The people you will be working with will most likely be busy and itching to get back to their emails. Do not run on for longer than your allocated time slot. If anything, aim to end slightly earlier – your audience will thank you (albeit silently) and will therefore feel more positive after your presentation. This doesn’t mean cut it short by 50%, as shortening it too much could indicate a lack of preparation/effort/knowledge.
Referring to the time throughout can help your readers to relax in the knowledge that you are aware of your allocated time and know that their time is important.
Confidence can make you more engaging to your listener(s). The same goes for maintaining decent eye contact and positive body language. All these attributes suggest you believe in what you are saying and care about the topic. With regards to eye contact, look at people for a second (rather than a split second) to increase engagement. Also, be democratic – make sure you look at everyone in the room throughout.
Speaking in a loud, clear voice and at a reasonable pace can make you easier to understand, which will enable the listener to gain more from your communication (which can consequently reflect more positively on your knowledge/capabilities). This is especially important for presentations in English, as the language is consonant-driven, meaning it is harder to understand when spoken too quickly. Don’t trail off at the end of sentences, as this can indicate that you have lost commitment to what you are saying.
Think of your audience as a collection of individuals. Try to engage with everyone. If sitting in a room with a long table, take the time to look at each person multiple times throughout the presentation. Staring at your notes or only at one or two friendly faces could lead to others feeling neglected and consequently thinking about other things. Walking around whilst presenting can help you to ensure you engage all your listeners. If sitting down whilst presenting, at least move your body to ensure that you make proper eye contact.
Try to avoid nervous ticks. Saying “um” too frequently, foot tapping, swaying, extensive arm waiving, standing on one leg etc. can all distract your audience. Consciously clasping your hands together at the start could help to avoid some of these ticks. The best way to identify such ticks (of which you may well be unaware) is to practice in front of a friend or to film yourself. Most ticks can easily be avoided through practice.
Have water close by. A typical side effect of nerves is a dry mouth. Taking a drink can also be a useful tool for taking a pause to collect your thoughts (whilst avoiding you or your audience feeling awkward).
See the other parts in our communicating and presenting series to further refine your skills.