In the days of tech-connected meetings and training sessions, the ability to present information effectively has never been more crucial. Don’t make the mistake of leaning too heavily on your devices. Even with onscreen graphics loaded with pizzazz, your listeners will appreciate a presenter who speaks with authority and confidence.
Here are six tips that will help you improve your presentation skills.
1. Know your audience
Are they novices in the topic? Your peers? Potential customers? Experts in the field? According to Rich Maggiani, founder of Solari Communication, you must know the audience for your presentation.
“Before giving any presentation, make sure you can explain what you know to an unknowing audience, and also make sure you know to whom you are presenting and what you want them to do with the information you impart.”
This step starts in preparation. According to Skills You Need, “as you prepare the presentation, you always need to bear in mind what the audience needs and wants to know, not what you can tell them. While you’re giving the presentation, you also need to remain focused on your audience’s response, and react to that.”
2. An effective presenter is a happy presenter
If you’re not thrilled to be giving the presentation, do something about that. You have prepared your information and resources well, but you’ll also need to prepare your smile.
Anyone is more charming with a cheerful disposition, and a lot easier to listen to. This will also do wonders to calm any nerves. If you are convinced that you have something good to share, you won’t have to fake the smile.
3. Practice, practice, practice!
Forbes Coaches Council tells us to “practice your material so much that it becomes truly a part of you. Because the quality of a presentation isn't in the content; it's how well you connect with your audience. Most people stay stuck in their material rather than be truly present in the conversation with the audience. And rest assured, it is a two-way conversation. It is an energy exchange. So know your stuff, and then let go and connect.”
4. Spice it up
Most presentations will not be entirely new material to your audience. To keep them engaged on familiar material which is not inherently interesting, you’ll need to find a unique angle.
If you illustrate your topic with a story, it should be short, relevant, and clearly fit into your logical development. An animated and enthusiastic approach will also make the whole presentation more memorable.
5. Use your body
Open, confident gestures and facial expressions will enliven your voice and stir up your own feelings too. Much can be communicated visually, in addition to your voice.
Sure, this is easier said than done, but it is essential if you are to keep your audience focused on your information. On the other hand, if you are nervous and uptight, the audience will be distracted, some in sympathy with your plight, but others just wanting you to finish.
A great help is to deliberately slow down your breathing. Skills You Need says, “If you can bring yourself to relax, you will almost certainly present better. If you can actually start to enjoy yourself, your audience will respond to that, and engage better. Your presentations will improve exponentially, and so will your confidence.”
University of Technology Sydney has a basic, but helpful, pre-presentation checklist. You can download it here.
So apply these six tips for your next presentation and you'll be well on your way to becoming an accomplished presenter that delivers both engaging and memorable content.