5 Habits That Help Me Give Better Presentations

Published: August 18, 2013

I'll admit it... I love to speak in front of people. I've heard that most people are afraid of two thing in life more than anything else: death and public speaking (and not necessarily in that order). The fear of public speaking is called "glossophobia."

For me, however, giving presentations in front of a crowd is one of my favorite things to do. I speak at conferences on a regular basis and each time, I absolutely love connecting with the audience, sharing ideas, and providing value to those in attendance.

I'm not going to claim that I'm the world's best speaker or anything (although I have gotten some nice feedback) but I do think I do a pretty good job of educating, entertaining, and engaging my audiences.

There are a few habits that help me consistently perform at my best when I present. Some of these things are preparation habits while others are things I do as I present. If you have anxiety about presenting or if you want to try a few things to up your game, maybe one or two of my habits will help.

Keep it unscripted

I know that a lot of presenters like to pre-write the text to their presentations and use it as they speak. Sometimes it's done with detailed bullet points and other times with hidden presenter's notes but either way it can result in a stiff, robotic delivery.

I prefer to use my slide deck as a "concept prompter" and then simply have a conversation about the concept. This ensures that my delivery is natural and comfortable. I believe that if you know your material (as you should), then you don't need a script.

Introduce myself to audience members before the presentation

This one really helps me and I make sure to do it every time I speak. There is usually some "dead time" before the presentation starts and I use this time to walk into the audience and shake hands and say hello to people. I might ask them about themselves or how things are going in their businesses (I'm genuinely interested).

This starts us off on a good note and helps both me and the audience feel more comfortable because we've already met before I even start.

Always go on stage with a smoothie

What? Ok, let me explain. When I speak, my voice sometimes gets tired and and I also sometimes get a tickle in my throat. Water helps but fruit smoothies actually do a better job of soothing a tired throat or a tickle.

I like to drink Naked brand smoothies and my favorite is Mighty Mango. This helps me keep my mind off any throat issues because I always know I have a remedy if I started to cough or lose my voice.

Photos, not bullet points

A lot of presenters fall into the "death by PowerPoint" trap of filling their slides full of bullets with very little imagery. To be blunt, this is boring. Instead, I use very few bullet points and instead try to use one big image per slide along with supporting text.

This helps me focus on my message (see point #1) and gives the audience something more interesting to look at. I always want to make sure the image is striking and supports the concept I'm discussing.

Start strong and end strong

Ever notice how some presenters seems to spend half of their allotted time giving you their bio and background which gets tedious very quickly. I'll do a short intro but I then jump straight into the content. I make sure to frame the issue boldly and confidently so I'm off to a good start.

Then, as I'm wrapping up questions at the end, I keep an eye on the audience's mood. If everyone is still engaged, I'll take another question or two. However, if people start to look restless, I will end confidently with a strong "It was a pleasure to be here. My name is Michael Reynolds, thank you for coming, and have a great day." this way I give a clear and definite signal that we are done and I "release" the room on a positive, memorable note.

What are your habits?

Again, I love to give presentations and these habits and techniques helps perform at my best. If you're a professional speaker or even if you just find yourself in a position to give the occasional business presentation, what habits and routines do you follow to help you present better? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.