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.
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 play 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 meeting 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.
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. 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.
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