Improving your presentation skills: step-by-step guide
Presentation - that dreadful word. Whether you are a novice speaker or a professional at sharing information, there are several tried and true methods to improving how you deliver in front of a group of people. Presentations are essential in every workplace scenario because they involve offering new or insightful information to others in an impactful manner. Beyond the technicalities of using presentation software, these are the most important steps to communicating your presentation to other so that you can truly connect with your audience.
1. Prepare Ahead of Time
Think about your audience. What do they need to know from you in order for them to become successful? Start writing down this information on note cards that you can easily read, or whatever digital presentation tool you are using. Once you know what you want to say, practice a few times—either in the actual space where you are presenting or at home in front of a mirror. Ideally, you should rehearse your presentation in its actual location if you will be using any digital equipment. You would hate it if your projector or speakers failed you during your presentation.
2. Establish Your Presence
When it comes time to start your presentation, you must determine your stance before you even say one word. Remember, posture is important. Make sure you are standing tall and straight to exude confidence. Also engage your audience by smiling and making eye contact. This will make you seem amiable and trusting. If you have difficulty looking people in the eye, pick a few points on the back wall to direct your gaze.
3. Project Your Voice
Take command of the room by using a clear voice that projects throughout the space. Your tone should be strong and powerful to show you are confident in the information your providing, but not harsh. Talk a little slower than usual so that everyone can pick up on the words you use. Taking brief pauses as you present also helps emphasize key points, and it gives time for people to digest all the information.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Improvise
When you know your audience and the information you want to share, you aren’t forced to stick to a script. There may be times when an audience member asks a question, in which case you could pause and answer with ease. There may also come a point when you glance around the room and everyone looks confused, or worse—bored. In these moments, you have the opportunity to redirect everything you’re saying. Make a joke if someone is falling asleep. Engage the audience with body gestures or short anecdotes to connect with people.
5. Leave with a Lasting Impression
The whole point of your presentation is to teach your audience about information you know in order for them to take action. The last thing you want is your audience left not understanding or altogether forgetting your message. Wrap up your presentation by summarizing what you just told them—the key takeaways. Tell them exactly what you want them to gain from what you just shared.
6. Accept Feedback
Once you are completely done with your presentation, open up a discussion for questions or comments. Ask for feedback regarding your information and the way you delivered it. The best way to improve on your presentation skills is to try, again and again. Prevent yourself from making similar mistakes—be it stuttering, using the word “um” too much, or talking too fast—and be accepting of harsh criticism. It might be tough to hear at first, but just considering these remarks as a learning opportunity. You may also end up hearing about skills you did well, which will help you know what to do the next time.