5 Ways to Give a Confident Presentation
As a science graduate, you will have had to develop presentation skills in various ways which may have helped you develop the ability to give a confident presentation. This may have been to large audiences during lectures, small groups in seminars, or in a more informal setting during poster sessions. These presentations would have been about conveying technical information and data to other scientists. When you move into the workplace, especially if you are in the corporate world, presentations take on a different meaning. Whether you are asked to give a presentation at an interview or within your job, the expectation is often to sell yourself, a product or a service. Or, you may need to influence a group of stakeholders, perhaps even members of a senior leadership team. Instead of just conveying data or a concept, you are expected to engage, sell, influence or persuade (or perhaps all of these things!). So how do you transition into this style of presenting? And how do you do it with confidence? Here are 5 ways to give a confident presentation in the workplace:
Tell a story
To engage an audience, you need to make what you are saying is easy to follow. You also need to use relatable concepts to catch their attention. Telling a story at the start of a presentation is a great way to do this. Depending on what the presentation is about, this could be a personal story, something you read, or something to do with the company. You could also make the whole presentation into a story itself. Be creative and think about the flow of your presentation having a beginning, middle and end.
This is where your strength in conveying data to others can come in. Numbers are a powerful way to illustrate achievement, impact, or show projections for the future. The part to be careful with is not giving too much detail which you may be used to doing in the past (unless you have been asked for it). During a presentation, your aim should be to convey the bigger picture, using key figures to illustrate this. If your work involves detailed numbers, include this in an appendix or handout for the audience to reference. You could even send these before or after the presentation. But to make the actual presentation simple and engaging, focus on the key figures you need to get your message across.
Interact with the audience
Use your judgement here to figure out ways you can involve the audience in your presentation. The setting may be informal so you may be able to turn it into a discussion. This way the focus is not just on you! In any case, ask the audience questions. Do this especially if your presentation is lengthy, as you need to make sure you keep people’s attention, and the best way to do this is for them to be active. There may already be time built into the agenda for the audience to ask you questions at the end or even during your presentation. Make sure you still state that you are open to questions at the end, and prepare for what these might be beforehand. Have extra material on hand to reference to support your answers.
Be aware of the physical space you are using
To give a confident presentation, you should consider your body language. If you can, try to go to the room you will be presenting in and look at the space available. Consider whether it’s appropriate to move around whilst talking, just make sure you don’t end up blocking any visual material you are using. Hand gestures can also make you more engaging, just be aware that too much of this can be distracting as well.
Practise projecting your voice
Understand how your voice travels in a room by practising your presentation with a friend or family. This will really depend on the size of the room and whether you have a microphone or not. The only way you will find out is through practice. Another common mistake people make if they are using visuals such as slides is to turn their head towards the slides whilst speaking, which automatically makes it harder for the audience to hear the presenter. Have your material in front of you on a small laptop or printout that you can reference if needed. Almost everyone has had to give a presentation during school, college or university. You might find it to be the most nerve-wracking experience, or it might give you an adrenaline rush. Either way, considering the environment and the audience you are presenting to is a key consideration to give a confident presentation. Use the 5 tips above to be on your way to confidence whilst presenting in the workplace.
If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, watch our webinar on How Science Graduates Can Get a High Paying Job Outside the Lab Even if You Have Little to No Work Experience.