Presentation skills are just as important as the information we are presenting. However, the skills and behaviours we require to engage and instruct an audience often disappear when the spotlight, physical or metaphorical, is turned on us.
Fascinating research, facts, figures and witty anecdotes suddenly become overshadowed by jumbled notes and overloaded PowerPoint slides, as we nervously attempt to deliver our crucial points.
So, with all eyes on us, how do we maintain confidence throughout the presentation to successfully engage and influence an audience to really make ourselves stand out?
Here are 7 top tips to help improve presentation delivery and differentiate yourself as a speaker:
- Limit your content to no more than five points, preferable fewer. When you are excited about the topic you are presenting or even just an expert, it is often tempting to bombard the audience with endless content to help reinforce your point. If the audience is interested in what you haven’t mentioned, they will ask questions.
- Develop your ‘hook’. This is the striking headline, question or short story designed to make the audience sit up and pay attention. Where an opportunity occurs to share a personal story, seize it. Sometimes telling a story can help an audience grasp a concept more readily than staring at raw data. Think how newspapers headline their stories. That’s what you’re doing here.
- You should do the talking and not your slide show! Overloading PowerPoint slides with information ‘just in case’ can seem like the sensible option. However, if slides contain more than a few words, your audience will tune out. Use black sides after each point to regain your audience’s attention on you.
- Do not read from a script! If you are nervous, it is easy to follow your speech word for word, eventually removing any trace of personality from your presentation. Alternatively, if you lose your place, the chances are you will not be able to locate the point you want to deliver amongst the mass of text on the page. Instead, use notes or prompt cards, which will encourage natural interaction with the audience.
- Although you will be doing the majority of the talking, it is important to involve and communicate with your audience during your presentation. The delivery must be authentic to you, using your own body language in a confident conversational style. Talk to your audience and not at them. If you’re using a lectern, don’t allow it to become a barrier between you and the audience. Ideally, be comfortable delivering away from the lectern, returning to consult your notes during the presentation.
- Don’t let nerves get the better of you. The thought of public speaking can make even the most confident among us feel a little uneasy. To help reduce any unwanted stress, it is important to not only implement the factors above but also rehearse your presentation beforehand. Run through your proposed content to yourself or colleagues to help assess your time keeping, voice projection, pace of speech and the logical order.
- And one last point. If you are confident and feel you don’t suffer from nerves, just take a moment to ponder. Remember – the audience is more important than you. The talk is for their benefit and not yours. Confident speakers can sometimes get their priorities wrong in this respect.