presentation skillsPresentation Skills: Stand Up and Present with Confidence

Effective presentation skills are vital for most business roles. Many people never master presentation skills. Therefore, you can really set yourself apart from your colleagues by developing strong presentation skills.

Steps to enhance your presentation skills are outlined for inexperienced and semi-experienced presenters below.

What are presentation skills?

Presentation skills refer to the skills you require in delivering effective and engaging presentations to any audience. The skills cover many areas including how to structure a presentation, the ability to design impactful slides, how masterful you are at using and maximizing the effectiveness of your voice, how competent you are at using your body language.

4 steps to enhance presentation skills

Below are 4 proven steps that will take inexperienced presenters from a zero base in presentation skills to a quite high level, provided they put in the work required. Each step is vital and should not be skipped.

1. Prepare what you will say

If you have never had any experience in presenting your work to an audience, the first few times will most likely be really uncomfortable and scary. What could help you greatly is to prepare what you can say.

This resembles writing a script. Later, as you will acquire experience in presenting your work, you will no longer need scripts.

However, do not memorize. Instead, internalize.

How to structure your presentation? This depends on what you are presenting. But some general guidelines are:

  1. Start your presentation by making an emotional connection with an audience. For example, when I was presenting an opportunity to an international insurance company to start an insurance company in Russia that only targets women I started from talking about the usual role women historically play in Russia. Meaning, that many women are carrying their families forward and are the core of the family unit. Whereas in Western countries women play such roles usually only in single-parent households.
  2. In the body of your presentation try to focus on communicating 3 most important points. Make sure you acknowledge opposing arguments or competitors. And then conclude why your argument or your company is stronger or in a more advantageous position.
  3. At the end of your presentation, you can focus on the call for action. Or if you are pitching a business idea or an opportunity you can consider ending with a positive forecast.

If you are using a powerpoint, make sure it is an effective presentation. The powerpoint is just a tool. You are the power and you will make the point. Along with many things we usually teach regarding how to have an effective powerpoint presentations/slides, such as communicating the main points in the headline and telling a story through headlines, you may also find helpful the 10-20-30 rule for slideshows. The 10/20/30 rule of slideshows is: a slideshow should have ten slides, take no more than twenty minutes, and include no font smaller than thirty points.

2. You cannot enhance your presentation skills without practice…

The next thing you need to do is to practice, practice, and practice. Start from practicing alone. Divide the presentation into manageable and logical parts and practice each part separately. Then practice each part together in the correct sequence.

3. Video record yourself and you will notice accelerated improvement in your presentation skills

When you feel you can get through the presentation more or less adequately, start videotaping yourself.

When you will see yourself presenting your work, you may likely notice things that you had no idea you were doing. An example can be noisily clapping your hands together when you are trying to make a point. To avoid embarrassment it is, of course, much better to find out about this problem while you are alone. Since you know that you do particular things with your hands while presenting, you can keep one of your hands on your leg and break the habit.

presentation skills presenting

4. Arrange dry run to get your presentation skills another few levels up

After you have videotaped your presentation a few times and you will see a significant improvement in the quality of your presentation and will be ready to set up dry runs. Dry runs are practice presentations to a friendly audience. You can start with your family and, when you are ready, you can ask some of your colleagues to come in for a dry run and afterward give you feedback and make suggestions on how to improve your presentation. After about 5 dry runs you should be ready to give a good presentation.

Body language

We can’t speak about presentation skills without giving some guidelines on body language. When you are presenting a positive, strong body language is crucial to help you connect with the audience, get their attention and  build credibility.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Make eye contact with one person in the audience at a time. But do not stare.
  2. Appear confident:
    1. Maintain good posture. Don’t be tense. Stand tall. Keep your shoulders back, head up as if a string pulls you up from the top of your head. You can also improve your posture by placing a book at the top of your head for a few minutes a few times a day, and walking around, seating without the book falling.
    2. Make every moment of your presentation purposeful.
    3. Do not do parallel gestures with both hands. It generally does not look good.
    4. Do not cross your arms. It is a defensive position and sends the wrong signal to your audience. Instead, keep your arms open and only slightly closed.
    5. Do not look at your watch or feet. Also, do not look too much at the screen.
  3. Use your voice effectively to improve your presentation skills.
    1. Breathe into your stomach (diaphragmatic breathing). How? Here is how to learn to do it. You can do this exercise seating down, standing, or laying down.
      • Place one hand on your chest and another on your upper belly, below your rib cage.
      • Breathe in slowly through your nose letting the air in towards your lower belly. The hand on your belly should rise and the hand on your chest should stay still.
      • As you exhale feel your stomach coming in while your chest remaining still.
      • Speak only when your stomach is coming in.
      • Ensure there is enough melody in your voice. That your voice is not monotone.
      • Make sure you have enough volume in your voice.

    Final thoughts on improving your presentation skills

    If you have some experience in presenting your work to an audience, then the preparation steps described above can be shortened in frequency and depth to reflect what you feel is necessary to adequately prepare. However, if you do not feel confident about your presentation skills then it is better to go through all these steps to ensure you are really well prepared.

    Presenting your work to an audience can become one of your favorite activities as you gain more experience. It is exciting. It allows you an opportunity to show your competence, intelligence, and reliability. Presenting your work is an opportunity to shine, it is not punishment. You need to embrace it and make the most of it. The proven ideas above are, if followed, will greatly help you in improving your presentation skills, as well as your confidence and effectiveness when engaging an audience.

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    Some external resources that you may find helpful in improving your presentation skills:

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