How To Improve Your Presentation Skills

How To Improve Your Presentation Skills

How To improve Your Presentation Skills 

By Mark Wager

One of the most common challenges a Leader has to overcome is conducting an effective presentation. Even if you don’t have a fear of public speaking, which a lot of people do,  presentations can still be difficult. Knowing what to say, how to say it and keeping a room full of people engaged and interested in what you are saying without looking away, checking their phones, watches or chatting with the person next to them. There are a particular set of skills needed in order to deliver an effective presentation, all of which can be learned over time. I coach several Leaders with the specific aim of making their presentations more effective. If you are interested in coaching then get in touch with me, but regardless here are some practical tips that will help any Leader make their presentations more effective.

Identify the type of presentation. 

The most common mistake I see Leaders make when presenting is that they deliver the wrong type of presentation. There are two reasons to present, i.e. to educate or to influence. These are  very different types of presentations and each require a very different approach and skill set. It's  like comparing rugby league to rugby union. They may look similar but are in fact very different. So before you even start preparing your presentation ask yourself what is the outcome you  want. If it’s for people to gain knowledge then it’s an educational presentation you want so the focus needs to be on clarification, making sure information is presented in different ways so that the audience has a full understanding. If the outcome you want is for people to take a specific action then your presentation should be an influential one and needs to be more of a pitch rather than a lecture.

Make the audience the focus of the story

How many times have you been approached by a salesperson and they have asked you to buy something because of what it means to them? They are behind with their targets and it would mean a lot to them if you could make a purchase. It's  highly unlikely this has ever happened to you because a salesperson, well a good salesperson knows it’s never about them, it’s about the customer and this is an important lesson that also applies to your presentations - so don’t make it about you, make it about the audience.

The most compelling story for the audience is their story. To take your presentation to the next level, make the audience the focus of the story, ask yourself how your message impacts the audience, what does it mean for them, what questions will they have. If you can structure your presentation wth the audience at the focus then you will be surprised just how much your presentation changes and as a result becomes more compelling for the audience.

Have a very structured opening.

If you can only do one thing to improve your presentation then make sure that your opening is a minute to two minutes, is as structured, precise and as rehearsed as possible. It’s all about making that good first Impression and here’s how you go about it. Your opening needs to answer three core questions for the audience. Why are we here? Why are we listening to you? What’s going to happen? Now let’s look into these questions with more detail.

Why are we here?

Don’t assume that this is obvious. Time is the most precious commodity that anyone has so if you are asking people to give up time in order to listen to you then you need to make sure everyone knows the reason for being there. Don’t start by saying “I’m here to...” remember it's not about you so focus on letting people know what’s the key reason for them being there.

Why are we listening to you?

The message becomes lost if the audience doesn’t believe the messenger. Your opening needs to include not only who you are but why it’s you and not someone else that’s talking to them. Establish your credibility by sharing your experience, your background or knowledge and if you can say something about the subject matter that only you and no one else in the room knows then everyone knows you are a messenger who can be believed.

What’s going to happen?

End your opening by giving the audience a preview of what’s going to happen during your presentation, what are you going to cover, in what order, how long it will  take and when is the best time to ask questions. The more you eliminate the need for questions the more authoritative you appear to the audience. Don’t spend too long on this bit, think of it as a trailer before you see the movie, just enough so people know what is expected but not too much that it gives everything away.

This is a topic that I could write about for ages. I haven’t even got into how to adapt your language, use influencing talk and address the power imbalance depending on the audience. Remember giving a presentation to a group of peers is very different to talking to an outside group or to a group more senior to you. If you want me to cover these more complex topics in a future article, let me know otherwise I hope these practical tips will help you make your next presentation even more effective.

Posted: Thursday 1 August 2019

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