If you want to increase your presentation skills and keep everyone in the room engaged — while helping you either close a deal or get you noticed by upper management — remember one thing: it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. You can cover all the points in your talk, pitch or lecture, but if you drone on and on and don’t engage people, your work won’t get you noticed.
Follow these tips to create top-notch presentation skills to boost your career and make you a pro at public-speaking.
The first step in creating a top-notch presentation is to find out what your audience wants to hear. That’s different than deciding what you want to tell them.
Sure, you can still have an agenda — such as making a sales pitch or informing co-workers of a new company launch — but you need to make sure you emphasize the things that are important to your listeners.
Researching your audience means going beyond who they are. Find out their pain points. What do they need help with? How can you make them more successful? Why is what you’re presenting important to them? Once you know this, you’ll know what to emphasize in your presentation.
Back up what you’re saying with facts, figures, data and news, not with personal opinion that’s unsupported. Places like government, academic and industry websites should be your best friend, as these are places with industry experts that support your claims and give your audience more bona fide information.
Ask some of your potential attendees what they want to learn and what they’ve heard about the topic recently. Make sure to see what others who have presented your topic have included in their talks, and use a similar structure.
Whether you use a dry erase board, flip chart, handouts or a computer program, building your presentation skills lives or dies with content organization that includes an overview, the main body and a recap. Start your presentation by using a simple outline, list the main points you want to make, then include sub-heads that support what you’re saying in your main categories.
While writing your presentation, look for a solution to a problem, or a way for your attendees to take advantage of an opportunity. Starting with that thought process as you create your presentation will help you subtly deliver the information you want them to hear.
Use a simple three-step process to organize each talk you give.
Start your presentation with an overview of what people will learn from this presentation. Don’t go into any details during your intro — just present the highlights that are coming, which tells your listeners why this presentation is important to them.
Organize the main body of your talk into bite-size sections that focus on one topic, so the information can be consumed easily. Order your sections to create smooth transitions from one topic to the next.
Finish your presentation with a summary and recap of your information, highlighting the key points people should take away from your talk and refer to in notes. You can follow this summation with a Q&A and action items.
It’s important to use various tools to deliver your message while looking to build your presentation skills. That will avoid making all of your information start to sound the same, run together and create a drone-like effect.
PowerPoint is still a go-to presentation tool for many people, but there are plenty of other ways to showcase your information. Also, switching back and forth between PowerPoint, a dry erase board, enlargements and props (like product samples) helps break up your talk and make it more interesting.
Avoid giving attendees detailed handouts early in your presentation. They’ll start reading them and miss what you’re saying.
Prepare your presentation early enough so you can practice it and improve your presentation skills before stepping to the plate in front of the real audience.
Start by timing your presentation by reading it out loud, paying close attention to how fast you’re talking. You’ll be more nervous when you deliver your talk live, and this often leads to talking faster. If you have an hour to fill, don’t assume the time you use during a practice run is the same amount of time you’ll use to deliver your talk for real.
Record at least one pass of your test runs so you can hear what you sound like. Do you speak in a monotone? Do you get nervous and start speaking fast, which causes your voice to rise? If so, practice speaking low and slow.
Practice eye contact, moving your gaze to different areas in the room, including side-to-side and close and farther back. Make sure to add plenty of short pauses when you speak, especially after long statements.
Ever fall asleep during a presentation? You’re not the only one. Drowsiness isn’t triggered just by boring speakers, other factors do, in fact, play a big role — like poor lighting.
If you turn off the lights in your room for a video presentation, attendees’ brains start releasing melatonin, which causes drowsiness. If possible, only turn off the lights in the front of the room above your viewing screen.
If your room will be full of people, the room temperature will rise once they start filling the room. Keep the temperature cool before they arrive to account for body heat.
Make sure people in the back of the room can hear you and see your smallest on-screen text or charts.
Remember, organization is key. When you put lots of effort into a presentation, you don’t want anything to interfere with your message. Take time to manage anything that can affect your talk, including your organization, speaking manner, delivery tools and room factors.
Making sure you put your best effort into the “how you say it” part of presentations will make you stand out as a potential management candidate who is polished and professional.
All images via Getty
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