Easy Tips to Improve Your Presentation Skills
In today’s world of work, everyone has to give presentations. Whether it’s a formal talk to a big group, or a short proposal in a team meeting, public speaking is part of everyone’s job. But not everyone loves it!
What about you? Do you hate speaking in public? Does your mouth go dry and your heart race at the thought of giving a presentation? You’re not alone! Almost 75% of us experience anxiety about public speaking, according to glossophobia.com. If you have presentation jitters, or worse, take heart. For most of us, a few simple tips can help.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
The work starts long before you step out on stage. First, think about your topic. What do you want the audience to remember when they walk away? Write down a short sentence that summarizes your most important take-home points.
Start by writing down the most important take-home points
Next, think about your audience: what is their age, level of expertise in the topic, whether they are already passionate about your topic. Is the audience diverse? What characteristics do they share? This helps you get into their heads and understand what will grab their attention.
Now that you know something about your audience, and what you want them to remember, you can start writing your presentation. Build it around one or two core messages, and include explanations of why these messages are important, or why your audience should care.
Keep it Simple
The old KISS principle (Keep It Simple and Straightforward) is the best advice. Your points should be clear enough that you can give the talk, and people can understand it, without the help of slides.
If slides are required or expected, keep them as simple as possible. Avoid jargon, buzzwords, and slang. Too many words, complicated graphs and tables, and fancy animations often distract from the message rather than supporting it. Simple slides with a few key words or an illustrative graphic are all you need to be reminded of key points, and they help your audience listen to you instead of reading.
Think of your presentation as a story
Think of your presentation as a story; people are more likely to learn and remember stories than lists of facts.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Written words are different than spoken words. When you practice your presentation out loud, you will better understand how it flows, whether the message is clear, whether you can say it smoothly and how long it will take. There is no substitute for this, so repeat your presentation for friends, family or even your cat.
Practice your presentation at least 5 times before the big day. Doing this will help you understand how long it takes, where to pause for breath or for emphasis.
Practicing your presentation builds your confidence
Try to learn your talk by heart: not the actual words, but the general sense of it. If something goes wrong with your projector, you will still be fine! Making a powerful presentation when the projector fails leaves an even better impression! Practice automatically reduces nerves; practice enough and your presentation will flow from the first word, with much less effort.
A few easy steps help you be at your peak of energy and self-confidence when you speak. Eat before you talk: a light meal or a protein-based snack and a glass of water an hour or so before you go on stage will give you energy. Avoid alcohol until the talk is over; you want a clear head.
Just before walking on stage, take 3 deep breaths to get oxygen flowing to your brain. Give yourself a short pep talk. Remind yourself that no one knows this talk better than you do. Remind yourself of the one or two key messages you need to get across. Some people repeat the first line of their talk to themselves once or twice to warm up.
When you go on stage, you’ll have the right messages in the right format, with plenty of energy. Take one more breath, count to 3, smile at your audience. Then put up that first slide and shine!