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SPEAK UP!

The strategies for effective presentation skills

By Muhammad Omar Iftikhar

While we all have something to say, we cannot express it meritoriously. This happens when we are not sure about the content. This content, in the form of written text, pictures, illustrations, video and audio becomes the mainstay of what we need to present to an audience. However, more important than our content is how we express our thoughts, views and opinions to our audience. You may have developed an appealing PowerPoint presentation but may not be able to speak with confidence. In some instances, people can speak with buoyancy but they lack proper skills to develop a presentation.
In this exclusive article, we will look at the strategies to transform you into an effective presenter. These skills will enable you to flourish as a speaker whether you are a student, researcher or professional. This article, therefore, is divided into two parts. The first part, “Be a public speaker” discusses how you can become a good public speaker. The second part, “Develop an appealing presentation”, discusses how best to formulate a PowerPoint presentation.

I.BE A PUBLIC SPEAKER

Confidence
This is a sure shot fact. Without confidence, you cannot speak up. You need to muster the strength to speak to an audience. Whether you are giving a presentation or a speech to a class at school, to your colleagues at the office or to a packed auditorium, your beaming confidence or a lack of it will make or break your status as a public speaker. We all have our moments of stage fright. It affects us at the subconscious level. However, you need to work on your conscious mind to assure yourself that you can speak in public. If you are lacking the required confidence, you must deliver presentations or speeches in front of your family or close friends. Their feedback will help you in making yourself better.

Your Natural Self
You must remain yourself whenever you speak to the public. You must never imitate someone. Your presentation will not be effective if you pretend to be someone. It is important to choose a speaker as your ideal. However, you must adapt the positive points of that speaker and incorporate it into your personality and character. This way you will follow your ideal speaker while maintaining your identity. You must promote your brand at any stage you step on to speak. Furthermore, by speaking naturally you will stay close to your heart and speak what comes to your mind.


Watch Ted Talks
You can gain valuable insights by watching Ted Talks. Notice how articulated the speeches of these speakers are. They show poise and elegance, assertiveness and confidence and keep constant eye contact with their audience. Moreover, their body language is upright that shows vibrancy and positivity.

Body Language
Your body language defines you as a person. It sends a signal to your audience even before you begin to speak. When you step in front of an audience always have an erect posture. Keep your back straight and hold your head high. Your shoulders should not be droopy but they must be firm and straight. When speaking, you can slowly walk on the stage to break  the monotony. When speaking, you must move your hands and give gestures accordingly. The rule is to keep your arms close to your body while your hands should face the audience. Eye contact is perhaps the most important expression you give when speaking in public. You must always look at the audience and seldom look down or anywhere else.

Slow and Steady
The secret of effective public speaking is in how you speak. You must talk at a steady pace. Your pace when speaking should not be too slow nor it should be too fast. The audience will get bored if you speak slow. If you are too fast, people will not understand what you are saying. When you speak at a medium pace, always give space after a few words that you speak. You will use these spaces to determine what you want to speak. At the same time, the audience will use this space to understand what you are saying. My mentor, Dr. Qazi Tauseef taught me this rule during a workshop many years ago. I have always followed his golden words and they have \worked wonders in my public speaking sessions.

II.DEVELOP AN APPEALING PRESENTATION

Content Matters
Even if you speak with confidence, your audience may lack an interest in your presentation if the content is not appealing. The primary purpose of your presentation is to convey the message. This message is the content. You must prepare an outline of your presentation. Each part of the outline must have a detailed summary of what you want to say when explaining each point. Every presentation or speech performs either one or a multiple of objectives including informing, persuading, motivating or entertaining the audience. Your content must be factual and it must relate to the audience. You must fine-tune and customize your content according to the public’s expectations.

Read and Research
When developing the content, you must read and research the relevant information that you intend of disseminating. You must develop a habit of reading and conducting extensive research if you foresee yourself as a successful public speaker. Reading will help you absorb content that you will reproduce at the time of speaking. Always remember that as writers and speakers, we reproduce the content that is already in our minds. Therefore, read as much as you can.

Preparing Slides
The PowerPoint slides that you prepare must have a soothing color. They must not shout at the audience. The paramount aspect is the number of words or written text that you put on the slides. Each slide must not have more than five bullet points. Ideally, there should not be more than three to four bullet points. Some presenters make a blunder by adding all the text they need to speak. You must also limit the length of the bullet points. They should be of one line each at the maximum. Also do limit the number of transitions you use. This refers to the animation of the slides. It means how the slides will appear on the screen. Only use the “fade in” or “appear” option. It is more mature and does not put a strain on the eyes. Your presentation must have a color theme that must be followed on each slide. Furthermore, you must use high-resolution images according to the text you are discussing on each slide. Here again, the number of images is very important. A slide must have one picture. Choosing your fonts also reflects on your image. Use formal fonts such as Times New Roman, Calibri, Tahoma, Corbel, etc. Never use Comic Sans or non-serif fonts such as Impact or the ones similar to it. Moreover, if you are discussing numbers, you must use colored charts for clarity.

The Art of Impromptu Speaking Anyone can become a public speaker. However, a real public speaker is
someone who can speak impromptu and unrehearsed and improvises as he/she speaks. This requires years of hard work and learning. If you have ample knowledge and information about a specific topic with regards to its key facts, then you can make an unplanned speech. Even if you have prepared a presentation, you will look less at the slides and talk more on your own. However, it is always better to put on paper some one-liner bullet points, which you can glance upon if needed and explain one by one.


Teach and Engage
If you want to become an effective public speaker, you need to speak as if you are teaching the audience. Be humble in your delivery but remain assertive when making people learn your point-of-view. Never impose thoughts on the audience but help them understand the content in the right context. Similarly, you must not present in isolation. You do keep speaking when giving a talk or a speech. When giving a presentation you must engage the audience. Ask questions, conduct workshops and initiate discussions with them. People learn more when they become a part of the presentation rather than to remain silent as a listener.

I hope these points will help those readers who are aspiring to become a public speaker. One last advice, always be true to yourself. Choose the topics that interest you, be at ease and always try to add value to the reader’s thought process.

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