TO GIVE A BETTER PRESENTATION
are not trained to present effectively hence we do not.
The good news is that giving public presentations is not as
difficult as you might think. You
can start at any age and do really well.
was forced to learn the art of presentation after a bitter experience.
I never had to give a presentation in India (my project
presentation was also a group affair).
My first major seminar in the US was in my second semester in
Carnegie Mellon. Every
graduate student was required to present his/her work in front of the
entire department 2 to 3 times during their stay and that was my first
presenting in front of 20 faculty members and 100 students, most of whom
in front of the crowd and felt the tremor in my voice and posture (I later
came to know that the entire room felt it too!!!).
I started saying something and in two minutes, I stopped. I forgot
the language, the subject and the everything else.
I wanted to bury myself in the ground or run away or do something
extreme. I took a deep breath. I
said loudly, "wait a minute" and I just waited for a whole
minute. I took another deep
breath and started talking.
next 20 minutes, I spoke with a single aim: to complete the presentation
somehow or the other. Nobody,
including myself understood what I was saying!
My advisor was visibly embarrassed.
I got one of the lowest evaluations in my batch.
humiliating. Here I was with
a lot of exciting research results to report, and an elite audience
willing to listen to everything I had to say.
I just made a mess of the opportunity.
started my training sessions. My advisor worked with me for hours to put me on the right
track. I learned certain
general strategies of public speaking and some strategies that are very
specific to me. I put forth
all my learning in this article.
out that an American speaks very slowly when he/she is tense and an Indian
speaks very fast in a similar situation.
On an average, we speak fast and we speak faster when we are under
stress. So, how can we reduce
the speed of delivery? The
best way is to write the main headings or some points either on the board
or transparency while speaking.
serves to slow down the process of uninterrupted talking.
So, use this as a natural speed breaker in your public seminars.
Look at the audience in
the first two minutes to identify a face that you find most receptive.
Just imagine that you are speaking to him/her through the rest of
the seminar. There are some
individuals who always sleep in a seminar.
There are some who are so nice that they listen to you however
boring your seminar may be. Keep
looking at the latter often to build your confidence.
critical part of your presentation is the first two minutes.
This is when you are most tense and your audience is most willing
to listen to you. You have to
optimize both. The best way
is to introduce yourself in a manner that is interesting and catchy.
personality development seminars that I give, I start by saying "In
the past 15 years, from a rural Telugu medium school, I went to Carnegie
Mellon, participated in a missile building program for the Indian defence
and started a multi-million dollar company. Today, I am going to tell you how you can do better than this
in the next fifteen years".
people start off by cracking a joke and that is not a bad idea to break
the ice. Whatever your path
may be, your biggest challenge in public speaking is in making the first
two minutes interesting.
pays to practice at least twice before a presentation.
The first practice will most probably make you feel miserable.
It will be pathetic. But
by the second one itself you will show a lot of improvement and then on
stage, you will be even better. However,
as you become more experienced, the need for practice sessions goes down.
looking at the people you are speaking to and try to smile or show
emotions. Change the
modulations of your speech if possible.
Let there be some movement in your position. A still person, with a monotonous voice without any emotions
has another name too: A sleeping pill.
I used to
oscillate like a simple pendulum (my feet being the fixed end and my head
the moving end) while giving a seminar.
Too much of such periodic motion used to obviously cause strain to
my audience. I had to work
carefully to stop that motion.
way is to let your friends tell you what your obvious mistakes are and
then you can rectify them.
I usually do not repeat even a single word that is
already on my slide. People sometimes complain that this makes it
difficult to relate the speech to what is on the slide. But, what is
worse is someone reading out what is already shown on the screen. It
is very boring.
So, strike a balance. Read important numbers, points only to
emphasize their importance. The rest, let the audience read while
you are narrating it more interestingly.
Most Indian seminars have one common feature: they
are delivered for intellectuals by people trying to look intellectual.
People can only grasp simple things seminars. Keep it that way and
more importantly realize that the purpose of the seminar is not to show
off your brilliance to the listener. It is actually to explain the
You may not realize it but by explaining tough ideas in an easy manner,
you will convince most people of your brilliance. Make your
transparencies also that way. Keep them neat, clean and easy to
So, that is it friends.
Follow these simple guidelines and
more effective speakers.
For those interested in my communication career after that disaster, I won
two best speaker awards in international seminars, never scored anything
less than the first rank in a course if it demanded a seminar, was the
invited speaker in more than 10 seminars in the past year. My best
public speaking effort, however, was the 6 hour-long seminar that I gave
on "E-commerce and entrepreneurship" that got me huge seed
funding for my companies.
Well, sometimes simple strategies work wonders!!