Today, presentation skills are required in almost every field, and most of us are required to give presentations on occasions. While some people take this in their stride, others find it much more challenging. Presenting information clearly and effectively is a key skill in getting your message across.
The fear of presenting is very real among professionals in corporate today, so much so that that many people are desperate to avoid it. It’s a problem because telling a clear and persuasive story through presentations is a fundamental job requirement and a necessary component of career success.
Poor presentation skills mean that leaders fail to inspire their teams, products fail to sell, entrepreneurs fail to attract funding, and careers fail to soar. That seems like a big price to pay for neglecting such a basic skill that anyone can improve upon.
Improve Presentation skills
It is, however, possible to improve your presentation skills. Although, there is no single set of rules that apply to all presentations. There are, however, some things that every presentation opportunity has in common. These include:
1. Connect with your Audience
It’s hard to be relaxed and be yourself when you’re nervous.
But time and again, the great presenters say that the most important thing is to connect with your audience, and the best way to do that is to let your passion for the subject shine through.
Be honest with the audience about what is important to you and why it matters.
Be enthusiastic and honest, and the audience will respond.
2. Focus on your Audience’s Needs
Your presentation needs to be built around what your audience is going to get out of the presentation.
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.
You need to make it easy for your audience to understand and respond.
You need to be clear about your audience and your message. Every presentation will be better if you have clearly considered the message that you want or need to convey, and how best to convey it to your audience. These two pieces of information drive your style, structure, content, and use of visual aids.
3. Keep it Short and Simple: Concentrate on your Core Message
When planning your presentation, you should always keep in mind the question:
What is the key message (or three key points) for my audience to take away?
You should be able to communicate that key message very briefly. Some experts recommend a 30-second ‘elevator summary’, others that you can write it on the back of piece of paper, or say it in no more than 15 words. Whichever rule you choose, the important thing is to keep your core message focused and brief. And if what you are planning to say doesn’t contribute to that core message, don’t say it.
4. Make Eye Contact with your Audience
This sounds very easy, but a surprisingly large number of presenters fail to do it.
If you smile and make eye contact, you are building rapport, which helps the audience to connect with you and your subject. It also helps you to feel less nervous, because you are talking to individuals, not to a great mass of unknown people.
To help you with this, make sure that you don’t turn down all the lights so that only the slide screen is visible. Your audience needs to see you as well as your slides.
5. Start Strongly
The beginning of your presentation is crucial. You need to grab your audience’s attention and hold it.
They will give you a few minutes’ grace in which to entertain them, before they start to switch off if you’re dull. So don’t waste that on explaining who you are. Start by entertaining them.
6. Effective content
You will present better if you have prepared effectively. This does NOT necessarily mean that you have written out your speech and rehearsed it until you know it off by heart—although that might work for some people. It does, however, mean that you have to be confident that you are saying the right thing, in the right way, to the right people.
7. Allocated time
You must never overrun your allocated time. In other words, don’t outstay your welcome. Almost every speech or presentation is better if it is shorter. Nobody minds finishing before they expect to do so. Everybody minds being held up.
Generally speaking, your audience starts on your side. As a rule, your audience is there (more or less) voluntarily. They have chosen to listen to you, and they want to enjoy your presentation. The occasion is yours to lose.
The most important way of all, however, is to remember that it’s all about your audience.
Keep that in mind, and your presentation skills will almost instantly improve.