The Ten Commandments to Presenting Professionally

Implementing the 10 commandments below will enable you to make nervous tension work for you and not against you!

It is natural (indeed instinctive and good) to feel some tension and excitement before making a presentation. This is the so called “fight or flight” response.

Control this and your mind will be sharper and more focused on the subject matter and you will perform better.

Follow the Ten Commandments of Presenting (according to The Bid Coach) and you will significantly improve your chances of delivering a concise, accurate and memorable presentation.

1. Prepare – thoroughly in advance

Ensure that you have considered every probability and mitigated against it. If it can go wrong it will – you need to be able to take any issues in your stride and carry on regardless – the prospect / audience may not even realise you had encountered a problem if you have prepared thoroughly enough. Even if they do see you have had an issue the way in which you overcame it will demonstrate very powerfully what a true professional you are – and will fill them with confidence!

2. Practice, practice, practice!

This is something that you can never do too much of (contrary to popular belief). Some people believe that you can practice too much and take the spontaneity out of your performance. Actually the complete reverse is true! When you know the material very well and are completely confident with it you can deliver it whilst at the same time “listening to” and responding to your audience, making subtle changes to what you say and how you say it (which makes the delivery all the more powerful). You can also concentrate on “the show” to the audience – this enhances the memorability of what you say exponentially (which is a lot!)

3. Have good notes.

Not the full text, just key points – written on nothing bigger than A5 size (postcard size is better). Make sure there is nothing you don’t want the audience to see on the side facing them. The material the notes are written on should look smart.  (Scruffy notes make you look unprofessional).

Number each sheet in case you drop them or they get out of order. Use large writing – so you can easily read them. Highlight key words or phrases in a bright colour.

AND use your own made up shorthand – this can include pictures or single word prompts – anything that means something to you! Put a sheet down once you have finished with it, or put it to the back of your “pack”.

4. Have a glass of water within reach

Take a sip if things feel out of control. Even if they don’t take a sip periodically anyway – this allows you to re-set yourself and to look at your audience to gauge how they are responding to you.

5. Slow deep breaths – before you stand up, or get into the sight of the audience

This helps you to get focused and slow your heart rate down (the excitement could be making it race). It also gives you time to think about the opening remarks of your presentation and to get these thoughts into your head.

6. Pause – for 3 to 5 seconds before you start to speak

This might feel like a long time to you, but it is nothing to the audience. It gives them time to settle down and get ready to start listening to you. Use the pause to gather your thoughts and to control your nerves. Think something positive about yourself.

During the pause make eye contact with as many people in the audience as possible. Make sure to caste your eyes across the entire room. Do not just scan the audience; make deliberate eye contact with them.

6. a. Pause – frequently during the presentation

Take that sip of water! The pause allows the audience to absorb what you have presented recently – there are limits to how much information an audience can comprehend so make it easy for them by using the pause to enable them to consider your most recent points

Remember, the only person who knows you might have lost your train of thought is you (the audience has no idea!)

7. Remove distractions.

Empty your pockets of lose change, keys etc. TURN OFF YOUR MOBILE PHONE

8. Keep control of yourself.

Let your arms and hands be passive, but also use them positively when you want to emphasise a point. You can rest them the podium if you are presenting from one, but do not grip this tightly, or hold it all of the time. DO NOT PUT YOUR HANDS IN YOUR POCKETS – EXCEPT FOR A SPECIFIC EFFECT!

9. Check the equipment works

Check every piece of equipment twice. Pay particular attention to audio – sound will travel better when the room is empty than when it is filled by your audience. Equally you don’t want to deafen them. In a large room check all areas of the room can hear and see you OK

10. Have a backup.

A disc, or memory stick (if using electronic material) or acetates (old fashioned) and be prepared to deliver the presentation without any props at all. This can be very daunting if the subject matter requires a lot of visuals!

In summary:

1. Use a clear and distinctive speaking voice.

2. Remember non-verbal signals communicate more than words.

3. Project confidence.

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One thought on “The Ten Commandments to Presenting Professionally

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