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Presentation Skills
Final Preparations
By Randall P. Whatley, President, Cypress Media Group

You've worked hard to develop your presentation. Now it's time to deliver it and you're nervous. Most people who have to speak in public experience "stage fright." The following tips will help you conquer these fears

How to cope with stage fright

You've worked hard to develop your presentation. Now it's time to deliver it and you're nervous. Most people who have to speak in public experience "stage fright." The following tips will help you conquer these fears:

  • Relax your body and mind before your presentation by performing deep breathing exercises
  • Speak about subjects on which you are well-informed and prepared
  • Know your introduction, main points, and conclusion so well that you could explain them in only five sentences
  • Speak in a conversational tone
  • Practice adequately
  • Have a glass of water nearby to keep you from getting "dry mouth"
  • Focus your mind on the audience-not on yourself to avoid self-consciousness
  • Search for friendly or reassuring faces in the audience and maintain eye contact with them

How to use visual supports

Slides, overhead transparencies, flip charts, handouts, models, and computer-generated presentations are all great ways to add interest to your presentations.

If you use statistics, progress reports, illustrations, or short phrases that you want to emphasize, visual supports can reinforce your points.

The following tips are effective when using audio-visual supports:

  • Make sure you know how to use any necessary equipment to display the audio-visual supports and test its operation before your presentation
  • Avoid using visual supports as a substitute for lecture notes
  • Avoid using visuals as a substitute for your verbal message
  • Maintain eye contact with your audience while using audio-visual supports
  • Use color and consistent color themes in your audio-visual supports
  • If you use text as a visual, present it as titles, bolded text, and bulleted points
  • Avoid reading text to your audience to prevent boredom and annoyance

Following is a list of common audio-visual supports and recommendations on their proper use:

Flip Charts

  • Use for brainstorming sessions, discussions, and presentations with high audience participation
  • Use flip charts for small audiences only because they are not visible from a distance
  • Position flip charts as high as possible
  • Use wet markers with flip charts to increase visibility
  • Use water-based markers in small rooms to avoid the annoyance of fumes
  • Use the colors black and blue for the easiest reading
  • Bring your own markers to presentations


  • Use slides to portray vivid, high-resolution, colorful, and professional images
  • Show your best or most memorable slide more than once to reinforce the message


  • Use handouts to provide additional or follow up information that was not covered in your presentation
  • Distribute handouts at the end of your presentation to prevent "defections" and audience inattentiveness

Overheads transparencies

  • Use overhead transparencies as a less expensive option to slides
  • Use overhead transparencies when you need to change, write on, or customize material for the audience
  • Make sure the projector glass and lens are clean before you use them
  • Avoid positioning the projector screen under a ceiling light
  • Use color in your transparencies


  • Use models to demonstrate how something works, looks, sounds, or feels
  • Demonstrate items that are too small or too large to be seen by the audience.

Computer-generated audio-visual supports

  • Use computer generated material for color, animation, graphics, drawings, and sound
  • Computer-generated audio-visual supports work best for large groups

How to handle questions and answers

Asking the audience questions

  • Prepare questions for the audience in advance
  • Prepare both questions that ask for facts and those that ask for opinions
  • Use opinion questions to explore a solution to a problem or to evaluate the effectiveness of a process or procedure
  • Use informational questions as a training aid to reinforce a point or to provide you with information that will help tailor your presentation to the audience
  • Stick to a single topic with each question
  • Ask questions that are short, clear, and direct
  • Ask questions of the entire group and choose respondents from all parts of the room
  • Use logical transitions between questions (e.g., "Since we have uncovered the problems with this process, let's discuss ways to improve the system.")
  • Avoid interrupting a person answering a question

Answering questions from the audience

  • Pause briefly before answering to organize your thoughts
    Acknowledge the question
  • Restate the question
  • Ask for clarification if you're not sure you understand the question
  • Answer the question briefly and completely
  • Verify that your answer was understood
  • Avoid going off on tangents when answering questions
  • Use questions to reinforce your main points
  • If more questions remain, ask people to talk with you during the break, after the presentation, or at another time


Randall P. Whatley, is a 26-year media veteran with diverse business experience. Whatley is president of Cypress Media Group, Inc. ( ), an Atlanta-based advertising, public relations, and training firm. He has extensive experience advising government officials, political candidates, public officials, and corporate executives on media relations and presentation skills. He has also written two syndicated newspaper columns and numerous magazine articles. Whatley has hosted his own television and radio program and appeared often as a TV and radio program guest, including a CNN appearance. He has produced hundreds of TV and radio ads and taught a myriad of seminars ranging from Public Relations Writing to Media Relations. He can be reached by e-mail at

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