21 Ways To Improve Your Presentation Skills
Published: April 07, 2023
You know the feeling of sitting through a boring presentation. A text distracts you. A noise outside pulls your gaze. Your dog begs for attention. By the time the presentation ends, you question why you needed to sit and listen in the first place.
Effective presentation skills can stop you from boring an audience to oblivion. Delivering strong presentations can help you stand out as a leader, showcase your expertise, and build confidence.
Table of contents:
- Presentation skills definition
- Importance of presentation skills
- How to improve presentation skills
- Effective presentation skills
- Presentation skills for executives
Presentation Skills Definition
Presentation skills include anything you need to create and deliver clear, effective presentations to an audience. This includes creating a compelling set of slides , ensuring the information flows, and keeping your audience engaged.
Speakers with strong presentation skills can perform the following tasks:
- Bring together different sources of information to form a compelling narrative
- Hook audiences with a strong beginning and end
- Ensure audiences engage with their content through questions or surveys
- Understand what their audience wants and needs from their presentation
Importance of Presentation Skills
At some point in your career, you will present something. You might pitch a startup to a group of investors or show your research findings to your manager at work. Those in leading or executive roles often deliver presentations on a weekly or monthly basis.
Improving your presentation skills betters different aspects of your working life, including the following:
Communication: Improving your presentation skills can make you a better communicator with your co-workers and friends.
Confidence: 75% of people fear public speaking. By working on your presentation skills, you can gain confidence when speaking in front of a crowd.
Creativity: You learn to understand how to use imagery and examples to engage an audience.
Management: Presentations involve pulling together information to form a succinct summary, helping you build project and time management skills.
How To Improve Presentation Skills
1. create an outline.
Before designing slides and writing a script, outline your presentation. Start with your introduction, segue into key points you want to make, and finish with a conclusion.
2. Practice, Practice, Practice
Almost 8 in 10 professionals practice their presentations for at least an hour. So, practice your presentation in the mirror or to a close friend.
3. Start With a Hook
When presenting, grab your audience with a hook. Consider starting with a surprising statistic or a thoughtful question before diving into the core information.
4. Stay Focused on Your Topic
You might want to cover everything under the sun, but information overload can overwhelm your audience. Instead, stay focused on what you want to cover. Aim for key points and avoid including unnecessary details.
5. Remember To Introduce Yourself
At the beginning of the presentation, introduce yourself. Kill any tension in the room by mentioning your name, your role, and any other helpful details. You could even mention a fun fact about yourself, putting the audience at ease.
6. Work on Your Body Language
55% of people look to nonverbal communication when judging a presentation. Straighten your back, minimize unnecessary gestures, and keep your voice confident and calm. Remember to work on these aspects when practicing.
7. Memorize Structure, Not Words
You might feel better knowing exactly what you want to say. But skip the script and stick to memorizing the key points of your presentation. For example, consider picking three to four phrases or insights you want to mention for each part of your presentation rather than line-by-line memorization.
8. Learn Your Audience
Before crafting a killer outline and slide deck, research your audience. Find out what they likely already know, such as industry jargon, and where they might need additional information. Remember: You're presenting for them, not you.
9. Reframe Your Anxiety as Excitement
A study conducted by Harvard Business School demonstrates that reframing your anxiety as excitement can improve performance. For example, by saying simple phrases out loud, such as “I’m excited,” you then adopt an opportunity-oriented mentality.
10. Get Comfortable With the Setting
If you plan to present in person, explore the room. Find where you’re going to stand and deliver your presentation. Practice looking into the seats. By decreasing the number of unknowns, you can clear your head and focus on the job.
11. Get Familiar With Technology
Presenting online has unique challenges, such as microphone problems and background noise. Before a Zoom presentation, ensure your microphone works, clean up your background, test your slides, and consider any background noise.
12. Think Positively
Optimistic workers enjoy faster promotions and happier lives. By reminding yourself of the positives — for example, your manager found your last presentation impressive — you can shake off nerves and find joy in the process.
13. Tell a Story
To engage your audience, weave storytelling into your presentation — more than 5 in 10 people believe stories hold their focus during a presentation. Consider ways to connect different parts of your slides into a compelling narrative.
14. Prepare for Questions
At the end of your presentation, your audience will likely have questions. Brainstorm different questions and potential answers so you’re prepared.
15. Maintain Eye Contact
Eye contact signals honesty. When possible, maintain eye contact with your audience. For in-person presentations, pay attention to each audience member. For online ones, stare at your camera lens as you deliver.
16. Condense Your Presentation
After you finish the first draft of your outline, think about ways to condense it. Short and sweet often keeps people interested instead of checking their phones.
17. Use Videos
Keep your audience’s attention by incorporating video clips when relevant. For example, videos can help demonstrate examples or explain difficult concepts.
18. Engage With Your Audience
Almost 8 in 10 professionals view presentations as boring. Turn the tide by engaging with your audience. Encourage audience participation by asking questions or conducting a live survey.
19. Present Slowly and Pause Frequently
When you get nervous, you talk faster. To combat this, remember to slow yourself down when practicing. Place deep pauses throughout your presentation, especially when transitioning between slides, as it gives you time to breathe and your audience time to absorb.
20. Start and End With a Summary
A summary at the start of a presentation can pique your audience’s interest. One at the end brings everything together, highlighting key points your audience should take with them.
21. Ask for Feedback
You will never deliver the perfect presentation, so ask for feedback. Talk to your managers about where you could improve. Consider surveying your audience for an unbiased look into your presentation skills.
Effective Presentation Skills
Effective presentation skills include communicating clearly, presenting with structure, and engaging with the audience.
As an example, say a content manager is presenting a quarterly review to their team. They start off with a summary. Their introduction mentions an unprecedented 233% growth in organic traffic — numbers their team has not seen in years. Immediately, the presenter grabs their team’s attention. Now, everyone wants to know how they achieved that in one quarter.
Alternatively, think of an entrepreneur delivering their pitch to a group of investors. They start with a question: How many of you struggle to stay awake at work? They then segue into an exciting product designed to improve the sleep quality of working professionals. Their presentation includes videos demonstrating the science behind sleep and surprising statistics about the demand for their product.
Both examples demonstrate effective presentation skills. They incorporate strong attention grabbers, summaries, and attempts to engage the audience.
Think back to strong presentations you viewed as an audience member. Ask yourself: What made them so memorable, and how can I incorporate those elements into my presentations?
Presentation Skills for Executives
Presentations take up a significant portion of an executive’s workload. Executives regularly showcase key company initiatives, team changes, quarterly and annual reviews, and more. Improving your presentation skills as a leader can help with different parts of your job, such as:
Trust: Delivering great, effective presentations can build trust between you and your team.
Confidence: Most people dread presentations — so a strong presenter projects the confidence needed by a leader.
Emotional intelligence: A great presentation taps into the audience’s perspectives, helping executives improve their emotional intelligence .
Expertise: Presentations help executives display their subject-matter expertise, making employees safe in their hands.
Delegation: At times, executives might need to pull information from different sources for a presentation — improving their ability to delegate as managers.
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What It Takes to Give a Great Presentation
- Carmine Gallo
Five tips to set yourself apart.
Never underestimate the power of great communication. It can help you land the job of your dreams, attract investors to back your idea, or elevate your stature within your organization. But while there are plenty of good speakers in the world, you can set yourself apart out by being the person who can deliver something great over and over. Here are a few tips for business professionals who want to move from being good speakers to great ones: be concise (the fewer words, the better); never use bullet points (photos and images paired together are more memorable); don’t underestimate the power of your voice (raise and lower it for emphasis); give your audience something extra (unexpected moments will grab their attention); rehearse (the best speakers are the best because they practice — a lot).
I was sitting across the table from a Silicon Valley CEO who had pioneered a technology that touches many of our lives — the flash memory that stores data on smartphones, digital cameras, and computers. He was a frequent guest on CNBC and had been delivering business presentations for at least 20 years before we met. And yet, the CEO wanted to sharpen his public speaking skills.
- Carmine Gallo is a Harvard University instructor, keynote speaker, and author of 10 books translated into 40 languages. Gallo is the author of The Bezos Blueprint: Communication Secrets of the World’s Greatest Salesman (St. Martin’s Press).
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9 Tips for Improving Your Presentation Skills For Your Next Meeting
By Hannah Tow , Feb 03, 2020
Presenting to an audience is one thing, but presenting ideas in a persuasive manner to the key stakeholders of your business is a whole other ball game.
The fact of the matter is that successfully presenting to a room full of people is a skill that’s mastered by very few. It takes practice, practice, and even more practice to start feeling comfortable with everyone’s eyes focused on you so you can effectively get your point across.
The reality of presenting is that you can’t escape it. Especially as you start to move up in your career. If you’re yearning to improve, this article will walk you through the top nine tips to use to enhance your presentation skills for your next big meeting as well as throughout your life. Let’s get started.
9 top tips for improving your presentation skills:
- Practice speaking in front of others
- Use less text and more visuals in your presentation
- Leverage your personality
- Welcome questions and comments during
- Be passionate and engaging
- Maintain eye contact with your audience
- Obsess over your listeners
- Focus on confident body language
- Keep it as short as possible
Constantly practicing, refining and improving upon your presentation skills will not only make you a more confident individual, but you will find that you rise quicker to success in your career. However, having great presentation skills does not just affect your work-life. Great presentation skills are truly life skills that you should integrate into more areas than just the conference room.
1. Practice speaking in front of others
Practice always makes perfect.
It doesn’t matter how well you know what you’re talking about, the moment you have to persuade, engage, or teach in front of an audience, you will probably stumble a bit. This is a natural reaction that affects pretty much everyone when all eyes are pointed in one direction and the anxiety sets in.
It’s important to remember that the overwhelming feeling of stress you probably feel is the result of your unfamiliarity with the situation, not from your lack of preparedness. The more comfortable you are with taking the stage and having everyone’s attention on you, the less nervous you’ll get.
The greater confidence you have in your presentation skills will allow you to focus on what actually matters–which is the material that you’re presenting.
The best way to implement this practice is by starting off small. Prepare a presentation to give to your friends, family, or closest co-workers. This sounds easy, but you will learn that it’s not necessarily who is listening to you that causes nerves, but it’s the fact that all of the attention is on you.
You’ll become more comfortable with the attention when you begin practicing in front of others more often, which will allow you to effectively present your ideas next time it’s your turn to speak in the conference room.
RELATED: Learn the top ten public speaking tips to better prepare you for your practice sessions.
2. Use less text and more visuals in your presentation
We’ve all been there before: sitting at the conference table trying our very best to stay interested and engaged with the presentation before us. The presentation lacks color, images, and all sense of creativity while containing an over-abundance of text and long-form paragraphs.
These types of presentations are horrible for two reasons:
The first reason being that the minute you have words on the screen, your audience will direct their attention away from you to begin reading and completely tune you out.
The second reason is if your presentation skills are poor, not only will your presentation be dull to listen to, but it will be unbelievably boring to look at as well. You’ll quickly find out how easy it is to lose most of the room’s attention when you create a lackluster presentation.
If you feel lost attempting to design your slides into an exciting work of art, try using creative presentation templates . PowerPoint templates make it simple to produce something beautiful, and they can also make you feel like an accomplished designer after seeing the outcome, such as this business presentation example .
In addition to nicely designed slides, you should always try to use infographics and charts to help you better summarize the complex information you’re relaying to your audience. It will be much easier for your listeners to understand what you’re explaining when they have something to visualize it with. Plus, there are plenty of resources out there to help you craft these visuals.
Learn how to make an infographic in five easy steps or produce an impressive graph .
If you feel worried that your presentation doesn’t hold enough content, you must remember the main reason for visual aids:
They are to enhance what you’re speaking about, not lead it!
If you’ve done enough practicing, you should feel confident in your presentation skills to thoroughly explain your main ideas and you won’t need to rely on the screen anyhow.
TIP: If you’re looking for even more ways to engage your audience with your visuals, check out 120+ presentation ideas that are sure to wow and delight!
3. Leverage your personality
As cliche as it sounds, you should always be true to who you are, especially if when you’re presenting.
It’s incredibly easy to tell if someone is faking it for the sake of their audience, so you should never pretend to act in a way that you don’t typically do. Not only will you feel unnatural and uncomfortable doing it, but you can also risk embarrassment when you try to tell a forced joke and no one laughs or your new-found trait of sarcasm doesn’t sit well with your boss.
It should bring you comfort knowing that most everyone in your meeting knows who you are. Use this to your advantage and start the presentation by playing up your best personality traits. Use your humor if you’re known to crack jokes or throw in your typical mannerisms.
These little additions will make your presentation feel much more relaxed for everyone involved. In addition to your own unique quirks, you should also bring a level of personability to your meeting.
Be empathetic, smile more, and look around the room. Doing so will improve your presentation skills, make you more likable, and allow your audience to be more receptive to you.
In many cases, you may be presenting virtually, rather than in person. You can still allow your personality to shine through and energize your virtual presentation. Lisa Schneider, Chief Growth Officer at Merriam-Webster, wrote for Venngage on how to adapt an in-person presentation into a virtual presentation . Check it out.
4. Welcome questions and comments during your presentation
Be flexible throughout your presentation. Answer questions and respond to any comments your audience may have either through hand raising or an audience response tool . Don’t worry if it veers you off your script. Chances are if one person has a question or comment, the others in the room are thinking it too.
Use this as an opportunity to prove how well you understand the material you’re presenting–your audience will take notice.
Also, take some time out at the start or your presentation to ask your audience some icebreaker questions and slowly transition into the more important stuff.
Taking this minute to talk through anything that your audience is thinking of is a good thing because it means they are engaged with you and really paying attention to the words coming out of your mouth. Doing so will also relax the format of your presentation, allowing you to feel more confident and relaxed as well.
5. Be passionate and engaging
When creating your presentation, craft it in such a way that makes your audience curious and makes them have questions for you. A persuasive presentation is the best way to get the positive reactions you are looking for, so be as passionate as you can be about your subject matter to seal the deal.
Remember that questions and comments during your presentation are a good thing, especially if you’re the one prompting them!
The more excited you are to present your ideas and show off your expertise, the more excited and engaged your audience will be. Own your subject matter and know what you’re talking about, it’s one of the most important presentation skills to have.
6. Maintain eye contact with your audience
This is a very obvious tip that will go a long way with your audience.
When the people you’re speaking to feel like you’re taking notice of them, they are much more likely to take notice of you and pay better attention to everything that you’re saying.
It’s important to remember that losing eye contact and looking everywhere but at the people that you’re presenting to is a common nervous behavior. Pay extra close attention to whether or not you’re guilty of that, and work to ensure you have your eyes on at least one person.
7. Obsess over your listeners
Be receptive to your listeners. You can’t forget that what you’re presenting is for the audience, and it has nothing to do about you!
Focus on the value you can provide to the people in the room. The more serving you are to them, the greater chance you have at driving your point home and nailing your presentation.
It’s also important not to forget about those listening to you remotely over video conferencing . Make sure they know you’re aware of them and engage them as well!
8. Focus on confident body language
Smiling, hand gestures, eye contact, and a powerful stance all exude confidence.
If you don’t have strong body language and are showing physical signs of nervousness (ie. tapping, bouncing, shaking, darting eyes, and more) your audience will have a hard time focusing on the material you’re presenting and hone in on the fact that you’re nervous and probably don’t know what you’re talking about as much as you say you do.
No matter how nervous you are, take a deep breath and pretend otherwise. You might actually start to believe it!
9. Keep it as short as possible
Every single person’s time is valuable ( especially at work), so don’t waste precious meeting time. If you can say everything you need to in half of the time that is allotted, you should do so.
Ensure that you’re only sharing the most important information. All of the extra fluff will bore your audience and you will lose their attention very quickly.
It’s a great idea to wrap up your presentation with key takeaways and action items. Doing so will ensure that no matter how quickly your meeting ended, your team understands their next steps. You can send out a quick, summarizing slide deck or an easy to read one-pager for their reference later. These visuals will make sure all of your bases are covered and that everyone is on the same page upon leaving the meeting.
A good presentation makes all the difference. Check out the top qualities of awesome presentations and learn all about how to make a good presentation to help you nail that captivating delivery.
Never stop refining your presentation skills
Possessing great presentation skills doesn’t come naturally to most people–it’s something that’s learned and practiced over time. As with most things in life, you must continuously work on refining your skills to get better and better.
Use these nine proven presentation tips that we covered in this article to improve your presentation skills and ace different presentation styles . By doing so, you will find that presenting at your key meetings becomes easier and easier and you’ll begin to nail it every single time.
More presentation guides:
How to Make a Persuasive Presentation
120+ Best Presentation Ideas, Design Tips & Examples
33 Presentation Templates and Design Tips to Hold Your Audience’s Attention
Presentation Design Guide: How to Summarize Information for Presentations
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How to prepare and deliver an effective oral presentation
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- Peer review
- Lucia Hartigan , registrar 1 ,
- Fionnuala Mone , fellow in maternal fetal medicine 1 ,
- Mary Higgins , consultant obstetrician 2
- 1 National Maternity Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
- 2 National Maternity Hospital, Dublin; Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Medicine and Medical Sciences, University College Dublin
The success of an oral presentation lies in the speaker’s ability to transmit information to the audience. Lucia Hartigan and colleagues describe what they have learnt about delivering an effective scientific oral presentation from their own experiences, and their mistakes
The objective of an oral presentation is to portray large amounts of often complex information in a clear, bite sized fashion. Although some of the success lies in the content, the rest lies in the speaker’s skills in transmitting the information to the audience. 1
It is important to be as well prepared as possible. Look at the venue in person, and find out the time allowed for your presentation and for questions, and the size of the audience and their backgrounds, which will allow the presentation to be pitched at the appropriate level.
See what the ambience and temperature are like and check that the format of your presentation is compatible with the available computer. This is particularly important when embedding videos. Before you begin, look at the video on stand-by and make sure the lights are dimmed and the speakers are functioning.
For visual aids, Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple Mac Keynote programmes are usual, although Prezi is increasing in popularity. Save the presentation on a USB stick, with email or cloud storage backup to avoid last minute disasters.
When preparing the presentation, start with an opening slide containing the title of the study, your name, and the date. Begin by addressing and thanking the audience and the organisation that has invited you to speak. Typically, the format includes background, study aims, methodology, results, strengths and weaknesses of the study, and conclusions.
If the study takes a lecturing format, consider including “any questions?” on a slide before you conclude, which will allow the audience to remember the take home messages. Ideally, the audience should remember three of the main points from the presentation. 2
Have a maximum of four short points per slide. If you can display something as a diagram, video, or a graph, use this instead of text and talk around it.
Animation is available in both Microsoft PowerPoint and the Apple Mac Keynote programme, and its use in presentations has been demonstrated to assist in the retention and recall of facts. 3 Do not overuse it, though, as it could make you appear unprofessional. If you show a video or diagram don’t just sit back—use a laser pointer to explain what is happening.
Rehearse your presentation in front of at least one person. Request feedback and amend accordingly. If possible, practise in the venue itself so things will not be unfamiliar on the day. If you appear comfortable, the audience will feel comfortable. Ask colleagues and seniors what questions they would ask and prepare responses to these questions.
It is important to dress appropriately, stand up straight, and project your voice towards the back of the room. Practise using a microphone, or any other presentation aids, in advance. If you don’t have your own presenting style, think of the style of inspirational scientific speakers you have seen and imitate it.
Try to present slides at the rate of around one slide a minute. If you talk too much, you will lose your audience’s attention. The slides or videos should be an adjunct to your presentation, so do not hide behind them, and be proud of the work you are presenting. You should avoid reading the wording on the slides, but instead talk around the content on them.
Maintain eye contact with the audience and remember to smile and pause after each comment, giving your nerves time to settle. Speak slowly and concisely, highlighting key points.
Do not assume that the audience is completely familiar with the topic you are passionate about, but don’t patronise them either. Use every presentation as an opportunity to teach, even your seniors. The information you are presenting may be new to them, but it is always important to know your audience’s background. You can then ensure you do not patronise world experts.
To maintain the audience’s attention, vary the tone and inflection of your voice. If appropriate, use humour, though you should run any comments or jokes past others beforehand and make sure they are culturally appropriate. Check every now and again that the audience is following and offer them the opportunity to ask questions.
Finishing up is the most important part, as this is when you send your take home message with the audience. Slow down, even though time is important at this stage. Conclude with the three key points from the study and leave the slide up for a further few seconds. Do not ramble on. Give the audience a chance to digest the presentation. Conclude by acknowledging those who assisted you in the study, and thank the audience and organisation. If you are presenting in North America, it is usual practice to conclude with an image of the team. If you wish to show references, insert a text box on the appropriate slide with the primary author, year, and paper, although this is not always required.
Answering questions can often feel like the most daunting part, but don’t look upon this as negative. Assume that the audience has listened and is interested in your research. Listen carefully, and if you are unsure about what someone is saying, ask for the question to be rephrased. Thank the audience member for asking the question and keep responses brief and concise. If you are unsure of the answer you can say that the questioner has raised an interesting point that you will have to investigate further. Have someone in the audience who will write down the questions for you, and remember that this is effectively free peer review.
Be proud of your achievements and try to do justice to the work that you and the rest of your group have done. You deserve to be up on that stage, so show off what you have achieved.
Competing interests: We have read and understood the BMJ Group policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests: None.
- ↵ Rovira A, Auger C, Naidich TP. How to prepare an oral presentation and a conference. Radiologica 2013 ; 55 (suppl 1): 2 -7S. OpenUrl
- ↵ Bourne PE. Ten simple rules for making good oral presentations. PLos Comput Biol 2007 ; 3 : e77 . OpenUrl PubMed
- ↵ Naqvi SH, Mobasher F, Afzal MA, Umair M, Kohli AN, Bukhari MH. Effectiveness of teaching methods in a medical institute: perceptions of medical students to teaching aids. J Pak Med Assoc 2013 ; 63 : 859 -64. OpenUrl
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10 Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills
Public speaking is a skill that many people want to improve. Here's some tips to help you feel confident when presenting ideas to a group of people.
Public speaking has to be one of the most important professional skills because it is used in nearly every industry. But it is also one that people commonly fear. The good news is, speaking confidently and effectively in front of a group is a skill that anybody can master.
Whether you're presenting findings to your team or explaining complex ideas to potential investors, you can improve your public speaking skills with a little practice. Here are 10 ways you can start practicing today.
10 tips to improve your public speaking
We'll present you 10 tips you can use to start improving your public speaking skills.
1. Know your audience.
You're more likely to feel comfortable presenting to an audience if you know who they are. That way, you can craft your message in a tone that resonates with them, perhaps using humor to ease the tension.
Start by assessing your audience's level of understanding of the topic you plan to discuss. This will determine the amount of background to give and whether you should aim to be more professional or casual.
As you’re speaking, stay aware of the group's reactions. Adjust accordingly so you can connect with them throughout your presentation.
2. Practice, practice, practice.
Even the most seasoned public speaker needs practice to be effective. Give a mock presentation of your speech in advance, so you can determine if you’ve organized the information cohesively and clearly.
It may help to talk out loud to an imaginary audience or in front of a mirror, but it’s even more effective to practice with the help of a supportive co-worker, friend, or family member as an audience.
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3. Use feedback to your advantage.
Whether you’re practicing or giving a presentation, ask for feedback. This constructive criticism could include specific examples that you can use to improve for future presentations.
If your friends point out that you say "umm" or "you know" too much, make sure that you're not taking the feedback personally. Integrate their comments into future presentations and thank your friend or team for giving you invaluable feedback.
4. Make it your own.
Connecting with an audience can be easier when you add your own personality or flair. Let your personality shine through as you convey your message, whether you are a naturally funny or empathetic person. Be authentic and appropriate—use humor when it can enhance your work, rather than detract from it.
If you use a PowerPoint presentation while speaking, make sure you're not reading from it word for word but using images or videos to bring your presentation to life. You may want to add your contact information at the end of the presentation so people can follow up with you afterward.
5. Connect with a personal story.
Personal stories or anecdotes can enhance your presentation. When TED Talk Speakers take the stage, they often begin with a short anecdote about their childhood or personal experience. This structure helps them connect with the audience, share their passion for what they're about to discuss or explain their expertise.
To add this kind of personal touch to your presentation, make sure what you share has a direct connection with the topic at hand.
Learn more about storytelling and influencing with this course from Macquarie University.
6. Make eye contact.
Making eye contact with your audience can actually help you feel more at ease because you'll get a sense of whether they understand what you're saying or need to clarify further. Practicing your speech or presentation beforehand can help you feel more comfortable making eye contact.
As they say, much of effective communication relies on body language. Moving your gaze around the room can help your audience feel more engaged, which in turn will make you feel more confident.
7. Use the stage to your advantage.
Before the presentation, know where you'll be speaking. Check that your PowerPoint presentation works with the provided equipment. Make sure you know how the room will be set up. Ask about time constraints, whether people will be eating during your talk, and what kind of microphone you’ll be using.
When you’re on stage, own the space. Walk to different areas to make eye contact with other people in the audience. Be aware of your body language. Let your arms hang loosely. Stand with excellent posture, with your back straight. Smile.
8. Calm your nerves.
It’s normal to still find yourself overcome with nerves at some point in your presentation, despite your preparation. When this happens, take a deep breath. No one’s expecting you to be perfect.
Instead of thrusting your hands in your pockets or playing with your hair, think of ways to cope with your nerves beforehand. You might make sure to exercise that morning or meditate for five minutes before speaking.
9. Record yourself speaking.
Co-workers and friends can help provide feedback, but you can also evaluate yourself while speaking. When you speak in front of a group, set up your phone to record yourself and watch it later. You may be surprised by your nervous habits or awkward phrasing. You might find new ways to improve the readability of your PowerPoint slides.
If you're giving a presentation on Zoom, ask your audience if you can record the meeting. Use this technology to improve your skills to be even more effective next time and avoid ruminating on mistakes. Stay positive.
10. Make a lasting impression with a strong conclusion.
Just as experts encourage speakers to grab their audience’s attention within the first 30 seconds of their presentations, it’s also wise to create a solid ending to any presentation. This closing can include things like:
A call to action that encourages listeners to take the next step
A memorable quote that inspires or illustrates a point from your presentation
A personal story that demonstrates why this issue is so important to you
A summary of the most important takeaways
Remember to thank the audience for their time once you conclude your presentation. If there is time, you can invite questions and answer them from the stage, or prompt them to follow up with you afterward.
The importance of developing your public speaking skills.
Public speaking skills are helpful for growth in your career but also in everyday life. Here's some ways developing strong public speaking skills can benefit you:
Strengthen team-building and collaboration
Share your ideas and offer solutions to work-related problems
Earn esteem with employers and co-workers alike
Create connections that can lead to new professional opportunities
The benefits of these skills transfer easily to other areas of your life. You can improve your relationships along with your professional success by developing clear and effective communication .
It can take time to improve public speaking skills. The key to confidence is a willingness to embrace the temporary feeling of discomfort that comes with developing any new skill.
Next steps for success
Apply these public speaking tips to improve your ability to confidently execute a presentation. Further refine your skills by practicing and learning from those who can demonstrate their success in public speaking .
Join a public speaking support group.
Toastmasters International , a nonprofit organization with chapters throughout the world, empowers people to develop their public speaking and leadership skills in a supportive group setting. Members practice giving speeches and overcoming shyness and anxiety with regular online and in-person meetings.
Attend public speaking events.
If your town or city offers events with speakers on various topics, consider these opportunities to learn. When watching others give presentations, use a critical eye to learn what works and what doesn’t. Ask yourself why you enjoyed or didn’t enjoy the lecture, based on their tone, expressions, and body language.
Watch videos of effective public speaking.
Finally, you can enjoy the same learning experience of in-person lectures by watching videos of influential public speakers. TED Talks is an online collection of presentations on a wide range of topics, including science, entertainment, and business. Watch as many as you can and use the best speakers as mentors to improve your confidence and success in public speaking.
Take public speaking classes.
Online public speaking courses provide opportunities to learn ways to improve communication skills from the comfort of your home or office. Take the Introduction to Public Speaking course or Dynamic Public Speaking Specialization offered by the University of Washington to gain confidence as you learn presentation and public speaking skills.
Give your team access to a catalog of 8,000+ engaging courses and hands-on Guided Projects to help them develop impactful skills. Learn more about Coursera for Business .
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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.
Ideas and insights from Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning
Powerful and Effective Presentation Skills: More in Demand Now Than Ever
When we talk with our L&D colleagues from around the globe, we often hear that presentation skills training is one of the top opportunities they’re looking to provide their learners. And this holds true whether their learners are individual contributors, people managers, or senior leaders. This is not surprising.
Effective communications skills are a powerful career activator, and most of us are called upon to communicate in some type of formal presentation mode at some point along the way.
For instance, you might be asked to brief management on market research results, walk your team through a new process, lay out the new budget, or explain a new product to a client or prospect. Or you may want to build support for a new idea, bring a new employee into the fold, or even just present your achievements to your manager during your performance review.
And now, with so many employees working from home or in hybrid mode, and business travel in decline, there’s a growing need to find new ways to make effective presentations when the audience may be fully virtual or a combination of in person and remote attendees.
Whether you’re making a standup presentation to a large live audience, or a sit-down one-on-one, whether you’re delivering your presentation face to face or virtually, solid presentation skills matter.
Even the most seasoned and accomplished presenters may need to fine-tune or update their skills. Expectations have changed over the last decade or so. Yesterday’s PowerPoint which primarily relied on bulleted points, broken up by the occasional clip-art image, won’t cut it with today’s audience.
The digital revolution has revolutionized the way people want to receive information. People expect presentations that are more visually interesting. They expect to see data, metrics that support assertions. And now, with so many previously in-person meetings occurring virtually, there’s an entirely new level of technical preparedness required.
The leadership development tools and the individual learning opportunities you’re providing should include presentation skills training that covers both the evergreen fundamentals and the up-to-date capabilities that can make or break a presentation.
So, just what should be included in solid presentation skills training? Here’s what I think.
The fundamentals will always apply When it comes to making a powerful and effective presentation, the fundamentals will always apply. You need to understand your objective. Is it strictly to convey information, so that your audience’s knowledge is increased? Is it to persuade your audience to take some action? Is it to convince people to support your idea? Once you understand what your objective is, you need to define your central message. There may be a lot of things you want to share with your audience during your presentation, but find – and stick with – the core, the most important point you want them to walk away with. And make sure that your message is clear and compelling.
You also need to tailor your presentation to your audience. Who are they and what might they be expecting? Say you’re giving a product pitch to a client. A technical team may be interested in a lot of nitty-gritty product detail. The business side will no doubt be more interested in what returns they can expect on their investment.
Another consideration is the setting: is this a formal presentation to a large audience with questions reserved for the end, or a presentation in a smaller setting where there’s the possibility for conversation throughout? Is your presentation virtual or in-person? To be delivered individually or as a group? What time of the day will you be speaking? Will there be others speaking before you and might that impact how your message will be received?
Once these fundamentals are established, you’re in building mode. What are the specific points you want to share that will help you best meet your objective and get across your core message? Now figure out how to convey those points in the clearest, most straightforward, and succinct way. This doesn’t mean that your presentation has to be a series of clipped bullet points. No one wants to sit through a presentation in which the presenter reads through what’s on the slide. You can get your points across using stories, fact, diagrams, videos, props, and other types of media.
Visual design matters While you don’t want to clutter up your presentation with too many visual elements that don’t serve your objective and can be distracting, using a variety of visual formats to convey your core message will make your presentation more memorable than slides filled with text. A couple of tips: avoid images that are cliched and overdone. Be careful not to mix up too many different types of images. If you’re using photos, stick with photos. If you’re using drawn images, keep the style consistent. When data are presented, stay consistent with colors and fonts from one type of chart to the next. Keep things clear and simple, using data to support key points without overwhelming your audience with too much information. And don’t assume that your audience is composed of statisticians (unless, of course, it is).
When presenting qualitative data, brief videos provide a way to engage your audience and create emotional connection and impact. Word clouds are another way to get qualitative data across.
Practice makes perfect You’ve pulled together a perfect presentation. But it likely won’t be perfect unless it’s well delivered. So don’t forget to practice your presentation ahead of time. Pro tip: record yourself as you practice out loud. This will force you to think through what you’re going to say for each element of your presentation. And watching your recording will help you identify your mistakes—such as fidgeting, using too many fillers (such as “umm,” or “like”), or speaking too fast.
A key element of your preparation should involve anticipating any technical difficulties. If you’ve embedded videos, make sure they work. If you’re presenting virtually, make sure that the lighting is good, and that your speaker and camera are working. Whether presenting in person or virtually, get there early enough to work out any technical glitches before your presentation is scheduled to begin. Few things are a bigger audience turn-off than sitting there watching the presenter struggle with the delivery mechanisms!
Finally, be kind to yourself. Despite thorough preparation and practice, sometimes, things go wrong, and you need to recover in the moment, adapt, and carry on. It’s unlikely that you’ll have caused any lasting damage and the important thing is to learn from your experience, so your next presentation is stronger.
How are you providing presentation skills training for your learners?
Manika Gandhi is Senior Learning Design Manager at Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning. Email her at [email protected] .
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