Student Life

How to deliver presentations like a pro

Top public speaking tips to conquer nerves and give better class presentations.

Mar 16, 2016

Public speaking is a valuable skill to have—it can help you nail a presentation at school, impress your boss at work, or even convince friends and family to support one of your crazy ideas! It’s totally normal to feel a bit nervous speaking in front of a crowd, but there are things you can do to boost your public speaking game and help ease your nerves.

I’ve had a lot of practice with public speaking as a Learning Clicks Ambassador, a student, and an athlete. I give a lot of presentations and have gotten pretty comfortable speaking to large groups of people.

I’ve compiled a list of my top tips for public speaking like a pro—read on to learn how to make your presentations rock!

  1. Tell a story

    The best communicators are great storytellers. Usually the topic you are speaking on is something you are passionate about. It really helps to remember a moment that has happened to you and share that experience in detail to paint a vivid picture of your topic.

  2. Know who you’re talking to

    It’s super important to know your audience: who they are, where they’re at in life, what their interests are. When I’m talking to high school students I try to keep my presentations relevant to their lives and interests, and I try to put myself in their shoes to ensure they can relate to what I’m talking about.

  3. Provide a brief agenda

    At the beginning of your presentation provide a brief overview of what you’ll be talking about so you stay on track and your audience can follow you.

  4. Ask questions and interact

    This really helps your audience to stay engaged. Ask yes or no questions like “who has ever skied before?” and chances are at least a few people will put their hands up. This gets your audience engaged and invested in what you’re saying, and hopefully piques their interest a bit more than just passively listening.
  5. Walk around the room

    I’ve been called Happy Feet when presenting because I like to walk around while I’m talking. Conversations are fluid so keep your presentation fluid, this will help to keep your thoughts rolling. Walking can help you to loosen up and keep things casual, if that’s the tone you’re going for. Moving across the room also allows you to connect with everyone in the audience, rather than just focusing on the people who are front and centre.
  6. Practice

    It’s the absolute worst feeling messing up what you’re going to say in a presentation and having your audience just stare back at you blankly. Before you present try hitting the record button on your phone and watch yourself present so you can see where you need to improve. This will also help you to notice any nervous habits you might have, like playing with your hair or saying ‘um’ a lot, so that you can keep these habits in check during your presentation.

  7. Use slides or flash cards

    I like to use Prezi (way cooler than Powerpoint) to make presentation slides that I can click through as I go helps remind me of my talking points, so that I don’t have to memorize everything and so that I don’t miss anything important. You can also make little flash cards with your talking points on them, to prompt you if you forget what your next point is.

  8. Plan your finish

    Wrapping up can be the hardest part of a talk because you’ve either used up all of your good stuff, you’ve gone over time, or you have space to fill. Hold on to your closing gold nugget so you can leave on a high note either way.

  9. Teach your audience something new

    I learned this tip from the book Talk like TED that explained how all TED Talks are based on learning something new: “The human brain loves novelty. An unfamiliar, unusual, or unexpected element in a presentation intrigues the audience, jolts them out of their preconceived notions, and quickly gives them a new way of looking at the world.”

  10. Don't take yourself too seriously

    Bring some jokes into your presentations and don't forget to smile—smiling really is contagious. Break the ice, infuse your presentation with a bit of humour if it works with the material, your audience will typically respond positively to a relaxed speaker.

Haley

Business
Mount Royal University

A full-time business student, athlete, and entrepreneur, I study business and am aiming for a spot at the 2020 Olympics.

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