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Present Like a Pro

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Present with confidence.
  • Handle presentation glitches with poise.
  • Summarize best practices for presenting.

Practice Makes Perfect

You’ve got your slides, script, demo, and your audience. You’re ready to take the stage right? Not quite yet. You don’t want to fumble at the finish line. Let’s check out some tips for presenting with poise.

Speaker moving hands while presenting.

Close your eyes and think about a great performer you’ve seen. Sure, they might have natural talent, but the truth is, they didn’t just wake up one day knowing how to nail their performance. The key to a seamless presentation is practice.

'Rehearse! ...' Becka Dente (MTI, Salesforce MVP)

“Rehearse! Know what phrases you are going to use to pass 'control' of the presentation to each other. Know who speaks to what slides/talking points, and focus on your strengths. And practice, practice, practice!”—Becka Dente (MTI, Salesforce MVP)

Let’s see how Lek and Nyah prepare to present.

Once they have their script outlined, they get on another web conference and walk through their presentation, making notes for each other on bits that need work and giving each other suggestions for improvements.

Cartoon of two people meeting over video.

Nyah works on slowing down, and Lek works on keeping his tone conversational by not sticking too closely to his script.

They also note each of the transition points where they switch speaking roles, and practice segueing between each of those sections until the handoffs are as smooth as butter.

It’s time for some pro tips on perfecting your presentation from Salesforce’s own #AwesomeAdmin presenter, Mike Gerholdt.

  • Sneak peak—Rehearse in front of friends, family, or colleagues to gather feedback and work through some pre-event nerves.
  • Can’t stop, won’t stop—Practice five times without stopping. When you actually present, you don't get to stop and start over. So practice five times, nonstop, start to finish.
  • Hands off—Try your last few rehearsals without referring to your script. Just use your slides.
  • Give it a rest—A couple days out from your event, stop working on your presentation. You’ve done great. It’s now time to relax. You know what you’re talking about. You’ve got this!

'Public speaking is about helping people...' Krystal D. Carter (Duff & Phelps)

“Public speaking is about helping people. Whether that's helping people be better at their job by delivering training, or motivating others for their personal and professional growth. And here's a pro tip: Do a few tongue twisters to warm up before a speech.”— Krystal D. Carter (Duff & Phelps)

Presenting with Poise

The day has come and you’re ready to step into the bright lights (and truly, they can be awfully bright). We’ve gathered some tips to add polish and poise to your onstage presence.

Before You Take the Stage

Picture this…you’ve practiced, your slides are amazing, and you’ve nailed your script. You’re walking to your session room, and it hits you. The butterflies in your stomach and the slight shake in your hands. It’s nerves. Even seasoned presenters get preshow nerves. It’s how you handle yourself when you get them that matters.

Espresso drink cupped in hands.

Before presentation day, figure out what you can do to calm your nerves. Ask yourself, what makes you feel relaxed and ready to go on stage? Maybe finding a quiet(ish) corner and closing your eyes is your thing. Maybe having your slides and script printed out helps. Or maybe just knowing that you’ve done all that practice is what lets you breathe easy. Whatever it is…do that.

Onstage Presentation Tips

You’ve made it on stage and are ready to start. Below are some tips to really bring out the best in your presentation.

'Pick out four faces you find friendly... Brian Kwong (Better Partners, Salesforce MVP)'

“Pick out four faces you find friendly spread out in the room. Make eye contact with those people throughout the presentation. It'll make it look like you're looking at everyone, but you're focusing on people that look friendly and interested to you.”

Brian Kwong (Better Partners, Salesforce MVP)

  • Speed and Volume—Slow down and speak in a louder than normal voice. Generally in the heat of the moment you’ll speed up without even knowing it. If you feel like you’re speaking to someone slightly hard of hearing, and in the back of the room, you’re probably about right.
  • Filler Words—Try to train yourself to not use the “um,” “uh,” and “you know” filler words that tend to pepper our everyday speech. These can be distracting to listeners. If you don’t know if you use them, record yourself and it’ll become clear pretty quickly if you do.
  • Tone—Smile when you talk, and don’t be afraid to be friendly with your audience. Also, as we get nervous our voices tend to get higher, so try to relax and keep breathing.
  • Body Language—Make sustained eye contact (even if you can’t actually see your audience) with one person at a time (rather than “surfing” the audience). This helps your audience feel seen and connected. Keep your gestures limited—not too small, or you may appear nervous, and not too big, which can be distracting. Get out from behind the podium, but don’t move too much.

'Q&As can be terrifying...' Beth Breisnes (Bigger Boat Consulting, Salesforce MVP)

“Q&As can be terrifying! What if someone asks you a question that you don't have an answer to? Well, sometimes being an expert isn't having all the answers, but rather knowing where to go to get them. Don't be afraid to say, ‘That's a great question! I don't know! I'd love to look into it and get back to you.’ Then simply exchange emails or promise to post the answer on Chatter or Twitter or wherever you prefer. Reframe the experience for yourself—getting stumped isn't embarrassing, it's an audience member handing you an opportunity to continue learning!”—Beth Breisnes (Bigger Boat Consulting, Salesforce MVP)

How to Handle Unexpected Surprises

You’re on stage and something goes wrong. You lose your internet connection. Your code or workflow rule that worked flawlessly before you went on stage is suddenly throwing an error. You blank on what comes next.

Every seasoned presenter can tell a story or two of their worst onstage nightmares. So don’t feel bad if it happens to you. The best thing to do is take a breath, acknowledge (with good humor) to your audience what is happening, and move on. Your audience will feel empathy for you and relate to you even more as a person. You might even get that much-sought-after laugh, and the world will not end.

'Have a backup plan... ' Phillip Southern (clicks 2 code, Salesforce MVP)

“Have a backup plan. If the demo doesn't go as planned or there are issues such as connectivity, have a screenshot(s) of the expected or final results so you can still go over what would happen.”—Phillip Southern (clicks 2 code, Salesforce MVP)

The last tip we want to share is to try to relax and have fun up there! This is your time to shine, and there is nothing better than watching people who are enjoying what they’re doing. Speaking of which, let’s check back in with Nyah and Lek and see how their presentation went.

The End of Our Story…(and the Beginning of Yours)

Well, it’s no surprise. Nyah and Lek nail their presentation. They get a standing ovation and high-five it off the stage.

Cartoon of successful presenters, high-fiving with backdrop of audience celebrating.

Not only do they meet some great people, but once they get back to their offices they #TakeItToChatter and keep the conversation going on their session feed. They post a PDF of their slide deck, and when Salesforce posts the session recording, they use social media to promote their presentation, and they update their blog post with these resources. They also answer questions posted on social media and their session Chatter feed, and they continue the engagement with their session attendees.

Not content to just bask in the much-deserved praise, they start planning their next presentation. Like all good developers, they learn from the few hiccups they faced along the way and make adjustments to their process.

Now isn’t that a great ending to their story? But what about yours?

Download our handy Public Speaking Skills Checklist, which summarizes all the tips we’ve covered in this module. We can’t wait to hear your success stories about your own presentations. We’d love you to share them with us on the Trailblazer Community. Break a leg!

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