’s time to practice. Practice, practice and more practice. This does not mean that you have to memorize your presentation but you do need to rehearse. The more you practice, the easier it will be, and if you do so in front of a mirror, even better. Listening to and watching yourself are the key to finding out how well prepared you are.

And of course there’s the issue of question time. This is a part that you can’t rehearse but which you’ll have no need to worry about if you’ve prepared well. Basically there are four types of questions. Here are some expressions to help you deal with them:

  • Good questions: you can answer with an “I’m glad you asked me that…”
  • Difficult questions: “I don’t know that information off the top of my head…”, or “Can I get back to you on that?”
  • Unnecessary questions: “As I mentioned earlier…”
  • Irrelevant questions: “I’m afraid I don’t see the connection.”

And when the big day arrives, relax, be yourself and have fun!

Download our free e-book “Top Tips For Effective Presentations”, a guide that will help you feel more at ease and self-confident when giving a presentation in English.