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Everything I wish I knew about presenting when starting out

Our founder, Niluka Kavanagh, reflects on her presenting journey and some of the key things she wished she knew before.

I've always enjoyed being in front of an audience, having acted at school. In many ways, presenting is a form of acting. Although you are of course yourself, it is your presenting self. The person on stage is not the you that is in Tesco buying bread in the morning, but rather your presenting self, your best self. A person who needs to concentrate on their vocals, pay attention to their audience at every minute, and ensure they nail the delivery of their lines.

But when starting out, it wasn't this simple to make such a connection. Nor was it easy, despite having acted, to put myself out there when delivering an important message or speech.

So, what do I wish I knew when I gave my first presentation?

Firstly, that you don't have to script every, single, word. When starting out, it's natural to want the comfort of a full script. But often, your presenting will be more authentic if you stick to a few bullets of key points and talk through them. If you really must have a full script, be sure to make it clear that you are not reading off this and instead practice naturalising it. Much like the no-make up make-up look.

Secondly, know that the type of audience matters. Far too often we treat presenting with a blanket approach but really the type of words we use, the tone we take and the register all should be tailored depending on who you are presenting to. So make sure to brush up beforehand to make sure your message lands in the best way for your audience, both in content and in style.

Thirdly, ask for feedback after every public speaking opportunity. We often get very fixed on the preparation and the delivery. But hardly anyone puts much thought in afterwards. Although it may be tempting to move on "now that's over", it may be worth speaking to a trusted colleague or friend in the audience for their feedback. Ask them what they thought you did well - this will also help build up your confidence - and also what they could do better next time presenting. Even now when running sessions on public speaking and presenting, I ask people how the session could be better. That's also why one of HelpMePresent values is all about continuing to strive for excellence.

Most importantly though, know that, just like swimming, the more you practice, the better you will get.

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