Public Speaking Tips & Tricks
When presenting, there are two critical categories to consider: body language and visual aids. When standing before an audience you will want to carefully consider your presence and how to best use that presence to effectively deliver your message. Aside from dressing professionally and appearing well-groomed, you should also be aware of your movements and tone. The following basic tips are a good place to start.
- Make eye contact. Try to make eye contact at least once with at least 50% of your audience. This can be accomplished relatively easily by periodically looking over the audience as you speak. You don’t need to stare into each person’s soul; simply one second of eye contact will do.
- Minimize gesticulations. A little bit of hand movement goes a long way. In fact, too many hand movements are distracting and they do not enhance your message. Consider timing your motions to points in your presentation where you are listing things, emphasizing a critical point, or purposely expressing intense emotion. A great way to practice this skill is by watching and mimicking TED talks.
- Project your voice. There is nothing worse than spending hours and hours on a project, only to have half of your audience miss out on your results because they couldn’t hear you. Speaking clearly and, depending on the size of the room and available A/V equipment, loudly. When you practice your presentation, place a recording device at the very back of the room so you can monitor the volume used throughout your rehearsal. Take special note of places in the presentation where your audibility lapses and project more at those portions during subsequent run throughs. If you only have access to a small room for rehearsals, try practicing with your hand on your throat. You should be able to distinctly feel the vibrations of your vocal chords against your hand throughout your rehearsal.
- With visual aides, less is more. Okay so, we know this one is difficult. You have a lot to say and you’re proud of it. However, if you crowd your slides with too much text, use unrelated images, or include graphs and data tables that are difficult to interpret, the audience will be more focused on your slideshow and less on what’s coming out of your mouth. Consider crafting slides with no more than 5 lines of text, original images that are directly related to your content, and simple data visuals accompanied by a low amount of text that enhance your explanation of results. Additionally, carefully consider accessibility by adhering to readability standards (e.g., mix light fonts with dark backgrounds and dark fonts with light backgrounds, stay away from neon colors, do not use excessively busy slide transitions, etc.)
For a comprehensive library of resources for improving your presentation skills, check out Agnes Scott College’s Center for Writing and Speaking public speaking handout series.
Free Presentation Review
If you would like a free review of your presentation draft, please email the GaTA Vice President, Imani Young Bey, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contingency Plans: What to do when there’s a malfunction
You can’t count on technology to work perfectly. It is a good idea to think ahead so that you can still effectively get your ideas across without the aid of technology. Here are a few contingency plans:
- If your slideshow is relatively short (7 slides or less) and you have appropriate access to a printer, make copies of your slides for your audience to share in pairs. Or go wild and print off copies for everyone! A nice touch to these copies would be a place for listeners to take notes on your presentation.
- If your slideshow is longer than 7 slides or you have restrictions on printing amounts, try a single or double-sided handout that summarizes your main points and includes URLs for videos or websites from your presentation. You might also include a shortlist of your most important sources for your audience’s reference.
- Create your slides using a Slideshare program such as PearDeck that attendees can access on their laptops or phones. This method ensures that your audience can each individually access the presentation, regardless of the efficacy of the technology provided at the conference venue.