Delivering an effective presentation is an art. We tend to think of great artists as having an inherent talent to draw, paint or sculpt in a magical way. However, artists can also be created and developed by practice. Take for example the famous 90s television show “The Joys of Painting” hosted by the late Bob Ross. Bob brought ordinary viewers from America into his studio each week and through clear instructions and an undeniable enthusiasm, encouraged laymen to become artists through a heavy dose of repetition and practice.

Great presenters, like conventional artists, can be developed through practice and repetition.

I think our collective view on excellent presenters is similar. Great presenters, it seems, are able to clearly articulate their thoughts and complex concepts in an easy and natural way. However, the truth is it’s anything but a natural thing for even the most seasoned public speakers. 2U’s Chief Marketing Officer, Jeff Rinehart, took 2Utes through a framework that you can trust to help you become a better presenter.

First, its imperative to address the quintessential inhibition that most have with presenting: presentations involve public speaking and public speaking is terrifying.

People fear public speaking more than death or heights!

Jeff relayed that it is natural to be nervous. Leading up to the presentation, one tends to think of all of their irrational fears. What if I forget what to say? What if the audience doesn’t like me? What if I trip up the steps?

The best way to counteract this poisonous thinking is through preparation and practice. To think about it from a data perspective, each one of those thoughts is a negative data point. If you’ve never practiced or rehearsed, it’s easy to draw a conclusion of imminent failure given all of your negative data points. However, each time you rehearse the presentation successfully you add one more positive data point to your scatterplot. You can anchor yourself to these data points on presentation day and confidently tell yourself “I’ve done this before.”

After addressing ways to combat public speaking anxiety, Jeff gave numerous great tips and tricks to build and deliver a great presentation.

Every great presentation starts in word, not PowerPoint.

A thorough and fully developed narrative is the spine of every great presentation. The next time you are assigned to present on a topic, open up word, not PowerPoint first. Build an outline of your key points, and then flesh it out so it resembles a movie script. Only when your word doc captures the narrative arc that your presentation will follow should you begin to develop slides.

5 x {Speech Time} = {Practice Time}.

Although mentioned above, the importance of practice is worth reiterating. How much? A good rule of thumb is that you should spend 5 times the amount of time you are set to present rehearsing. So you have a 20-minute presentation coming up? You should practice the complete presentation for 100 minutes prior to walking onstage.

Know your audience ahead of time, develop rapport real-time.

Do your homework on the audience ahead of time and customize your presentation according to their level of knowledge, areas of sensitivities and interest. Once you’re in the room, develop a rapport immediately by telling a story about yourself. Once you’re rolling use visual cues to speed up, slow down, bring it up a level or dive deeper. Establishing a rapport with the audience will prove critical to your success as a presenter.

It is perfectly normal to be anxious and nervous when it comes to a big presentation. However, if you build a presentation with a strong narrative arc in place, simulate the big moment before heading on-stage, and develop a rapport with your audience, even the most timid people can end up delivering a presentation worthy of a mic drop.

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