Public speaking is one of the most useful skill sets we can ever possess. This is why presentation skills training is essential for those who usually find themselves having to make impressive and effective presentations, whether it’s for a client presentation, a potential business partner or investor, or introducing a new product during a special launch.
The value of good presentation skills doesn’t end there, however. Be it a panel job interview or a speech during your best friend’s wedding, an effective presentation can make a world of difference in the impression you make.
If you feel your presentation skills are a bit wanting or if you simply wish to hone your public speaking ability and develop further, here are 10 ways you can improve your presentation skills.
1. Always study your audience
If you’re invited to give a keynote speech or conduct a seminar, you’ll have a fair idea of whom you will be presenting to. Use this as a basis to do some research about your audience — whether it’s college-level students, members of the board of directors, foundation donors, children, or professionals in your field.
By taking the time to get to know your audience, you’ll not only be able to tailor the content of your presentation but also your delivery or approach. It’ll also be easier for you to establish empathy or connect with them emotionally.
2. Structure your presentation
A prepared delivery requires you to consider three basic elements that comprise the framework or structure of your presentation: the opening or introduction, body, and closing or conclusion.
The purpose of your intro is for you to make an emotional connection with your audience. You can establish this bond by posing a question, a challenge, a story, facts or statistics, or a compelling quote. Whichever device you employ, choose one that you know will resonate with your listeners.
This is the time to expand or properly discuss whatever you raised in your opening, to present data or facts to support your claim or proposal, and to engage with your audience. If the topic of your presentation provides you room to get your audience to participate or respond, make use of these opportunities to involve them.
Also, it’s better to develop your topic around three key points. For example, if you’re talking about a new product, highlight three salient features or benefits of this product. Of course, if there are more than three, you can always expand this. However, trying to limit your discussion to three items will help to keep your discussion focused, brief, and substantial.
Another tip: Avoid memorising your speech; use an outline instead.
The concluding section of your presentation is your last chance to make a lasting impression on your audience. You also need to connect it with your opening. Here, you can end with another question, motto, challenge, or call to action. If you’re pitching to a client or presenting a business proposal, make sure you end your presentation on a positive note.
3. Practise, practise, practise
The cliché about practise makes perfect is a cliché because it’s true. Even seasoned public speakers have to practise their presentation. CEOs, legal professionals, directors, politicians, product endorsers, and just about anyone who has to speak in front of others can benefit from constant practise.
So, enrolling in presentation skills training is not the end-all and be-all. You also need to rehearse your presentation until it becomes ingrained in your mind and heart. You can do this in front of a mirror, a colleague, family member, friend, or even a video camera — so you can review it for later.
4. Watch other people’s presentations
If you’re presenting as part of a series, such as those held in business expos or exhibitions, make time to attend earlier presentations. Focus on not only the presenters but also on the audience. What’s the mood of the crowd? Is the crowd engaged or participating? Are the presentations formal, humorous, or impactful? Use this experience to leverage your presentation — but don’t make major last-minute changes.
5. Arrive at the venue early
There’s nothing more stressful than just arriving in the nick of time or even coming late to your presentation. Give yourself time to breathe and get a feel of the venue. Familiarise yourself with the equipment onstage, including the microphone and lighting.
Walk around the stage and select three sections or points in the audience where you can make eye contact. If the audience starts arriving, chat with a couple, and hear what they have to say, such as their expectations from your presentation. Getting insights directly from your audience can help you make your presentation more relatable and interesting to them.
6. Focus on positive thoughts
Fear of failure in any scenario can immobilise or render a person catatonic. Avoid this by focusing on succeeding or giving a powerful presentation. Be poised and confident, and smile. Your audience wants you to succeed, so keep that in mind as you make your presentation. Your fear will eventually wither away as you become more comfortable and progress in your presentation.
7. Remember to breathe
As you rehearse your presentation, train yourself to take relaxing deep breaths, as well. Deep breathing allows oxygen to circulate and reach your brain where you need it the most during your presentation. It’ll help relax your body, too.
8. Stay hydrated
Public speaking, in general, uses up a lot of energy, so it’s vital to stay hydrated during your presentation. Don’t be afraid to pause and take sips of water in between. This will help prevent dry mouth which is usually associated with anxiety. Also, make sure to drink enough water and go to the bathroom before your presentation.
9. Develop your own style
Some great speakers have their own signature styles. Think Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, JFK, and Mahatma Gandhi. Of course, you don’t need to be speaking about freedom, equality, and independence all the time to become an instant hit.
Developing your own presentation style is not something that comes overnight. It’ll come out the more you practise and the more experiences you gain in presenting. Once you’ve developed it, you’ll know and stick to it as it ensures you achieve your objectives for each presentation you make.
10. Keep learning
Life is a series of lessons, and the same can be said when it comes to presentation skills training. There’ll be times when you’ll be confident of the outcome, and moments when you’ll wonder what went wrong. Whatever happens, focus on growing as a presenter and developing your skills further. After all, there’s always something new to learn from each presentation experience.
Better yet, enrol in one of our Screenwise corporate classes designed to help you become the best you can be in your business presentations.