Friday, 30 November 2012

All present and correct...

Today we are proud to publish the latest title in our “Improve Your Speech” audio series: “TheLowdown: Improve Your Speech – Women in Business” by vocal coach Sarah Stephenson. Here she has some tips for giving a presentation:

The key to a great presentation is preparation, practice and even more practice! Factor time into your schedule to prepare not just the content of your presentation, but also to practice your presentation to ensure you are really comfortable and secure with your material. When rehearsing your presentation, imagine that you are speaking to a group of your favorite friends, who won’t want you to fail. If you have to give a PowerPoint presentation, make sure you can get into the room before the meeting – do you know where the projector will be? Will you be standing or sitting?

A note about PowerPoint: PowerPoint is merely a presentational aid. When you are presenting, don’t be glued to the slides. Allow your voice and your physical presence to communicate your findings. If you become overly reliant on PowerPoint, you could end up with a presentation that seems cold, generic, anonymous and flat. Mean what you say. Face your audience and only occasionally refer back to the slides.

Keep your body open with neutral posture and breath support. Allow yourself, as you are presenting, to speak in the moment. You know what you need to say, but I encourage you to speak with spontaneity, not reading from a script. This takes courage, but you should find it liberating and your audience will certainly get a greater sense of who you are and what you are saying. The secret to PowerPoint is to keep it simple. If you find the technology too daunting, bin it - and speak from, the heart! If PowerPoint goes wrong, or your computer crashes, don’t be thrown. Have a back up, such as a hard copy of your slides. Your audience are there to see you, not a robot!

On the day of your presentation, you should arrive early to suss out the room. If you can, practice in the space before the delegates arrive. Notice its size and what it is made of: wooden floors could be noisy underfoot, so wearing appropriate footwear could help, or else be lighter on your feet! There might be an echo, in which case you would need to allow time to let a thought ‘land’ before moving onto your next point.  Walk and breathe the space, using a long sustained out breath. Then stand and breathe where you will be presenting. Try delivering the opening of your presentation from different parts of the room. This may sound strange, but you will start to feel more relaxed and less daunted and you will start to see and feel what it is like from the audience’s perspective. It’s something actors do when they start work in a new theatre!

Here’s a quick exercise that’s great if you need your voice to carry over a distance. Working with a supported breath, start with a ‘Hey’ and, without the throat getting tight, imagine your sound is a tennis ball that you are ‘batting’ to the other side of the room. ‘Hey, hey hey.’ Feel how when you support your sound it can carry without getting tight and constricted. Try this exercise using different sounds, hee, hoo, ho, and so on. This will help your voice will carry even in a large venue. – Sarah Stephenson

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