I know, but could I really DO it…

I realise it is all well and good me waxing lyrical about “changing the way we present” but I probably don’t recognise just how hard it is to break away from established form and make that first “better” presentation. Various friends have made the step and again a guest blogger @hiding_cyclist shares how it felt to make that new style presentation at a high risk event; at a job interview!

“When faced with the prospect on giving a presentation as part of a job interview I was more than a little bit daunted. I had to give my fair share of presentations whilst going through university and it was that part of any module which filled me with dread! I got through them, but I think the marks reflected my apprehension.

Having been following @ffolliet’s tweets for some time I was aware of the Prezentation Skills blog, I had looked at it in the past but wussed out – how could I give a presentation without words to act as prompts on the screen? I decided this time was going to be different, it was a teaching role I was applying for so I knew I was going to need to develop some good presenting skills. Might as well start with the interview! 

I knew I needed something on the screen, I didn’t want all the attention to be on me, but it was important to make it relevant, otherwise what was the point in it being there? It was more difficult than I thought to find images which were helpful to my message, there were a few words dotted about but I kept them to a minimum, instead sticking to images which I hoped could be quite striking to my audience.

Having previously produced presentations with bullet point summaries, tables of data, multiple images etc. it felt very odd to be preparing by taking all these things away, but I stuck with it – confident that this could really work!

With my presentation written and the slides produced I was home and dry, right? No – I still had to give the presentation. I was really nervous, I knew there was a lot riding on it and without my slides to lean on I was convinced I was going to fluff it. 

It wasn’t until I was half way through the presentation that I realised the fact I wasn’t reading things from the screen meant that my audience didn’t know what I had prepared to say, so I didn’t have to stick word for word to what I’d rehearsed. I had the flexibility to elaborate on certain areas, or cut bits out, depending what the expressions in the audience said. It meant I could focus on eye contact with those watching me (or at least, as somebody had advised me, looking just above their eyes so they thought I was engaging with them, but I wasn’t distracted by their eyes). More importantly it meant I could relax! 

When finally the (not so) traumatic ordeal was over I was so relieved. I’d talked about everything I wanted to, and answered the questions at the end too. 

I guess my audience appreciated it as I got through to the next stage of the application process. It’s a skill that I know still needs lots of work and practice but I feel like I’ve got a solid base to build on now! 

My advice to anyone else needing to do a presentation? Spend some time thinking about each slide.  By carefully preparing each slide, even if it is just one image, or one word, you will have thought about what you want to get across to the audience with that slide, and what you want to say. When it comes to presenting, it’s no longer a case of having a memorised script, it’s just talking about a subject that you know very well!  If you get the chance, watch some other people present too, doesn’t matter what the topic is, but if you pay attention to their presenting style you can soon pick up what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting an audience to engage, and listen to what you have to say!”

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