Ten Tips for Show-Stopping Presentations

This week we’re including a guest post from Jonathan Vatner, a staff writer at Hue, FIT’s alumni magazine.

Design Entrepreneurs NYC (for new visitors to this blog, it’s a program for emerging designers created by FIT in partnership with the New York City Economic Development Corporation) focuses on developing an airtight business plan. Sooner or later, designers growing their business will probably have to present their plan or line to potential backers or buyers, so on August 27, DENYC arranged a workshop with Performance of a Lifetime, a consulting and training firm that teaches performance skills to business people.

“Everybody is afraid of public speaking,” said David Nackman, creative director of Performance of a Lifetime. “But we are our own worst critics. Nobody will know if you’re nervous or make little mistakes. No matter what happens, just go with it.” Before giving your next presentation, consider these tips from Nackman and his colleague Maureen Kelly.

1. Don’t “present.” Pretend you’re having a (one-sided) conversation with one person at a time. And walk toward that person; it will make you seem more calm and engaged.

2. Come up with an opening line that’s a little out of context, something interesting or provocative to inspire curiosity from the very beginning. For Jacqueline Stone, owner of Salt + Stone, Nackman recommended she start with her mission statement: “I want to make the world more beautiful, one piece of jewelry at a time.”

3. Choose someone you admire—maybe a celebrity, maybe a colleague—and use some of their mannerisms. It’s called creative imitation, and it helps you be “bigger” in the front of a room.

4. Avoid “hand-washing”—rubbing your hands together while you’re talking. If you don’t have something in your hands, rest one in the other at navel level.

5. It’s perfectly acceptable to stay in one spot. It’s also nice to pick three spots to walk between, during pauses in your talk. As a bonus, it can give you a moment to think when you have a brain freeze.

6. Don’t spell out every detail of your company’s history. Start with the poetic story of your company, then jump ahead with a transition like, “And today?”

7. Slow down. Give your words time to sink in. At the very least, put some “air” around your name and the name of your business. These are the most familiar things to you, and the most important things for your audience to hear clearly.

8. Let yourself take a breath here and there. Human beings don’t talk or think in one long sentence. As Kelly said, “You can end a sentence.”

9. When you feel an “um” coming, stop talking. “Ums” are the sound of gathering your thoughts. Better to do it without the noise.

10. Learn the facts about your business until they come out of your mouth without having to think. Then turn yourself over to the audience, respond to their cues, and give them the feeling that you’re creating something for them.