Although you may not think about it much, presentation skills are used in everything you do — telling a story to a relative, serving food to friends, or pitching a project to your boss. Having good presentation skills can mean the difference between being the interesting person in the room or simply fading into the background.
Having effective presentation skills can help boost confidence, create deeper relationships, and help you flourish in all aspects of life — from personal relationships to your career. Thankfully, there are things we can all do to improve presentation skills and learn to present with confidence.
Why presentation skills matter
Presentation skills can include how you present yourself physically, such as your dress and posture, how you conduct yourself, such as tone of voice and lexical choices, as well as your presentation aids, such as visual aids and props.
Refining these skills by using tried and tested presentation techniques can help you up your game in all aspects of life.
Presentation skills in your professional life
Ensuring you are known as a professional, approachable, and smart person will help you in your career — position yourself so that your bosses think of you when looking for someone who is up to the task. This is only achieved through a demonstrable track record and effective presentation skills. Always dressing well and acting professionally will mean your bosses know they can send you to any meeting to represent them; knowing how to give a good speech and presentation will mean they can rely on you to pitch for them or sell to a client; and knowing how to charm and tell a good story will mean you get invited to the events where you’ll make the best contacts.
Presentation skills in your personal life
Friendships are deepened by shared experiences, and one of the ways to do that is to share stories. Being able to deliver a story in an engaging way by knowing your audience, being passionate about your narrative, organizing your story effectively, and delivering it with the right amount of eye contact and body language is a sure way to win over friends and impress new acquaintances. All of these presentation techniques can help you with your relationships–and all of these skills can be learned.
Top tips to give a great presentation
Be passionate about your subject
Whether you are passionate about your story or not is the first thing your listener will notice. It will come across in your eyes, your tone of voice, and your gestures. If you are excited about your story, your listener will be too; if you are not, your listener won’t be either.
Know your subject and your audience
It is hard to be passionate if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Likewise, it’s hard to excite your audience if you’re telling them about something that they’re not interested in. To have effective presentation skills, be sure to do your research and tailor your topic and speech to your audience.
Keep things simple and organize the information logically
Part of any day-to-day or professional presentation is keeping things easy to understand. Don’t confuse your listeners. Aim to order your narrative in a logical order, such as a chronological order for a story or as building blocks of information for a work presentation.
Use lots of visuals and examples
There are many different types of learners and listeners, so to reach them all you must incorporate different elements. This can mean including visual aids, such as graphs, images, or videos, or clarifying points with examples that your listeners can relate to.
Be humorous or, failing this, keep an approachable demeanor
Humor is a great way to improve engagement, so (context allowing) pepper your presentation with jokes or light-hearted speech. If the theme does not allow for humor, or you simply don’t feel confident in your comedic skills, ensure you are presenting with confidence and a warm outward expression.
Maintain eye contact and active listening
A professional presentation often goes two ways, and should include questions from the listener. Make sure that they are following your presentation by maintaining a good amount of eye contact (although not constant if it is one-on-one) and paying attention to whether they are following you. If you see they don’t understand, clarify or ask them if they have questions. This means a form of close observation throughout the presentation, which should also be applied during the questions at the end, and which ensures you reach your listeners and keep them engaged.
Your body speaks: The importance of body language
We communicate even when our mouths are closed. Body language will show your listener if you are nervous, arrogant, or unsure. Make sure to let your listener know you are confident about your subject or product, but also humble and approachable. Do this by presenting with a relaxed but professional body posture and moving around the room with confidence to properly explain, giving each listener the right amount of attention.
Be self-aware and know your role as leader
Especially important for business communication presentation, knowing your place will help you give a good presentation. Remember that you are leading the presentation, so do not look to others for a vote of confidence or approval. This will reduce your authority and credibility in the eyes of your listeners.
Embrace questions and feedback
Questions and feedback are some of the best ways to improve presentation skills. They will show you what you can do better next time and highlight what worked and what didn’t. It is also very important to actively listen and respond during questions and feedback, as your listener must feel that you care about their opinion or they may stop liking you, and thus listening to you.
How to improve your presentation skills
Practice, practice, practice
As with any skill, to improve presentation skills you have to practice. This means speaking and presenting privately and publicly as often as you can. Acting classes are a great way to find the practice audience you need and can help you to start presenting with confidence.
Do your research
Presenting is all about conveying information, so it stands to reason that you would need to have the right information at hand. Before presenting, make sure you know who your audience are and what the purpose of your presentation is. Moreover, to present to your audience appropriately, be sure to research your subject of discussion and keep up-to-date with new developments in your field — you don’t want your audience to know more than you.
Take the time to make an organized presentation
Your visual aids, including PowerPoints and props, will tell your audience how much effort you have put in and how much you have thought about your audience and their different learning styles. Additionally, having these visual aids, as well as writing prompts, will help you deliver a coherent, well-ordered, informative, and professional presentation.
There are few things worse than finishing a presentation earlier than expected and being caught with nothing more to say but still having time to fill. This is particularly true in teaching environments or where you have an allocated presentation slot. Be sure to have enough content, so as not to run over or get caught short, by timing yourself at home first.
Record yourself and watch yourself back
A great way to build effective presentation skills is by recording yourself and watching it back. Analyze your body language, tone of voice, how you communicate and maintain eye contact, and your content. Do you come across as someone with confidence in what they are saying? What can you change to come across better? Does what you’re saying make sense to your audience? Do you need to add more information or simplify your explanations with more examples? These are just some of the questions watching yourself back will prompt.
The bottom line
Having good presentation skills can improve confidence, career prospects, and how you communicate in your relationships (both in and out of work). By working to improve presentation skills through the presentation techniques discussed in this article, you will find that giving a professional presentation starts to become natural to you.
Also you should keep in mind that, as with anything, the more you give presentations, the easier it will become. By using these effective presentation techniques and practicing often, you’ll find that you can simply walk onto a stage and present, being able to efficiently keep track of time and structure your talk as you go. So no matter your current level, with practice and self analysis, you will soon be presenting with confidence.