What makes an effective presentation?
What can you do?
How can I improve my presentation skills in a short space of time? What will it take to be a better public speaker? This is a question on the minds of many of you who are giving presentation to their clients and peers every day. You have a short space of time to make a point. You probably are doing more or will have to do more as you progress in your career? So a few reminders.
Make presentation skills part of your personal development plan
When you think about giving a presentation, are you delighted at the prospect of sharing your knowledge or does an old familiar feeling of dread emerge at the prospect of speaking in public? Developing your skills in this area should really be part of your on-going professional development plan, but here are some tips on getting more comfortable with your audience.
1. Your presentation is about your audience
When you are speaking in public and have an audience watching you, there are two thing that matters, how you are managing yourself and how your audience is experiencing your presentation. The first you can control, the latter you can only influence. How can you help the audience have a quality experience in what they see and hear from you as a presenter? Everything you say should help the audience understand the purpose of the presentation, get something valuable from what you are saying and walk away with an action. How many times have you sat in a presentation bored to death by the long introductions about the merits and the great achievements of the speaker? Save this information til last and only present it if it’s relevant. Nowadays, people are overloaded with information and they can only take in what is relevant, so make it all about your audience, and work with the idea that ‘less is more.‘
2. PowerPoint is a support tool, not the star of the show
PowerPoint presentations are as ubiquitous a tool as the phone in business. People are used to cramming their PowerPoint with information, bullet points and very often using it as a reading tool throughout the presentation. This doesn’t always create the intended impact. To improve a PowerPoint presentation, it is important to understand what the purpose of it is. It is there as a visual support tool, not a reading tool and it is not meant to be centre stage.
When you design your PowerPoint, a rule of thumb to make the most impact is: Think three minutes per slide. The more visual pictures you have, the better. Use only key words and images to convey an idea. Take advantage of the SmartArt to demonstrate stats or flow charts or to link your ideas. It will ensure your audience retains more. The most important thing is to get rid of all those bullet points. Everything you have in the bullet points, turn it into a hand out and combine this with the visual graphics on your PowerPoint software. One important but often forgotten idea: Never turn your back to the audience and read from the slides on the wall. Read from your laptop and use one the best tool out there, a clicker to help you navigate the slides. There is nothing worse than seeing a presenter move back and forth to the keyboard to move to the next slide. Keep looking at your audience, no matter what. Maintain eye-contact with your audience. It keeps the rapport and connection with them.
3. Put some pizazz in your presentation
When making a presentation, where you are working to convince your audience of your ideas, the most powerful way to make an impact is to develop a presentation style that works for you. You do not have to be a slick charismatic presenter. It helps, but it is not essential. The most important thing is that you connect with your audience by how you present. The key points to remember are: Stories work really well in a presentation. People like sharing and hearing stories. They are easier to remember for the presenter and definitely help you to relax. Build your presentations on a story if you can. Include questions to stimulate interaction with the audience. Develop a logical progression in your presentation that is easy to follow. Keep your presentations as short as you can. Work on your voice and ensure the audience can hear and understand you. Much can be lost through poor voice projection and diction. The back wall in the room needs to be able to hear you.
4. The presenter’s mind-set – try it on
If you want to improve your presentation skills, there are a number of things you can do while waiting for the opportunity to show off your skills. Firstly, get at much practice as you can, especially if you are one of those people who have a fear of public speaking or dread the idea of speaking in front of your professional peers. Key to developing your presentation skills is to cultivate a professional presenter’s mind-set.
What you do in your mind will show up in your body. Start with giving the presentation a quality meaning and a quality inner script, such as, ” Train your mind to relax about the idea of being seen speaking in public and having people look at you. Learn from every experience and keep telling yourself that you are well able to do it. Developing your skills is a lot about training your mind until it behaves exactly the way an experienced driver does when they get into their car.
5. Practice, Practice, Practice
If you still suffer from nerves when you are about to speak in public, then you will need to do a bit more practice. Presentations skills are just that – “skills” The only way it is going to get better it to practice, practice and more practice. When you have an idea of what you want to present, then develop your ideas. Put them into your PowerPoint presentation based on the tips listed above. Create the story and the points you are going to make. Plug your PowerPoint into a projector and practice is a few times as if you are in front of the audience.
Visualize a positive response from your audience and rehearse it until you feel very comfortable with the material. As the brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real or imagined, I suggest you continue practicing in your mind, seeing your speech or presentation going really well and being well received by your audience. On the day of the presentation, try to speak with your audience in an informal way before you have to speak. That way you won’t get a shock at the sound of hearing your voice in the room for the first time.
If you take every opportunity to speak, you can only get better and build the confidence to speak in public, without giving it a second thought. Give yourself permission to enjoy it. You may even get to a point where you really enjoy giving them. There’s a thought!
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About the Author: Shiera O’Brien is a business and soft skills trainer and coach who works with sales and executive management teams and individuals across industries to get better results from their business conversations and presentations. In any workshop or coaching session, there is a total focus on 1) what current results are you getting, 2) what skills are needed to improve the results 3) what behaviours are operating. Shiera works to bring awareness to what is going on from an observational standpoint, without judgement, using tools she has learned in 12 years in the field of coaching.