17 Killer Presentations Tips for Students Who Want to Stand out
The best presentation I ever heard was about soap.
The presenter was a big football jock and before he began speaking he pulled out a small, pink bar of soap, threw it in the air and said, “This is my favorite scent – lavender rose.” The whole room chuckled, and he proceeded, “Now I’m going to tell you how this bar of soap has destroyed society.” My jaw dropped.
As a former student who has been through many mind-numbing talks, I was shocked; this guy wasn’t boring, and he wasn’t nervous. He made presenting look like a breeze! But how did he take such a banal assignment and get the whole class glued to him like a beard on a hipster!?
What exactly made “Mr. Football Soap” stand out!? And what makes any good presenter stand out for that matter?
We remember presentations and speeches by Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Clinton because, although they may have different personalities and delivery styles – they all share the same secrets when it comes to delivering presentations. So whether you are in middle school or graduating college (or anywhere in life), follow these 17 steps and your presentation will be received with a standing ovation.
1. You Have a Personality, Show it
Conan O’Brien is notorious for making fun of himself (here’s a clip where he accepts the title as Ginger Ninja), while Jerry Seinfeld turns ordinary situations into incredible drama. Are you goofy? Are you good at impressions? Do you have over the top energy or do you have a soft tone that can calm a crowd? Whatever you got, use it and be you!
2. Surprise them, Talk to a Cartoon
This is a pretty amazing trick I’ve used in the past and it’s bound to shock any audience. You can create a short animated video, using animation software such as Powtoon, integrate it into your presentation, and interact with an animated character. It can be a cartoon, a celebrity, an evil corporate boss or even the smiling sun! Just prepare the character to pop in from the right or left- then stand on the opposite side and interact. That’s it! You’ve added a new dimension to your presentation. Extra kudos if you take a few more minutes to add in a speech bubble or voiceover!
3. Don’t Read
PowerPoint was created to show bullets and short text. The purpose of your written words are to act as a trigger; they get you talking about each point. The rest should come from you. Spend the time choosing your keywords and not writing descriptions.
No one is 100% sure what they’ll say or how they’ll say it. Take former President Bill Clinton for example; When it comes to improvisation, Clinton gets the Oscar. During his very first State of the Union address, the wrong health-care speech showed up on the teleprompter, so he relied on his memory and common sense to wing it. Clinton ignored over 20% of the initial speech! Smooth and rehearsed presentations don’t make history. So don’t be scared, pull out the unexpected!
5. Use Your Hands
Italians do it, pick up artists do it, and successful politicians do it: Move your hands! Point to a picture on the slide, add gestures, mimic a motion, and use your hands to emphasize the expressions on your face.
6. Pump Yourself Up
Pre-gaming is all about preparing for the final game. In this case, you may want to loosen nerves by jumping up and down, screaming out the title of your presentation or practicing the entire thing, one more time, in front of the mirror… Your energy level sets the bar! Yes, that exclamation mark was put there to prove a point! When you are pumped up it’s easy to extend this energy to your audience. You are not lecturing to a college class, or reading off data to your peers, you are on stage! And you are excited. Be loud, be enthusiastic, and be happy.
7. Take a Pause, Prevent ‘Ummmm…’
This is one of my favorite tricks, if you get stuck or nervous in the middle of your presentation, saying “um” or “Ah” feels good because it fills the silent room. There are 2 quick fixes: Talk slower and add pauses for emphasis.
8. Vocal Variety
Do you want to ride a rollercoaster or stare at a still river? When it comes to speech the rollercoaster is the way to go! Amazing public speakers alternate their voice and tone between loud and low, excited and serious, soft and dramatic… this is called “vocal variety” and it keeps people tuned in to what you have to say.
9. Look em’ in the Eyes!
Don’t talk at people, talk to them. Look at the students in the front row, in the middle aisle and at the back. You don’t have to consciously remember this; just integrate eye contact into your presentation by moving around! Pacing a bit or changing sides will naturally move your eyes to different areas of the room. Stop in the middle of the presentation and ask a question, look around at those who answer or agree/ disagree.
FYI: focusing all your attention on the decision maker (i.e. professor, teacher, investor) is a big mistake – You’ll get an A if you delivered your message effectively, not by selling to the teacher.
10. Let Images Take Over Your Screen
Images are powerful. Instead of using bullets on each slide to emphasize your point, you can take up the whole screen with a strong or even controversial image. Are you making a presentation on foreign language, show a confused tourist in Paris! Are you speaking about technology in third world countries? This image by Sven Torfinn is breathtaking! Allow the picture to engage for you. Check out these 11 Free and Awesome Image Resources for your next Presentation if you’re looking for an image to wow your audience.
11. Make ’em Laugh
Being professional and informative does not mean you can’t be fun! We all know humor makes everything lighter and better! And there is almost always a way to fit in into any presentation. When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone 4 on the huge projector screen (which looked like an exact duplicate of the iPhone 3) he joked, “Stop me if you’ve seen this before.” He knew the audience anticipated a grand new design so he beat them to the punch with a short quip.
12. Tell a Story
We listen to people when we connect to them and we connect to them through telling stories. Why? Because telling stories builds trust. You are sharing a part of you that you may not necessarily share with everyone. A personal story is the fastest way to build trust, show you are human and stir emotion. The emotion can be laughter, sadness or tears, it doesn’t matter, by conveying your message through a narration you have paved the way for any subject or topic. Just ask Jacob Barnett, the 14-year-old astrophysicist who was labeled as autistic. He shows you how society can be dead wrong as he takes you along his journey from outcast to prodigy.
13. How to Pick the Story You Tell
Pick a story your audience can relate to; If you are marketing a product or advertising a service this can be difficult, but luckily you are presenting to fellow students! So put your brain in their brain.
For instance, if you are presenting to college students, what do they like, what do they fear… I can list a few now: College is when you are on your own, when you fall in love, when you gain the ‘Freshman 15’ or join your first gym. You learn about what subjects make you passionate and how exams can steal your sleep. How does one of these experiences connect to your presentation topic?
14. Aristotle’s Golden Rule of Three
This trick is taught to college freshmen in Business 101. Aristotle stated it simply in his book ‘Rhetoric’: After learning something new, people tend to remember three things. That means that your audience members will take away only three important points from your 10 or 15-minute presentation. So don’t stress on the finer details. Of course, it is important to have the right data, but your goal is simple — educate the audience on a new idea, a solution or the main research of your topic, not the fine print. You should repeat the main ideas throughout your presentation and summarize them at the end so that the important points stick!
15. Arrive Early with Technical Backup
The best way to avoid a bad situation is to take preventative measures. Check your presentation software that morning, make a backup, upload it to Dropbox and bring an MP4. Then make ANOTHER BACKUP. When you arrive at the class check that all technical items, such as the computer and projector hook up and work efficiently. This step does wonders to relieve speaking anxiety!
16. Preparation Equals Confidence
You need to research and understand your topic… and actually find something about your topic that you can connect to; Unfortunately, PowerPoint and slideshows in general, make people believe that throwing a bunch of words onto a slide makes you an expert. But, If you don’t know the information that you’re presenting, the audience will pick up on it. KNOWING YOUR CONTENT is the best pre-game confidence booster!
17. Own it, Pride and Apologies
You may not be the researcher who came up with the stats but you took a topic, organized it, and summarized the data… be proud. If an audience member or professor points out a mistake or asks a question you are unsure of – own it! Apologize if you are incorrect and praise the questioner! You can say, “wow, you make a good point, Thank you, I just learned something new” or “ Great question, I’m not sure of the answer I’ll look it up later and get back to you with the results.” Confidence and humility taste better than peanut butter and jelly (well, it’s pretty close).
There you have it, just follow these 17 killer presentation tips and you will surely be the student that stands out! (And by the way, the takeaway from the soap presentation was that too much cleanliness can actually make us sick… a message was presented so well, it has stuck with me ever since)!
What’s your favorite tip? Do have any additional presentation tricks that have worked for you!? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
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