12 Strategies to Improve Your Presentation Skills
Few of us are comfortable speaking in front of an audience, but having the skill to present information effectively in the workplace is a valuable one to have; even more so in a modern workplace where we have come to rely less on written forms of communication (pointing the finger, here, at shorter attention spans and the concomitant reliance on straight-to-the-point messaging). And, to quote a colleague – “How an idea is packaged is just as important as the idea itself,” and in some cases, perhaps even more important.
In 2016, Forbes discussed results from a Prezi survey that revealed that 70% of employed Americans who give presentations believe that presentation skills are critical to their success at work. The article ventures a guess that the other 30% of survey respondents are perhaps just late in realizing this. If it’s such an important skill, how can employees improve, short of imagining their co-workers naked? The experts have this to say:
1. Arrive early
Prepared for your presentation is one of the best ways to ensure a good presentation. You should inspect the location, double and triple check all the equipment you’re going to use, and make sure it works perfectly. When your audience enters the room, you’ll be welcoming them with a smile. You’ll feel more comfortable and less nervous than if you came in with everyone sitting down and just waiting to start your presentation.
2. Know your audience and keep them interested
What is your audience expecting to get from your presentation? Try to meet, or even exceed, these expectations by staying on-message and including an effective and relevant accompanying slide deck to supplement, rather than imitate the verbal component.
3. Plan your presentation and structure your thoughts/ideas/arguments
People will soon lose interest or disregard what you have to say if it’s clear that you don’t even know what you’re trying to say.
4. Manage your ‘stage-fright’
Everyone handles anxiety differently, so it’s important to identify your presentation stress triggers and to implement strategies to cope with them – whether it is to wear something you feel confident in, or doing breathing exercises beforehand.
5. Work on your delivery
A good presentation involves more than just a confident delivery. It requires of the presenter to know when to pause to give the audience a chance to digest new information or when to ask for engagement to stimulate critical thinking. Excellent delivery comes with practice, and perhaps some guidance from other good presenters (e.g. watching Ted talks or participating in Toastmasters).
6. Keep it short and relevant
There is always room for footnotes and follow-ups in the Q&A, so keep it concise and impactful.
7. Positive thinking
Positive thinking will help you conquer presentation anxiety a long way. If you think your presentation would be a failure, it’s a failure. But if you think it’s going to be a smashing success, then you’ll do your utmost to make sure it happens. When confident, you appear to project your optimism when talking. It will manifest as you speak and as you address your audience.
8 Add a touch of humor
Humor will impress an audience since it shows you don’t take yourself too seriously. If you can make the audience laugh a few times, they will also be more open to what you’re doing, which will make you more relaxed. But avoid telling apparent jokes, as they can seem forced. Instead, try to weave some funny thoughts about your work or the subject you’re talking about.
9. Don’t be a statue
Your body is also an essential tool. You don’t want to make the listener believe you don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t want to be rigid, use your hands while talking, or feel free to walk around a little (don’t walk around too much, or it can come across as hesitation). This will keep engaged those you’re talking to. Such gestures can also convey a sense of optimism that can strengthen the message a long way.
10. Start visualizing your success
It’s a good idea to imagine making a fantastic presentation, as it will help improve your morale. Try to do this as many times as you can before giving your presentation. If you ever feel anxious, try breathing slowly to lower your heart rate.
11. Don’t present on an empty stomach
Try eating something before presenting. If you’re anxious, it might be the last thing you feel like doing, but getting a light snack before a presentation will help keep you mentally alert. And if your presentation’s mindset really stresses you out, try a physical activity blast. Exercise helps the body use stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, so take a brisk walk or visit the gym beforehand-it makes you feel much calmer.
12. Review other presenters
Do your best to watch as many presentations as possible. If you can’t, there’s plenty of archived presentations on YouTube. Write down what you want and don’t like it. Study body language, voice, presentation slides of presenters.
Take some notes, such as, what’s the crowd’s response? They’re loving it? How you feel about the presentation? You think you can do better? Knowing the answers to these questions would significantly enhance your presentation skills.
Need more help?
Coggno offers the following online training courses to assist employees in becoming better presenters and more effective communicators:
Here are some of the top presentation skills courses:
Course 3: Powerful Presentations
Course 6: Communication Skills for Employees
*Discounts applicable: 20% OFF, valid thru Feb. 5th, 2018!