Develop your Presentation Skills

As someone that presents frequently, I have many conversations with people expressing an interest in developing their own skills in this area. Their requirements may be to deliver Board or sales presentations, make pitches at work to secure resources, take the lead in running meetings and workshops or persuade and inspire groups of colleagues and team members. They often say that they have a good handle on the content that they wish to deliver in advance, but as the presentation time looms their own nerves let them down. So they end up sounding stilted and unprepared or race through things overlooking important content and generally fail to deliver their message in the most effective manner.

A host of material is available on the internet or YouTube that covers off the basics around delivering presentations. But the thing most frequently overlooked is that we can read up on presenting or attend as many courses as we like – but the only way that we will really ever get better at delivering presentations, is by actually doing more of them ourselves...

So if you do want to become a better presenter, get out of your comfort zone and look for opportunities to develop your skills by actually doing them.

Here are a few other ideas that may help:

  • Find opportunities to develop your presentation skills at social events and gatherings, birthdays, weddings or book clubs. Then step up to the challenge of making a presentation rather than ducking for cover.
  • Practice presentations in the car to test your content, timings, delivery speed, tone and volume. No one can hear you and as a bonus you avoid having to find any extra time and space to fit the practice in.
  • Don’t be scared of adding some humour into your presentation. Tell a self-depreciating story to get others on your side. Audiences like a personal touch and will remember the content better.
  • Speak more slowly than you would normally and leave longer pauses between sentences. A slower pace will calm you down and make you easier to hear. Use pauses to collect your thoughts if you need to. Pauses always feel longer to you than they will to the audience.
  • In a meeting if you “think it” or you if know that the information you hold will be useful to others – make sure that you share it. (Take up the mantra – "if I think it then I should share it").
  • Rather than fretting that you have to get your words just right – use words such as "I am thinking"... to open a conversation and then tell the audience what is going on in your head. This can be an easier way to introduce concepts without having to feel like you have to convince everyone 100%, or have scripted your presentation out word for word in advance.
  • Set simple goals around making regular contributions in meetings, discussion groups and social environments. For example consider making a contribution on at least 4 occasions in the weekly meeting.
  • Be enthusiastic when you present. "Fake it until you make it" - as others usually won’t know any different. You can usually be secure in the knowledge that if you are the one doing the presenting then you probably know a great deal more about the subject matter than anyone in your audience...

Most importantly always remember that if you want to become a better presenter then you do need to find opportunities to practice and develop your skills by actively delivering presentations. And if you still get nervous, try to focus on the audience and not yourself. Remember they are there to receive the information that you are providing – and what they are not there to do is to try to freak you out.

Author: John Richmond
Team Leadership Services