Virtual assistant giving presentation at networking event

Public speaking and networking are two things that many Virtual Assistants fear. Combining the two might cause nightmares. But a speaking slot at a networking event is a great way to impress people in your industry and make contacts. Matthew Brown gives us some tips that will help you give a great presentation and network with ease.

Nerves are normal

First of all, it’s important to realise that being nervous is a normal part of giving a presentation for a lot of people. Even experienced public speakers still feel the butterflies circling deep down just before they take to the podium. Often, the anticipation of having to give the presentation is the hardest part – once you get going, everything will be fine.

Prepare properly

Proper preparation means knowing your presentation as fully as possible. It is different to merely learning a script.Readingfrom a sheet of paper rarely makes for a compelling presentation.

Instead, research and understand your subject matter. Break it into chunks of information, and condense your main points into single sentences to ensure that you grasp the basics. Write the main points on index cards, and use these as prompts for your memory.

If you include PowerPoint, keep each slide to a single point. Time your presentation and run through it in full at least four times to practice, preferably in front of a test audience at least once.

Test your set-up

Preparation also includes making sure all your materials are ready in advance. Test your PowerPoint slides, make sure the projector is working, and check that the room has internet access if you’ll need to get online.

Try to find out whether you’ll be speaking into a microphone or not, and practice with one if so. Ideally this should be done in the room in which the event will happen, with someone sitting at the back to test volume levels.

The idea is to minimise potential surprises, allowing you to feel in-control when the time comes.

Be aware of body language

There is a brutal but effective way to find out if you have any weird habits of body language: video yourself giving a presentation. Watching yourself speak may reveal things you’d never even known you were doing, such as moving your head around too much, not making eye contact with the audience, or unconsciously tapping your feet.

Use the rule of three

The ‘rule of three’ goes all the way back to Aristotle. Bits of information are particularly memorable when grouped in threes. There are countless famous examples of this, from movie titles like ‘The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly’ to the Bible’s ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost’. Illustrate your points with three examples, and your audience will be more likely to remember them.

Give out contact details

Networking is useless unless it is followed up with some kind of further contact. To do that you need contact details, and other people need yours.

On the final slide of your presentation, include your name, position, email address, work phone number, and any social media details that may be appropriate. Include similar details on any handouts you use.

At the end of the presentation, invite questions from the audience, or let people know that you’ll be around to talk during the networking time. If anyone asks a question, take it as an opportunity to strike up a conversation after the presentation.

Finally, don’t forget to take plenty of business cards – it is a networking event, after all.

Matthew Brown