Who’s Afraid of Public Speaking? Five tips for giving the presentation of your life

You know that guy, that stage-jumping, fist-pumping CAD expert who hits the podium and just nails it?  Do you ever think “I could never be that guy”?

The truth is, you could be. All it takes is a little confidence, some practice, and a few insider tips.

Dwight delivers his big speech. [Screen capture from YouTube  ]

What great presenters know

Here are some simple tips to help you deliver the information your audience wants, without putting them to sleep or having your notes slip from your sweat-drenched hands.

No. 1: Engage with your audience.

Your audience is there to learn from you – you’re the boss. Display confidence and authority. Make eye contact, smile, be conversational, and don’t be too serious. A sense of humor goes a long way. Have your audience participate, ask them a question about your topic, and get hands raised.

Patti Schutte, a presentation and training consultant, who frequently works with engineers like you on their presentation skills, suggests polling the audience, have them state what they hope to gain from the presentation, or have a conversation starter on the screen.

Remember, people show up because they want to hear what you have to say, so talk with them, not at them.

[Listen in on some of your peers presenting CAD sessions before a live audience at last year’s PTC Live Global. Presenters all had the opportunity to work with Schutte before taking the stage.]

No. 2: Avoid death by PowerPoint.

PowerPoint dominates the presentation universe. And rightly so since it’s an easy way to get your point across.

But use it badly, and your whole audience will be daydreaming of being someplace, anyplace, else. For best results, use PowerPoint to show visual examples of what you are presenting, whether that’s data, a powerful quote, or images (imagine how long it would take to explain a schematic diagram). And keep text tight on each page, don’t cram words. Instead use reactionary visuals with larger font type.

No.3: Tell a story: The Power of Three.

Every story has a beginning, middle, and an end. Use that formula, and you just might be that fist-pumping CAD presenter.

Try to set up your presentation with a question and an overview of what you’re presenting. Then the middle is where the real action is, where you present your thesis and back it up with data and real-world examples. And finally, the end lets you re-group, repeat your thesis, drop the mic, and exit stage left. (Actually, please don’t drop the mic. It’s very expensive A/V equipment.)

No 4. Get organized.

Applying the power of three will get you on the right track, but getting organized is still important to delivering an effective speech. You have a limited amount of time, so craft your presentation to fit within that time. Flashback to college here: draft an outline of your presentation as your roadmap. This will help you nail down your points, keep your thoughts on track, ensure you get the messaging lined up – and really make your freshman English professor proud.

No. 5. Practice. Practice. And practice some more.

Don’t go into your presentation without a dry run (or runs). In fact, practice in front of a mirror. (We’re serious.) Get the kinks out so you’ll be polished for your audience. Go even further and practice in front of friends and family. Get opinions.

All this can be yours

Follow these steps and you’ll be on the road to stardom, or at least ready to give a presentation at an upcoming user group conference. Show off your work, tell the world your story. Until then, listen in on some of your peers presenting at PTC Live Global last summer.