All of us – from senior management to a fresher – have sat through at least one (if you are lucky) excruciatingly boring PowerPoint presentation! I remember my worst experience – it was this lady from a digital marketing agency who read out every single word of a 40-page PPT! Talk about zero presentation skills!
I distinctly remember thinking that I don’t care how good their offer is, there is no way I am giving my marketing budget to someone who is doing such a bad job of marketing themselves!
This little anecdote underscores a point we all already know – communicating well is the key to success. And not just in the corporate arena; being able to present your idea and vision clearly and with confidence, is critical to success in all professional spheres. Whether you are a small business owner, a blogger or a politician, if you cannot put across your ideas convincingly you will not grow professionally.
But presentations can be spruced up, and speaking skills can be polished. Sometimes you might need some professional guidance, but with a little bit of time and effort, it can be done. If you are looking for some quick tips to improve your presentation skills, then dive right in –
First off, know this – it is entirely possible to upgrade your presentation skills in very little time. While getting comfortable with public speaking might need some practice and experience; there is a lot you can do in a couple of days to improve your presentation skills.
A killer presentation is a combination of two things –
- Content structure
- The skill of the presenter
Take a look at your content and decide on a core message
Before you write down even one word or make your first slide, evaluate your entire content and find the core message you want to leave with the audience. You could also jot down key points you want to reiterate or emphasise.
Tell a story
We all love a good tale, and nothing keeps people’s attention more effectively than a good narrative structure. Start with a bang, present problems, take them on your journey of finding a solution and leave them on an uplifting note.
If you are presenting dry facts, then try not to do so directly; weave a story around them to make them more exciting and memorable. An excellent way to do this is to explain them through your own personal situation, through a case study or through an imaginary experience.
With every passing decade, attention spans are getting shorter, so you must structure your content to inject some excitement every 5 mins. This could be a quiz, a question, a multimedia component, a game, props or a joke – anything that breaks the content flow.
Humour always helps
Nothing breaks the ice and gets the audience behind the speaker more quickly than humour. A funny picture or a cartoon, an amusing anecdote, a quirky quote or a self-deprecating pun can lighten the atmosphere and put people in a more receptive mood.
Design visually appealing presentations
If you are using decks, then make sure that you keep these basics in mind –
- Don’t put too much text on the each slide
- Present one idea per slide
- Make it visually appealing – there are so many templates available out there that the audience’s design expectations have gone up – simple bullet points no longer suffice
- Use multimedia intelligently
- Use fonts and font sizes that are readable
- Keep a consistent colour or design format throughout the presentation
Body posture and expressions
Many people tend to shift from one foot to another and sway back and forth or continuously touch and adjust their clothing or hair – all this comes across as nervous, distracting behaviour. If you are not seated or don’t feel comfortable striding around on stage, then it’s best to just stand still and use hand gestures.
During a presentation, maintaining eye contact is also quite important; its best to select a bunch of people distributed evenly across the room whom you can look at directly. Along with eye contact, its also a good idea to smile – not only does it help you keep your nervousness in check it will also project a positive attitude to your audience.
Prepare and practice your presentation
Nothing beats practice! There are very few natural speakers who can go extempore; for most people, it is advisable to memorize and practice the presentation several times. If you don’t want to bank on your memory alone, then carrying cue cards is highly recommended.
Naturally, if you are presenting along with a deck, you can always turn around casually and refer to the slide. But coming back to where we started – no matter what you do, don’t start reading off the slide! It is there to create a visual reference point to what you are talking about and cannot replace your energy and your passion.
I am sure you are reading this because you have an idea or vision bubbling inside you that is just waiting to come out and I hope reading these tips can help give it the attention it deserves.
Nancy Duarte, the guru of presentation skills, puts it so well –
“..an idea is powerless if it stays inside of you. If you never pull that idea out for others to contend with, it will die with you. Now, maybe some of you guys have tried to convey your idea, and it wasn’t adopted, it was rejected, and some other mediocre or average idea was adopted. And the only difference between those two is in the way it was communicated. Because if you communicate an idea in a way that resonates, change will happen, and you can change the world.”
For working professionals and business owners, a presentation is an essential part of their work. If you feel you need to upgrade your skills in this arena, then our Advanced Public Speaking and Presentation Skills programme could be of help.
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