A beginner’s guide to improving your presentation skills – top tips
26th January 2018
Author: Mike James
Do you break out in a cold sweat at the idea of giving a presentation? Many people shy away from speaking in front of a crowd. But with presentation skills required in lots of business areas, public speaking can really help you get ahead.
The good news is you already use presentation skills every day. Simply talking to people requires the skill of communication, and that is what presentations are all about. Mike James finds out how to conquer your fears and speak with confidence.
Presentation skills training advice
The best way to develop presentation skills is to start with a small audience. Presenting to just a handful of people is do-able. Perhaps start by offering to present something to your team at work or practise with friends. Keep it short and don’t waffle.
Speak slowly, clearly and loud enough so people can hear you. Remember to look at your audience and act confident, even if you don’t feel it inside! Pace is important too – stick to any timings you’re given and make sure you don’t run over your slot as you may get cut off and miss out something important.
One of the most important rules for acing presentations is to be prepared. Run through what you are going to say out loud – there’s often a big difference between how things sound when you read them in your head compared to when you speak. When you’ve got a version you’re happy with, do a practice run with a friend or colleague and ask for their feedback.
Don’t get tripped up by tech
No matter how prepared you are, sometimes things go wrong, especially when it comes to technology. Arrive at your presentation early and have a run through. Have a plan in place in case things go wrong – if your slides don’t work, hand-outs could save the day.
Create a captivating opener
Just as in writing, your opening few sentences in a speech are integral to your success. Work on your opening gambit. You want to spark interest from the outset. Posing a question to your audience at the beginning can be an interesting way to break the ice and capture interest.
Use interesting visuals
Perhaps one of the more crucial, but sometimes forgotten presentation skills tips, is to use visual aids. Even the most charismatic speakers use visuals. Think about any images you want to illustrate your presentation – they can help hold audience interest and keep your presentation flowing.
Offer valuable content
Whatever you are presenting, there has to be something of value in it for your audience. Don’t get caught up on making everything look nice but not having anything worthwhile to say – content is really important so think through the key points you want to make.
Think about questions
Don’t expect everything to go to plan. Expect difficult questions and the odd heckler. There’s always one smart alec in the audience. Prepare and practise answers for the type of questions you may get asked. Don’t panic if you’re asked a question and you don’t know the answer. A straight forward ‘I’m not sure about that one but will look into it and get back to you,’ is much more professional than a bodged reply.
Pay attention to body language
Your facial expression and body language need to match what you are talking about. Laugh nervously at a serious bit, and you will confuse your audience. Keep your expressions in tune with your presentation. Smile when you say something funny. Show empathy when you are discussing a subject that warrants it and don’t forget to stand up straight.
Mike James is a Brighton-based writer, specialising in technology for work – and healthy living for fun. He writes for a range of companies and organisations, including audience response software specialists Clikapad.
Mike’s buzz animal is a Black Bear. Take the Buzz Quiz to find out your animal type.