A lot goes into presentations and its imminent you need to think about how to present before you actually do it. You could be saying a lot without realising you are. For example, body language says a lot about an individual. If you sit with your legs crossed, one foot tapping and leaning on a table with your chin in your hand then this says you’re probably bored out of your brain and you’d much rather be doing something else (like binge watching The Walking Dead from seasons 1-6 before season 7 comes out). However, binge watching your favourite show isn’t going to get you your dream job now is it? Not to worry, I have some tips that may help.
Let’s start with body language. No matter what you’re saying, if your body language suggests that you’re disinterested, your chances are already limited.
Firstly, DO NOT look at the slides. Keep eye contact with the audience/client/panel. If you don’t this comes across as bad manners and this can come across as though you aren’t completely confident in your own abilities. Keeping eye contact with the audience will keep that personal engagement and will draw them in to what you’re saying, simple psychology says keeping eye contact makes you look more believable.
DO NOT slouch, put your hands in your pockets or scratch. All of these things are what’s known as negative body language. Being too casual comes across as over confident and nobody likes that. When presenting you need to have open boy language, this gives the impression that you are confident in your work, but you aren’t too confident. Positivity is key.
DO NOT repeat your words or use words like ‘urm’, ‘but’ or ‘if’ and always use an indoor voice. The last thing somebody wants is a bumbling idiot talking to them, never mind working for them. Repeating your words makes you look unprepared as well as using words like ‘if’ and ‘but’, it doesn’t give the best impression. Always use an indoor voice, shouting or being loud doesn’t go in your favour. Remember that although you may be the loudest in the room, is anybody listening to you?
Look interested and motivated in the subject matter. Whether its a client, company or the weather, whatever you are presenting about you have to come across as motivated and interested. Imagine hiring a politician as an interior designer, you wouldn’t would you? They would have no idea what they were doing so what would be the point? The same applies for you. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you more than likely won’t be employed. It’s as simple as that.
That’s body language. Now, lets talk about the actual pitch.
When pitching you must ALWAYS do the ground work. Who is the client/company? Why are they important? What are their achievements? What resources do they have? Can you find any background knowledge? All of these questions will give you the upper hand when it comes to your pitch. You will come across as driven, enthusiastic and knowledgeable; 3 characteristics employers are looking for.
PREPARE for your presentation. Do they have a computer? Do you need a back up? do you need to take any physical copies? If so, how many? Don’t be afraid to ask. Call or email the company and ask how many people you will be presenting to so you can plan ahead. This will allow you to prepare any extra props or resources you may need; again, you will come across as prepared and driven.
ALWAYS tell the truth. Lying will get you nowhere and, if anything, it just makes you look silly. The client knows you haven’t landed on the moon or designed for Vogue, if you had, you probably wouldn’t be pitching to them. It’s a simple matter of honesty is the best policy. This applies in all aspects of life, not jut your career.
Have a START, MIDDLE and END. When planning your presentation be sure to have a opening, middle and a conclusion. This will stop you from waffling and chewing off your audiences’ ears; they don’t want to hear the same thing repeated 7 times in different ways.
PRACTICE. As they age old saying goes, practice makes perfect. Give yourself a time schedule. A lot of companies will give you a time slot and they expect you to present your work in a concise and methodical way; having a time schedule will prevent you from waffling and/or digressing. The last thing employers want is for you to be talking about your political stance in the middle of a pitch; unless you’re pitching for a political leadership, of course.
Be prepared to STOP and ANSWER QUESTIONS. Have background information on everything you have planned to say. If somebody on the board stop you to ask you a question and you’re not sure what to say, either ask them to repeat the question or to clarify. They could interrupt your pitch at any time so don’t be alarmed if they do, just be prepared for it and take your time to talk to them. They asked you a question, you’ve blatantly caught their attention with something you’ve said, that can only be a good thing!
DO NOT do any fancy PowerPoint transitions UNLESS it is NECESSARY. The last thing you need is to have a concise, planned out speech and for your audience to be more interested in the transitions of your PowerPoint. You want all of their attention directed at you and what you are saying, not what’s going on behind you. I can assure that the information leaving your mouth will be more impressive than that fancy swoosh transition on PowerPoint.
ALWAYS be prepared to go back over the pitch if NECESSARY. Sometimes, the people watching your presentation will miss something or maybe they won’t quite understand what you meant. This is nothing to fear, just be prepared to go back over any part of your pitch and maybe explain something in a bit more detail. As long as you were honest throughout your pitch, you have nothing to be scared of.
ALWAYS ask if there are any QUESTIONS. This gives you a chance to engage with the panel/audience. They can converse with you and get to you know little better than they would from just hearing you pitch. Never be afraid of questions, if anything, they’re an aid.
All of these points will help when it comes to a pitch or presentation, whether it be to an audience of one or one hundred. If you keep them in mind, you will go far.
(This was the foreground for a presentation we had to do; read about how that went here.)