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The road to a successful presentation

17 December 2021
By Barbara Dragsted

Even a seasoned speaker can get nervous - and that's okay

Peter goes on stage to talk about his experiences in the Chinese market. His audience is business people, mainly middle-aged men and women, all exuding control and confidence. Peter feels the audience's eyes following him on his way up to the podium, a hike of about 8 metres. Without being very nervous, Peter can feel his pulse rising a little - he's given many talks before, but can still enjoy the little rush of standing in front of an audience. In fact, he knows from experience that a little nervousness is good for him, because it makes him a little sharper. And he'll need that today, because this is a demanding audience: they want to be stimulated, inspired and informed.

Good contact with the audience strengthens self-confidence and interaction with the audience

Peter's gaze catches a member of the audience he was talking to before the doors to the auditorium opened. They nod briefly at each other. Peter takes a deep breath and feels his body straighten. The room falls silent. Peter smiles, another listener smiles back. Peter delivers his lecture. Instinctively he keeps an eye on his listeners. Is anyone bored? He sees one nod thoughtfully, another smile attentively - yes, it's going very well, Peter thinks.

Notice how much is going on between Peter and his listeners. Eye contact, nods, smiles, seriousness - all communication that has nothing to do with the content of the talk, but is crucial to what the audience gets out of it.

Leave the main points on the last slide

Peter ends his talk with his five main points, followed by five simple bullets on the PowerPoint - they stay on the wall as he finishes. After his brief, slightly insistent summary, he pauses for a moment to do some art, after which he says thank you. Peter receives raucous applause. And the slide with the five pointers is still on the wall when he thanks the applause and invites questions. The audience looks up at the slide and there are some good, interesting questions and comments. It was a good talk.

Connect with the audience even before the talk starts

Peter is aware that he is "on" already at the reception, where participants drink coffee before the lecture starts. Here he had a brief chat with several of the waiting listeners. When he caught their eye during the talk, they nodded back.

In this way, Peter had already made a good connection with some of the audience before the talk itself, and this helped to boost both his confidence and the interaction with the audience when he went on.

To sum up: a lecture can be excellent in terms of content, but if there is no attention to communication and contact between the speaker and the audience, good and important points can be lost. Peter benefited from the subtle communication that happens between the speaker and the audience. It helped to make the talk a good experience for the audience and himself.

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