Six Easy Steps to Improve Your Presentation Skills

Do you feel nervous about delivering your first presentation? Do you wake in up in the night worrying about how you come across? Do you feel that you could improve your skills but aren’t sure how?

The tips below should help you improve your confidence in presenting.

1. Find out what your ‘distract’ is

When they present, many people unknowingly distract the audience with a repeated trait. This might be constantly using a filler word such as ‘yeah’ or ‘like’ or a physical distraction such as constantly moving around the room, waving their hands or fiddling with an item of clothing. Some people distract the audience so much they are unable to concentrate on what is being said. I once listened to someone present who swayed from side to side throughout their presentation. The effect was actually quite hypnotic and nobody could focus on the slides at all! Ask close friends or colleagues if they have noticed what your ‘distract’ is and then focus on ways of eliminating it.

2. Do you know what you want to achieve?

What is the point of your presentation? Are you trying to teach someone how to do something? Are you trying to get them to follow a process? Are you trying to entertain? Are you trying to change opinions? Are you trying to sell a product or service?

Decide what your purpose is and once you have finished preparing your presentation think about whether it actually does what you want it to. It is very easy to start adding facts and information that are relevant but that can overwhelm the audience. Just because they enjoy the presentation or find it interesting it doesn’t mean you have achieved your purpose. If you are still concerned, you could collect feedback from the audience about what they will take away from your presentation. The results might surprise you!

3. Connect with the audience

An audience are more likely to engage with a presenter they feel knows them or is connected to them. How you do this depends on the type of presentation you are doing. If you are presenting to employees or managers from the same company, do some research on the company to find out some facts you can incorporate. If you are presenting to a group of individuals from the same profession or who follow the same hobby, try to inject some specific humour. For example, if you are addressing a room of health care professionals, you might include something on long and unsociable working hours to show you understand their profession. If you are not sure, try asking the audience a few questions to gather information you can feed from.

4. Which presentations have inspired you?

Think about presentations you have attended. You might think back to when you were a student and remember teachers that inspired you. It might be presentations you have attended at work or socially for a club or society. Try to identify what it was about those presenters that made them memorable. You might also think about any ‘bad’ presentations you have been to and see if you can pinpoint why. You can then decide which traits you can include in your own presenting and what to avoid.

5. Slow it down!

The majority of people speak more quickly when they present than they do normally. This can mean you lose the audience. To overcome this, practise in front of friends, family or colleagues or record yourself and play it back. If you are using slides, you could set timed transitions to force yourself to keep to set timings. You might ask a question for the audience to consider to give yourself some breathing room.

6. Predict problems

List all the things that could go wrong: with you, with the equipment, with the environment and with the audience. Then consider how you could overcome these problems. For example if your memory stick doesn’t work have a backup copy (you might use Google Drive or Dropbox). However, don’t overwhelm yourself with thinking of problems or you might turn into a nervous wreck. The idea of predicting problems is to make you more confident – not less!

I hope you found some of these tips useful. Good luck with your presentations. If you feel you need more help, contact us about taking part in our course: Improving Your Confidence when Delivering Presentations or Training.