When executed well, presentations can be entertaining, engaging, have the audience rapt and motivate them to perform after it's over.
But, while 10% of people love giving presentations and excel, a similar number have an extreme fear of them, experience panic attacks, anxiety and even melt-down.
Where do you stand on this spectrum? And how can you improve your own presentation skills?
Simple steps to improve your presentation skills:
- Identify the purpose of your presentation - What are you trying to achieve? For example, are you selling an idea, communicating a message, telling a story, or motivating the audience?
- Split your presentation into 3 parts - Planning and preparation, delivery and the big ending. This makes it more manageable enabling you to focus on each area.
- Identify your target audience - Who is your intended audience? What level are they at? What prior knowledge might they have (what do they already know), etc?
- Plan the format, layout and venue - What's the best way of communicating with your audience ? What's likely to appeal to them? How can you engage them? Should you have break-out groups, audience participation, voting, a Q&A, a demonstration, etc? Where is the best venue and does it have all the facilities you need?
- Create a script - What exactly will you say and how will you say it? How much should you say? (Saying too much will bore your audience.) Should you ad-lib? Will you need a slideshow? How can you make sure you cover all the points but still come across as genuine? Have a crib-sheet with the key points.
- Check your body language - Use positive body language, including making eye contact with different people around the room, using open - rather than defensive - gestures, and avoiding any distracting mannerisms (such as jangling coins or keys).
- Channel your adrenaline positively - adrenaline affects people in different ways - some presenters dance around the room, some race through the script to the end, while others are rooted to the spot, devoid of all emotion. Remember that all these responses are completely natural - prepare mentally like an actor who's about to go on stage.
- Practise, practise and practise - "Practice makes perfect" or so the saying goes. Rehearse your presentation with several colleagues. The more comfortable you are with what you're saying and how you deliver it, the better it will be.
- Have a backup - If you're using technology, have a backup in case of equipment failure. Don't get flummoxed by a poor WiFi connection, and let all your preparations go to waste.
- Have a call to action at the end - Always try to end your presentation on a high. Your audience may find this part the most memorable. Motivate them to reflect on what they've learnt, apply it to their own job or act on your message in some way.