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Live and in-person again: preparing for public presentations

We’re starting to see more opportunities for in-person professional interaction. Some people are going to the office again or attending meetings in the flesh. And there are even high-profile tech events scheduled to take place in live formats.  

And while no one we know has mentioned any plans to ditch Zoom entirely, the budding prospects of some real face time indicate it’s also a good time to brush up on non-remote communications skills for public presentations.

After days on end of distancing, the idea of professional gatherings and appearances may feel daunting (or at least a little awkward). But we’ve done this before people. I promise, we can do it again!

At Sterling, we regularly provide personalized presentation support and training for our clients. This kind of preparation can help smooth re-entry for all kinds of IRL communications duties. Whether taking part in a panel discussion, presenting to a group, or getting interviewed by a journalist, here are a few public presentation refreshers to aid in transitioning from virtual to live presentation:

Prepare your mind

If you’re giving a talk or presentation, practice it out loud (and not just in your head). Try recording yourself to check your cadence and clarity. If you plan to serve on a panel or sit for an interview, make sure you’re informed about who you’ll be speaking with, for how long, and what subjects are likely to be covered. Stand in front of a bathroom mirror and practice offering prospective commentary or replying to questions. You may feel silly doing it, but it will improve your delivery. You don’t have to memorize a script. But take time to get comfortable with the fear of embarrassment, how you appear, and how you sound. It helps you present more confidently in public.

Prepare your body

Wear comfortable shoes and clothing (no, this doesn’t mean pajamas are permissible — you just don’t want to feel corseted). Stretch. Drink a glass of water. Take some deep breaths before you walk into the room or onto a stage. Unless you are delivering grave news, go ahead and smile. Check your posture and try not to let your shoulders hunch up whether standing or sitting (this actually helps project your voice). 

Prepare to be engaged

Recognize that public presentation is an interaction — a shared encounter with other human beings. So be respectful and attentive. Avoid rambling: short examples, relatable anecdotes, and clever soundbites can frame concepts you want to communicate and leave a lasting impression. Decide in advance what you’d like people to take away from your presentation, commentary, or interview. Stay focused on those ideas to avoid straying from your desired message. 

Above all, remember that being out in the big beautiful world amongst people can be extremely gratifying — both personally and professionally. When it comes to presenting live and in-person, a little preparation goes a long way toward ensuring a positive experience for all involved.

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