Managing a Presentation Event
The practicalities of how you manage your presentation event can make a significant difference to its success, and to your nerves!
This page is part of our step-by-step guide to Presentation Skills, if you have not already done so then we recommend that you start by reading 'What is a Presentation?' and follow the articles through to provide you with essential information on planning and preparing your presentation.
This page highlights some ways that you can manage the actual event when you give your presentation.
If the chairs are free standing, the seating can be arranged according to the size of the room and number of people expected.
It is important to arrange seating so that everyone can see and hear you and there are no obstacles to the visual aids you are using. If you're using PowerPoint or a projector, generally, then try to make sure that even the seats towards the back can see the full screen. Often, towards the back of an audience, the bottom third of a screen can be obstructed by the people in front.
Before the event, ask for seating to be arranged as you would like. Remember, though, that sometimes you will have no control over the seating layout of the space where you will speak, and the best thing that you can do is tailor your presentation to the planned layout. For example, it is good practice to avoid putting important points towards the bottom of your slides in case people at the back of the room cannot read them.
Arrive in plenty of time since being late will increase your stress levels. If the room or hall is available before the audience arrives, check:
- The seating is suitable.
- The supply and location of electric sockets and light switches.
- Equipment and visual aids are working.
- The microphone, if one is being used.
- The lectern or a table is suitable for your notes.
- If following a previous speaker, be prepared to set up any visuals before you begin your presentation.
If possible, plan a spare five minutes before the presentation starts to quickly review your notes and calm your nerves.
Coping with Nerves
It is essential to always be well prepared and well rehearsed in order to feel more confident.
Feeling nervous before a presentation is entirely natural, see our page Dealing With Presentation Nerves for some tips and reassurance.
If the presentation is a formal or semi-formal occasion, someone may introduce you. Take your time to get into position, make eye contact with the audience and remember to smile.
If introduced, always acknowledge the introduction with thanks.
Unless it is a very small group or very informal occasion, always stand to give a presentation or talk. Remember to keep your head up and maintain eye contact with the audience throughout. Be alert to the audience mood and reaction.
You may also find our page: Building Rapport useful for some general tips on how to build rapport with other people.
Voice and Language
Maintaining interest throughout depends not only on the content but how the talk is delivered vocally.
Remember that the following aspects of voice control are important:
- Volume - to be heard
- Clarity - to be understood
- Variety - to add interest
Do not speak too fast and remember to pause occasionally to let the audience assimilate the information.
Use easily comprehensible language and try to avoid clichés and jargon. If you are sincere and enthusiastic you will quickly develop a rapport with the audience.
Managing Sound Systems and Microphones
In a big room, you may need or have access to a sound system. This may also be used if your talk is being recorded. If so, there are a number of things to remember:
- In advance, try to find out when you will be attached to the microphone, and also when the microphone will be switched on and off. Nobody wants to hear your off-stage remarks about how nervous you are, or your post-presentation comments on the awfulness of the audience. A quick chat with the sound technician could avoid a lot of embarrassment.
- Also in advance, check whether the microphone is wired or wireless. Wireless means that you will be able to move around the stage, whereas wired means you’re a bit more ‘tethered’, so it does affect how you plan your presentation. If in doubt, assume wired.
- It’s worth making sure that you have at least one pocket in your outfit, so that the microphone can be clipped to it. Having it attached to a smart dress or thin top with tape is not a good look. For women, it’s best to avoid dangly earrings or heavy jewellery, in case it bumps against the microphone and makes a noise.
- It is tempting to speak more quietly with a microphone, but try to maintain your normal speaking voice. You still need to speak slowly and clearly, as your voice may be distorted by the sound system.
- Make sure that you know how to switch the microphone on and off, in case of any problems during the presentation. When you’ve finished, switch it off yourself, then you’ll know that your private conversations will remain private.
- Coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose will sound horrendous through a microphone. If you need to do any of those things, turn away from the microphone beforehand.
- While wearing a microphone or in front of a camera, never say anything that you wouldn’t be happy for the whole room to hear, or to be recorded and played back publicly. That way, you will avoid any potential embarrassment.
Positioning and Body Language
Where you stand, and whether you move around, has a huge effect on the audience and its reaction to you.
For example, if you stand at a lectern, most of your body will be invisible to your audience, which means that your body language is much harder to read. As a general rule, lecterns are bad news, but sometimes essential, because that’s where the microphone and/or controls for the visual aids are located.
If you can, wander about the stage during your presentation, returning to the lectern to change slides if necessary.
However, pacing backwards and forwards like a caged lion is not good. If you need to be at a lectern for the microphone, then try angling the microphone so that you can stand to one side, and be fully visible to your audience, or better still, demand a roving microphone as a pre-condition of agreeing to present.
If the sound system or positioning is less than ideal, explain that to your audience. You may feel and look awkward rooted to the spot by a lectern, but at least they will understand why if you’ve told them that you’d prefer to be moving about.
Beware of the following bad habits that may let you down when you are nervous:
- Whilst speaking, try to keep a tall, relaxed, open stance without hanging onto a table or lectern or trying to hide behind it. If using cue cards, do not wave them around but keep them in one hand while gesturing with the other.
- Avoid putting your hands in your pockets as usually you will start to fiddle with the contents, and this will be distracting to the audience.
- Try not to hop from one foot to the other or rock backwards and forwards on the balls of your feet. Try not to pace up and down although some movement may be useful to keep audience attention.
- Do not stare fixedly at one person in the room or pretend the audience is not there and talk to the ceiling or the floor.
- Do not fiddle with pens, buttons, jewellery, a tie or your hair.