Power Presentations

Posted on 05 February 2010 by BMMBoxer

One of the largest and most frequent stumbling blocks in a BMM student’s life is the perfidious, treacherous project presentation, which quite often ends up making one’s meticulously planned and executed (yeah right!! ;-) ) project look lackluster. Therefore, as an answer to the prayers of every BMM student who asked for a meteor shower on his/her college on the night before a presentation, a less destructive alternative solution has been made available.

The following article is a collation of SOME ways to boost your presentation skills and add pizzazz. (Last minute workers please note: If you’re reading this on the night before your presentation hoping it has some magic formula to help you ace tomorrow’s presentation, you’re better off praying for a meteor shower)

1. SEX! FREE!

Include an opening that grabs all eyeballs.

While it’s not always necessary to pander to the baser passions of people in choosing an opening statement for your presentation, it is necessary to make sure that the efficiently disbursed attention and dissipated energies of the entire audience are diverted to you at the start of the presentation.

Do remember, if you don’t get them to listen to you at the start of the presentation, they’re not very likely to listen to you at any other point either. Choose a relevant ice breaker like a simple levity, a quote from a famous personality (Confucius; he says, “When attribute words to wise man, nobody bothers much about meaning”), some pictures etc. to help the audience get acquainted with you.

2. BMM audience is…literate.

Don’t read out what’s on the slides to the audience. They don’t need you to do that. They need you to give them information that’s NOT on the slide.

Reading out the contents of the slideshow happens to be one of the major faux pas in presentations. Each slide should not contain more than five sentences divided among five bullet points. Each sentence should sum up a topic/sub topic in the sentence. The audience knows what you’re talking about when they see the topic on the slide. The rest of the information is supposed to come from the grey matter encased in your skull (so DON’T memorize the content…UNDERSTAND it!).

3. Whatever you do… DON’T look into the gorgon’s eyes!

Making eye contact with an acquaintance or a heckling member of the audience can often disconcert the presenter.

Non-verbal communication with people in the audience (even if only for an instant) is more than enough to break the presenter’s train of thought and make them fumble (giving a heckler from another group an excellent opportunity to score over you).

For those who aren’t very confident of coping with such distractive elements, there’s a simple way to go around it. While presenting, simply identify four members from each quadrant of the room and keep looking at the head of each one in turn (either clockwise or anti-clockwise). This way, it appears that you’re confidently making eye contact with the audience without actually having to do so. (The person whose head you’re staring at thinks you’re looking at the person behind them and this person in turn thinks you’re looking at the person in front ;-))

4. Like…uhhh… don’t…like… mess up the words dude!

Fillers are a no-no in any form of speech, leave alone presentations. Surrender the task of corrupting the language to the pros (Americans).

Most people are sure to have observed others using fillers (words/phrases like ‘like,’ ‘you know,’ ‘umm,’ ‘uhhh,’ ‘er,’ etc.) with astounding ease to wreck their presentations. The most common reason for this is because he/she’s talking faster than they can form the words in their brain. While this is not a problem that can be dealt with overnight, it’s not insuperable either.

One way to do this is to practice speaking with the fingers and thumb of one hand thrust into one’s mouth (make sure you wash the hand first… urghhh!). The impediment will help train your mouth to move slower while also improving your enunciation. (Please note that while presenting, one need not or rather, SHOULD NOT stuff anything into one’s mouth. That’s just for the training! Also… make sure you have some privacy while performing the exercise lest your parents summon the guys in white coats). Make a conscious effort to improve your vocabulary so that you can better express yourself.

5. Presentations are like a lady’s attire!

They’re appreciated if they’re short and tasteful instead of designer full length.

It would serve one well to remember that theirs isn’t the ONLY presentation that the lecturer/examiner has to evaluate. Therefore, the longer it is, the more likely you are to bore him/her into giving you a lower score than deserved. Don’t make your presentation exceed 10 slides (including the ‘goodbye’ and introduction slides) and adhere to the time limit at ALL costs. Don’t clutter the presentation with extra information or pictures/flashy effects. It is always advisable to include a few special effects and illustrations… but they’re only meant to enhance the quality of the presentation. Your knowledge about the topic being presented and your ability to present it outweigh them by far.

6. Speech is spelt S-P-E-E-C-H; Presentation is spelt P-R-E-S-E-N-T-A-T-I-O-N!
Another difference between the two is that a presentation is interactive.

It is extremely important to involve your audience while delivering a presentation. It helps them feel more significant than the brick wall you COULD have been addressing. Also, it revives your audience’s attention momentarily. Prepare some short and simple closed ended/trick questions for the audience to answer (that are relevant to the topic of the presentation). Illustrate your point with examples and anecdotes if possible.

7. Move your body on the dance floor; stay put at the podium

Body language is one of the most important aspects of a presentation.

A word to the wise – if given a choice between using a podium and NOT using one… choose the latter. It displays confidence. And while one might do an awesome tap dance at parties, it’s not too appealing during a presentation. Shuffling/shifting from one foot to another, wringing one’s hands, scrunching up one’s eyes, and so on are dead giveaways of nervousness. It is recommended that one ask their friends to point out body language flaws or find out for themselves by practicing in front of a mirror.

You can’t fool anyone into believing you’re confident if you don’t LOOK the part. (Take for example UN’s pathetic attempt to convince people that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2010). The movements you make should be limited to the odd gesture to emphasize certain points.

8. School is over, but do your homework!

All the above points are of no use to anyone who doesn’t really know much about the topic.

There’s not much use in adding pizzazz to your presentation if you aren’t well versed with the matter of the project. The professor/evaluator isn’t going to be impressed by pedestrian theatrics if the content is mediocre. Make sure you understand the topic well and are also aware of the latest relevant developments (they’re sure to crop up in the Q&A session).

Miscellaneous Tips

• Make sure that your attire is appropriate for the presentation (Tube tops, 3/4ths, Pajamas and the like are NOT usually considered appropriate).
• Don’t be afraid to innovate. Break the bonds of convention. Lend a theme to your presentation or bring a pre-existing theme to life through props/role playing, and so on (but make sure you have the professor’s permission first).
• Practice as many times as possible. Have the slides ready at least 48 hours in advance. We’re serious!
• BE ON TIME! Set a hundred alarms if you have to… but make sure that you’re at the venue well in time to make a good impression or to avoid making a bad one (whatever works for you).

Raghav Rao

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