For many professionals, it takes years to master the art of delivering effective presentations. A common misconception held by young professionals who are just starting their careers, is that people who stand up and present authoritatively in front of a large group of people are brimming with confidence.
Many people aren’t naturally confident. In fact, most of the senior leaders and perceptively ‘confident’ people you will come across in your career, will have worked on their skills and learned to be confident over time.
Next time the opportunity arises to deliver a team presentation, instead of running for the nearest fire exit or pretending you haven’t seen the email – don’t worry, we do it too – try and take the chance, and don’t fear it. Practice makes perfect. The more presentations you can deliver in your career, the more natural it will seem.
Established professionals have also had the benefit of picking up a few tips and tricks along the way, which make the world of difference.
We’re here to give you a head start on that inside track. Following on from our article, Junior lawyer’s skillset: Effective communication, which provided insights on effective business communication, next in our junior lawyer series are our tips to become the office’s presentation guru.
I’m sure many of you have heard this popular phrase – it is tip number one as it is probably the most important. Before you begin preparing, think about who you are going to be presenting to, what their goals are and why they should take what you’re saying on board. The more you understand how to appeal to your audience and choose angles for your presentation that will resonate with them, the more you are likely to be praised for an effective presentation.
The art of presenting is all about connecting with the audience. Plan with the audience in mind:
- consider who the audience is, i.e.:
- is there a mixed level of knowledge?
- is it a multinational group?
- establish your objectives and future actions
- anticipate reactions, questions and objections
- assess what information you need
- are there questions you can ask beforehand regarding their needs and requirements?
Aim to spend a large portion of your time focusing time on how to get your message across, so it hits home, and your presentation will automatically become more interesting.
Click to hear what Catrin Guynan has to say about preparation and how it can build confidence here.
Studies have shown that there is an inability for audiences to sustain the same level of attention throughout a presentation. In fact, most often, the beginning and the end of a presentation have the highest impact. Your audience’s attention is likely to dip in the middle:
The basic formula for structuring a presentation is:
Introduction—tell them what you are going to tell them (hypothesis)
Body—tell them (methods/results and limitations)
Summary—tell them what you have told them (conclusions)
Repeating your message three times makes your message memorable. Making sure this message is at the end of the presentation is also helpful, as a signal of the end of the presentation is likely to bring your audience’s attention back.
A presentation is essentially a creative piece of work. People who deliver passionate presentations are often seen as been ‘good’ presenters by default, as the audience naturally gets swept along with their enthusiasm.
You might find it helpful to think who you have enjoyed watched presenting in your company. Who inspires you and your work? Why? What would they say to you if you asked their advice?
Sit them down and ask them what their secret is, and if you know them well enough, ask if they would listen to you practise a couple of times and give you their feedback. Feeling well rehearsed will help with any niggling nerves on the day.
Rehearse your presentation at least three times, rehearse it out loud, and if you’re brave, rehearse in front of a mirror and video or record yourself. This might seem daunting at first, however, it is a common technique used by sales teams to improve confidence and style when presenting in front of clients.
If you have a confident demeanour people will respond positively to you and what you’re saying in your presentation. It doesn’t matter if you feel confident – fake it! And often, once you start acting more confident, the confidence follows naturally.
Body language and tone play a fundamental role in the believability of our words. Research by psychologist Albert Mehrabian suggests that impact in face-to-face communication is apportioned in the following way:
Therefore, your words could fall on deaf ears if you don’t consider the other messages you are putting out.
Our top tips would include: to give good eye contact to everyone around the room to grab attention, use gestures and an open posture to bring your message across positively, use facial expressions to engage your audience and vary the pace and tone of your voice, in order to emphasise key messages and to avoid a droning sound to your delivery.
Be prepared that you will feel a little nervous and out of your comfort zone. To varying degrees, this is how everyone feels when presenting – yes, even your CEO. Even world famous pop stars say that they still get nervous before they perform. It’s a natural part of performing or standing up in front of people and in fact gives you the much-needed adrenaline you need to do well.
So, embrace your nerves:
- nervousness isn’t as visible to others as much as you feel it yourself
- pay attention to your breathing
- hold something like a pen
- focus on friendly faces in the room
Use your nerves and adrenaline rush to help you make an impact in the room. Think about how to grab people’s attention in the first 30 seconds with your key message and reiterate this message in the last 30 seconds.
You could also think about incorporating stories to illustrate your points, which will also help you be impactful in what you are saying and ensure people will remember you and your message. Could you use humour to help? Be careful and think about who your audience are at all times. Could you ask your audience an open-ended question to keep their attention?
Our last tip: smile! You are effectively your own brand when you stand up there, so promote you, and you never know – one day it could be you presenting on the board!
As part of the LexisNexis In-house Advisor module on LexisPSL, we have created a Junior Lawyer Development section, which is focussed entirely on training junior in-house lawyers.
Written with extensive insight taken from our own in-house lawyers, you will find a selection of practice notes, precedents and checklists designed to help upskill the in-house team, covering subjects such as: effective communication, influencing skills and global collaboration.
The module also included presentations we have put together as a practical training aids for new hires. Click to request a demo: Junior lawyer development toolkit.
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Amy is an established writer and researcher, having contributed to publications, such as The Law Society, LPM, City A.M. and Financial IT. Her role at LexisNexis UK involved writing content and research reports, including "The Bellwether Report 2020, Covid-19: The next chapter" and "Are medium-sized firms the change-makers in legal?"
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