Good presentation skills are an important business asset, yet all too often speakers fail to represent themselves, or their subject, to full advantage.
The art of a good presentation is not confined to the naturally outgoing - indeed, it involves a number of skills which need to be learned. Follow these pointers to help make the experience of giving a presentation more successful - and enjoyable.
- Get to the point. Decide on the key points you need to make in the course of the presentation
- Put your spin on it. Highlight what is interesting, unusual or important about your subject matter, in order to engage your audience and make an impact
- Assume nothing. Don't make your audience fill in the gaps. Important background information should be outlined, even if only briefly
- Clarity is everything. Try to see the presentation from your audience's perspective. Are your points clear, and does your presentation have a logical flow?
- Rehearse the part. Practise in front of a friend or colleague, or a mirror. Look out for any distracting mannerisms, such as fiddling with your papers
- Know your stuff. Make sure you are familiar with the points you wish to make, and that you know how to use any presentation aids
- Check out the back-up. Slides, charts, etc, are only an asset if they are clear and used to illustrate a point
- Make your notes work. Use a series of words or phrases that will prompt you, rather than full sentences. Put notes onto small cards and double-space them: this will make them easier to see, and also allows for natural pauses
- Check the details. Make sure you know when and where you are to give your presentation
- Dress the part. Wear clothes that are smart but comfortable
- Take control. A little nervousness is not a bad thing - but don't let your nerves get the better of you. Looking down at the floor and speaking into your notes will be a turn-off for your audience
- Breathe deeply. Take a few deep breaths before you begin. Look up at your audience - and remember to smile
- Act the part. Project your voice. Speak as naturally as possible, so that your words have intonation and meaning. If possible and appropriate, inject a little humour.
- Encourage participation. If you don't know the answer to a question, you can always offer to send on further details
Do's and Don'ts of presenting
- Do think of your audience
- Do be enthusiastic about your subject
- Do speak clearly
- Don't hit a monotone
- Don't retreat into your notes
- Don't leave your audience to do the work
Remember the most boring of subjects can seem interesting if presented in an interesting way - and unfortunately, the opposite also applies!