Improving on verbal presentation?

Verbal presentation is a very good skill to have if you are a designer. It seems like the more you rise in this profession, the more necessary it is to verbally present ideas and engage clients.

I was never good at it during school and I’m ok at it in the workplace. When I’m working on a sketch, I have a full understanding of what I’m designing. When it comes towards presenting the sketch, I suddenly become nervous and stutter. Often times, I keep it as short as I can, so I can get it over with. On a normal basis I’m a little shy and quiet, but I would say that I’m good at casual conversation when I feel comfortable.

Is there a way that I can practice and improve on verbal presentation? I could spend hours freehanding ellipses, so would I have to devote more time towards talking in front of a mirror? It seems like some people have a natural ability to speak in front of others, I’m not one of them!

I struggle with the same issue. One of my problems is that sometimes I forget to breathe and then finding myself having to pause for a moment, interrupting the flow.

As it is something I know I need to work on, I have been doing practice runs with my boss to fully flush out what I am going to say during the presentation. I find this helps a lot, gives you more confidence and you don’t have to think on the fly. Even though I go through the presentation a few times to get it right, it definitely helps in the end.

A good salesperson can sell ham to a rabbi.

Certainly do dry runs of the presentation before the presentation.
Record/video the dry runs.
Listen/watch the video.
Compare yourself to that good salesperson.

It’s something you need to practice, and in front of people.

It may be worth seeing if a local community college offers courses on public speaking. I took one in high school and frankly I found it one of the most important classes I ever took. The more you know your material, rehearse it, the more confident you’ll be. But at some point you need to get in front of people and know how to handle a crowd. What happens when people start losing interest and looking at their cell phones and stop paying attention to you, how you react and win back a crowd is everything. Also, what happens when something goes wrong. Your well rehearsed cadence and timing will be thrown off and how you recover from that is critical.

My best/worst example was from when I was working in IT in college - part of my responsibilities was to brief all the incoming freshmen and grad students on IT things, like how to install their antivirus software, firewall, blah blah blah. I had a powerpoint with some videos to keep it light hearted and keep me on track, and one day I went into the grad student orientation auditorium with ~1000 students (already bleary eyed from hours of presentations) to give the presentation and the projector in the auditorium had broken. I wound up having to give the entire speech from memory, with enough enthusiasm and humor to make the fact that I had no slides or videos and get my point across. It was probably the best presentation I gave in my life, and at that point I realized “it will be hard for any presentation I ever give to be this difficult” and from there on out I had no issues with confidence.

Frankly, some people just have this as an intrinsic skill, but there are certainly techniques and ways of practicing to make you good at it. I am not an extrovert by any means and my ability to pick up women was non existent, but give me a technology speech and I’ll nail it every time. :wink:

They were all probably thinking. Why should I listen to this guy on technology, the technology he’s suppose to be presenting this on is broken. :wink:

Easy answer is to just go do it. Whether it is speaking at a high school career day or giving a speech at a wedding rehearsal or whatever, you have to find channels outside of your professional setting to develop those skills. Only reason I say outside the workplace because depending on where you work/are in your career there may not be a tolerance for you to get up and start sweating in front of clients :wink:

If you want to get anywhere in this industry, and by anywhere I mean beyond CAD jockey, model maker, or quiet & weird sketch dude you have to be able to speak with confidence in front of a crowd. And typically not just any crowd, but a crowd of people you know all make a hell of a lot more $ than you do. I started teaching as an ID adjunct at a local university the first chance I got, about three years after graduation. While the start was bumpy to say the least, I immediately saw dividends in the workplace. Just like anything skill, once you get over that first hump you actually start to enjoy and seek out opportunities to do it.

Just go man. Just go.

Pretty much this except instead of a public speaking course I’d recommend doing a comedy improv class. Preferably one that has a bunch of lessons that all boils down to a live improv performance in front of an audience.

I keep meaning to do one after a friend of mine did it and couldn’t sing it’s praises high enough. The whole class was filled with lawyers etc wanting to get better at speaking in front of crowds. The benefit of it being improv too is that you will be able to actually improvise if/when you mess up.

Also, not saying you’d go in laughing and joking but if you know how to ‘warm up’ your crowd better in the presentation then I’m sure it will go a lot smoother. Finally, given that you’re presenting visuals (sketches, renders etc) theoretically they shouldn’t need explaining that much, so your time speaking will be cut down drastically!

Most designers are by nature a little inward, so know that you are not alone here. A lot of us struggle!

I’ve taken 3 or 4 classes over the years and they have helped immensely.

The first one I took was a public speaking class taught by an stage actor. Fantastic start.
Then I took a 3 day seminar in persuasive speaking
Than I took another 3 day seminar in story creation and story telling

I’ve also taught a few design classes at a local college and that of course will really help.

All were great. Lastly I think posting frequently on here really helped me develop a voice.

The trick is to find ways to present frequently. It is no different than sketching. If you don’t sketch very much, chances are you won’t be any good. If you do it all the time and surround yourself with people who do it well, you will improve.

Yes, like anything else practice makes perfect. I was in art school since grade 7 and we always had to present in a crit. also helps to watch a lot of good presentations like TED talks to get a feeling of pace and effective rhythm.

Lastly, I always find it helpful to think of any presentation like a story. Think of the arc, the progression of one point to another, and the underlying message you want to get across. If you can structure your presentation in a logical way (if A then B then because of B, C, etc) it’s easier to lead the audience on your journey like a well considered movie plot.

I’ve taught, done lectures for 100s and intimate pitches for few. End of the day, most important thing is confidence and knowledge you know what you are talking about. If you have the passion for the subject, that will shine through.


I was going to suggest the comedy improv open mic night as a free/cheap option, but not everybody is funny :wink:

Thats me! :stuck_out_tongue:

I just have to say that you guys have put out some really good advice. I’ve done some other reading online and they actually advised against professional speech classes because they produce results that aren’t natural and personable. Attending a stand up class seems like a very interesting route, or being able to teach at a local school. Overall, I think its just a matter of practice.

I think I may want to look into a meetup group that dabbles in this area. Thanks guys!

Watch a lot of Mad Men pitches :stuck_out_tongue:

And do anything to prevent to use uptalk. A lot of presenters who are nervous make every sentence sound like a question and it seems you are doubting yourself. This seems like a small thing, but this is huge and makes such a difference.

The Mad Men thing is not bad advice! I know its TV and actors and not real life, or how business would be conducted, but on the swagger level its helpful. I liked watching a few episodes on the plane ride to visit a client and give a presentation, it promoted some degree of confidence (admittedly in an ungrounded, saccharine sort of way…)