Top 10 Tips for... Improving your Presentation Skills

Top 10 Tips for... Improving your Presentation Skills
  1. Steer clear of jargon – use straightforward and concise language. Read your draft out loud while preparing to make sure it sounds natural. Remember, you’re writing for speech rather than literature.
  2. Know your audience – change your approach depending on the people you are talking to and the type of event. One size doesn’t fit all, and a little subtle tailoring can have a huge effect on engagement.
  3. Maintain eye contact – people are here to listen to you, but they are also looking at you. Look back at them. Especially with smaller groups make sure you have eye contact with each person at some point – it will help you deliver your message persuasively to each individual.
  4. Take care with slides – if you use slides, don’t use more than 10, don’t present with them for more than 20 minutes and don’t use less than 30 point font. Use a picture rather than endless bullet points. Don’t just read slides – it’s not karaoke!
  5. Create a structure – think of your presentation as a narrative: give it a clearly defined beginning, middle and end. Use signposting to keep people’s attention – announce a set number of points you will be covering and your audience will stay with you.
  6. Be engaging – however fascinating your topic is, you have to work hard to keep your audience engaged with what you are saying. Alter the tone and pitch of your voice. Use a variety of long and short sentences. Use pauses. If you’re feeling confident, inject some humour. Enjoy yourself!
  7. Speak to the audience – not at them. Don’t just read out your notes or slides. People want to hear from you. Try memorising the main points of your presentation rather than the whole script. Work from bullet points – that will keep you on your toes and ensure your material is fresh and sounds like you’re talking to them rather than lecturing.
  8. Practice, practice, practice – actors rehearse for a reason. The more you practice what you are saying, the better it will be for you and your audience. You will be more fluent, have more confidence and be far more likely to keep people engaged. Try and practice in the room you will be using so you get a feel for the environment and test any equipment.
  9. Watch your timing – always plan for less time than you have. When writing your content, try to edit rather than add. No-one will be offended if you finish early, but if your presentation drags on, you will probably lose your audience. Pace yourself properly, but don’t rush.
  10. Embrace your nerves – nervousness is excess physical energy. You’re about to go on. Your heart’s beating faster, your brain is in overdrive, and you feel a bit shaky. Unleash that energy to give you an edge. The opposite of a boring presenter is one who is excited, passionate and full of energy. Use the adrenaline to your advantage.

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