Ever found yourself looking for ways to enhance your presentation skills for your upcoming pitch?
This presentation of yours may either be the deal maker or breaker! You wouldn’t want to lose this opportunity to work with a potential client, would you?
According to a Prezi survey, 70% of employed Americans who deliver presentations agree that presentation skills are beneficial in helping them ace their presentations and succeed at work. However, the fear of presenting is still very real amongst everyone, no matter whether you’re presenting to a small group of people or a really large one. This fear tends to affect the way you present, resulting in a presentation delivered below your own expectation.
Delivering a good presentation is no easy task, but it is definitely not an impossible one. In this article, we have prepared 30 presentation tips to help you ace your presentation. From presentation design, delivery of speech to preparing yourself before a big presentation, these tips have got you covered.
1. Arrive early
It is best to arrive early before a presentation so as to prepare yourself for the big show. This is because anything can happen – planning your journey to arrive on the dot will only spell trouble. What if the train breaks down? Or if there is a jam because of an accident? We cannot afford to take risks. So, come early. It’ll give you time to settle down and get prepared.
2. Adjust to your Surroundings
The faster you get adjusted to the environment you’ll be presenting in, the more comfortable you’ll feel. If possible, get access the room you’ll be delivering your presentation in as early as you can. It’s best to practice with the microphone, test the lighting and get an idea of what the room’s seating layout looks like.
3. Calm your nerves
Many people get nervous before presentations due to stage fright. Sometimes, it’s because they set high expectations for themselves, to the point that they are afraid that they won’t be able to meet them. But, one thing you should know is that getting nervous before a presentation is absolutely normal, even for seasoned speakers like Abraham Lincoln. Therefore, fear should never be avoided but faced instead.
Here are some things you can do to calm your nerves:
- Meditate – Focus on the result that you would like to achieve at the end of the presentation
- Chew gum – Research has shown that the act of chewing gum will help one become more alert and it also helps to reduce anxiety
- Take slow and deep breaths – It helps to clear the mind which helps calm your nerves.
4. Drink water
According to experts, anxiety may cause certain individuals to feel thirsty right before they are about to present. Reason for this is because anxiety may either take water away from your mouth to send it to the other areas of your body that need it more or it could have increased the acids in your stomach, contributing to a loss of saliva.
To prevent all that, avoid sugary beverages and caffeine as they only make you feel thirstier. This will only amplify your anxiety, and can prevent you from speaking smoothly.
Instead, ensure you are well hydrated by drinking a glass of water. Lemon juice will often do the trick as well as it helps lubricate the throat.
However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.
“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” ~ Bob Proctor
According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognise it in others as well. So if your body and mind are anxious, your audience will know. Hence, it’s important to prep yourself before the big show so that you come up on stage confident, collected and ready.
Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and send oxygen to the brain. This results in increased muscle efficiency, improved reaction time and movements.
Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:
- Neck and Shoulder Rolls
- Arm Stretches
- Waist Twists
- Forward Stretches
6. Don’t Fight the Fear; Turn Your Nervous Energy into Enthusiasm
Nervous energy is good and exactly what we need for our presentation. But how? How does feeling like your heart is about to jump out of your chest or feeling cold sweat and/or anxiety a great feeling to have?
The brain perceives stress the same way, whether that stress is physical or psychological. With stress comes nervous energy, which according to research helps us to perform at our optimum and helps improve our memory. This stress is good and it helps stimulate us. Channel this energy focused on your nerves and insecurities to what truly matters more.
Focus this energy on how passionate you are for what you’re about to speak. Use this energy to project a confident and strong voice. Use it to impact your audience.
And when you do, you’ll realise you didn’t feel as nervous as you thought you would.
7. Use Positive Visualisation
Studies have proven that positive visualisation is effective in helping calm your nerves. Also known as mindfulness, it has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness teaches people to observe their own behavior and thought process without judgment. It makes people acknowledge their feelings and thoughts before letting all these insecurities and reservations go. Naturally, that’ll make us focus on our strengths and positive energy as a result.
Start by imagining a positive outcome to a scenario in your mind. Do not think about possible negative scenarios. With mindfulness, the reality is more likely to play out the way you envisioned.
8. Take deep breaths
A study has shown that deep breathing can help change the state of our minds. This is because it helps increases the supply of oxygen to our brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Breathing also helps you feel connected to your body by bringing your awareness away from your worries and hushing the self-doubt in your mind.
9. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes
Have you ever been to a presentation and felt that the presenter wasn’t really capturing your attention? Chances are, there could be a lack of interaction between him or her and us, the audience.
It’s important that we look from a different perspective when presenting so that we’ll be able to understand how the audience may be feeling or thinking. Always ask yourself: Will the audience be interested to hear this? Is my content easy to understand?
Not only will this help you think the way they – the audience – do, it’ll make you ensure what you’re presenting is engaging and relatable to them. This ensures your audience leaves the room learning something new and charmed, ready to attend your next presentation.
If you think it’s normal for everyone to be confident before a presentation, then think again. Finding someone who is naturally talented when it comes to public speaking is as rare as a blue moon. Few individuals can walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation. Yet many people seem to have the misconception that it is possible to do so. Even speakers like Steve Jobs spend hours rehearsing for their presentations before delivering their presentation – why shouldn’t you?
It’s not only about what you say, but how you say it. Like any other skill, presentations require practice in order for you to nail the delivery and execution. Not only will this help you become more comfortable when presenting, it also helps you improve as a presenter. The result? Presenting becomes less daunting over time and you become much more confident.
11. Make use of body language
Body language is one of the most important characteristics needed to interact with your audience during presentations. Actress Mae West once said: “I speak two languages, Body and English.”
Body language, which includes hand gestures and facial expressions, is commonly used by presenters, maybe sometimes subconsciously, to place emphasis on certain points. It can also help to communicate your points to the audience more effectively, show your confidence and make you look and feel more comfortable.
However, do not use it excessively as it will become a source of distraction for your audience, and it will ultimately conflict your message.
12. Move around
The stage is all yours during a presentation.
Imagine if you were listening to a presentation in which the speaker positions himself/herself at the same spot throughout the whole presentation. How would you feel? Like most of the audience, you will probably be bored and lose focus after a while.
It is best to make use of the space given to you as it adds energy and variation to your presentation. Furthermore, it makes you look more confident and relaxed.
Here are a few ways in which you can do it:
- Key message – When you are delivering your key message, it is best to position yourself at the center of the stage where you are the closest to the audience. Centre stage is also the position where you will probably get the most attention from the audience.
- Use a staged timeline – Where a story involves the passage of time like past, present, and future, you can imagine a timeline moving across the stage with the progression of time. For example, when you are speaking about the past, position yourself at the left side of the stage, present – in the middle, and future – on the right. Remember to position the spot representing the past to the audiences’ left, not yours! That way, they can better relate to the story that you are speaking about.
Smiles are contagious!
According to experts, your facial expressions have the ability to influence your emotions and those of others around you as well. Make sure you smile as it naturally creates a higher frequency of sound in your mouth, changing the overall tone of your voice. Due to the human instinct of mirroring, it also will likely make others smile along with you which then improves the mood of everyone in general. With that being said, it’s important to smile genuinely. A forced smile makes you look confused and frustrated.
14. Breathe in not out
Do you feel the urge to use ‘um’, ‘yeah’ or ‘you know’ during your presentations? These words are very distracting and may also kill your presentation. Try breathing in whenever you feel like you’re going to say something. The pause may seem a little awkward, but the audience probably wouldn’t even notice this.
15. Eye Contact
Always keep in mind that the audience is one of the most important parts of a presentation. Without an audience interested to hear what you are saying, there wouldn’t be any reason for you to give a presentation at all. Try to make your audience feel significant by maintaining eye contact with them throughout the presentation.
By maintaining eye contact, not only will you keep the audience engaged, but you will also look more confident and authoritative.
If you find it difficult to maintain eye contact with your audience, here’s a tip. Instead of looking straight into their eyes, you can either look at their nose or forehead! Either way, it will look as though you are maintaining eye contact with your audience.
16. Looking Confident
Have you heard of the phrase ‘Fake it till you make it’?
There are really only two types of presenters – one that lies and another type that’s just really nervous.
Confidence is an important trait that every presenter should have. This is because the audience is able to determine how prepared the presenter is through their level of confidence. Being confident will not only help you boost your own morale, it will also give you credibility as a presenter as you speak to your audience.
17. Project Your Voice
Voice projection is very important, especially during presentations as it dictates how powerful your voice is. It isn’t just about speaking loudly, but also confidently and distinctly. If you speak loudly, people often view you as a confident person with a strong personality. This is why it is important to project your voice, because how your audience view you may also affect your credibility as a speaker.
Another reason for voice projection is to get your message across to the audience. Make sure your audience can hear and understand what you are saying, if not there might may be a chance that they will lose interest in your presentation.
It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.
18. Engage with your audience
We all know that it is important to engage with your audience during presentations, especially if it is going to be a lengthy one. This way, you’ll be able to capture their attention and make the presentation a more enjoyable one for your audience and yourself. Simple acts like asking a question and getting them to raise their hands to respond are great way to engage with them and also to ensure that they are still awake and listening to you.
Sometimes, you do not need your audience to perform any actions to engage them. Just your words and your tone can get their attention – if it’s done right. Connect on a personal level by sharing stories. Use the right tone when you are speaking depending on the type of presentation you are going to deliver, and also to place emphasis on words that need to be emphasized.
19. Never read from your slides
PowerPoint slides should accentuate your points; they should never be the point. Your audience should be able to instantly scan through the slides instead of having to spend time reading them in detail. In addition, you’ll definitely lose their attention if you read from your slides. Instead, try to either present with prompts on your slides, or cue cards as reference in case you forget your points.
20. The power of repetition
Most of the audience probably hears and remembers only half the things you are saying. The solution to this is to repeat and reinforce the key points. First, state and explain the point. Next, provide the audience with examples of how the points can be applied and finally conclude by providing actions that they can carry out based on the point.
Since no one probably remembers everything you say, make use of the power of repetition to create a bigger impact on the audience.
21. Use of pauses
Pauses are like verbal punctuation.
Imagine this. You are attending a presentation and the speaker starts off by saying, “Hello everyone! How are you guys doing?”, and the next thing you know, he is already going through the outline of the presentation. How would you feel? It doesn’t seem genuine right?
Pauses are very important as it helps to pace your delivery. Pauses work well when you are trying to emphasize a key point as it provides the audience with time to absorb and process what you have said.
While you’re at it, be sure to make eye contact with your audience to reinforce your point, leaving your audience hungry for more.
As much as pauses are a need for a presentation, avoid overusing them as it will slow down your pace and also make you look less confident.
22. Tell stories
Michael Margolis once said this, “Storytelling is about connecting to other people and helping people to see what you see.”
You see, business presentations don’t always have to start with stating numbers and facts. Instead, you should adopt a different approach by using stories to connect with your audience while leading them on to the points and concepts that you will be speaking about later in the presentation.
Stories can be useful in a sense that they allow your audience to have a vision of what your presentation is about. That being said, although the ability to tell your story is essential, it is also important to select the right story as it can capture or lose the audience’s attention. Your story also plays a big part in helping the audience understand your concepts better and it may also connect with the audience on a personal level!
23. Use pictures
It is good to have pictures in your PowerPoint slides as they can help to reinforce your key points. On top of that, it also adds color to your presentation to make it more attractive and pleasing to the eye rather than just black and white slides filled with words.
However, not every image is suitable for every slide! You can’t possibly have pictures of cartoons when you are presenting to your investors right?
So here’s a tip for you when you are looking for pictures for your slides:
- Choose pictures that are related to your points so that it is easier for the audience to understand and relate to what you are talking about.
- Avoid using blurry or pixelated photos as they look unprofessional
- Avoid stretching your photos! Do you notice that your photos will be out of proportion after stretching them? A solution is to crop your photos so that they remain proportionate.
- Use royalty free pictures to avoid watermarks on your photos as they also convey a lack of professionalism. Here are a few websites which you can get royalty free images from – pixabay.com, pexels.com and freepik.com
24. Keep it simple
Keep your presentations simple. Don’t flood your audience with too many numbers and facts because at the end of the day, will they really remember everything you said?
What is the key message for your audience to take away? Key message should be focused and communicated across very briefly, and of course, it’s best to support it with evidence. However, if what you are planning to say is not related to your point, they shouldn’t say it. This is because you may lead your audience to a different direction which then defeats the purpose of having the presentation.
25. Use animations
Animation is an important feature which you can use to produce an effective presentation. It is also a good way to capture the attention of your audiences because they will be able to anticipate something. Animations, such as pulse, can help to emphasize certain points of your presentation. Also, animations can help to clearly show the flow of content of the presentation when used within a slide. Here’s an example, when presenting a series of milestones, animations can come in useful in showing the flow of content. But, if you have a particularly busy slide, it is recommended to use exit animations when appropriate to remove the clutter from your slides.
However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Animations are good to have, however, if they are necessary, don’t use it. Don’t overuse them either! Having too many animations will not only distract the audience, but it can overshadow the main point of your presentation!
26. Don’t overrun
Have you ever sat in a presentation wondering when it will end? Well, I’m sure we all have. Always remember to keep within the time limit of your presentation or if possible, end earlier and allow the audience to clarify their doubts through Q&A sessions. It is important to respect the audience’s time. Try your best not to overrun the presentation as the audience will eventually lose interest and wonder when it will end. Be flexible during presentations and be prepared for any unexpected situations to arise.
27. Summarise the key points after the presentation
How much do you actually remember after a 30-minute presentation?
There is a high chance that your audience will not remember everything you said during the presentation so do your audience a favour by summarising the key points when you are concluding your presentation. It serves two main purposes, a recap of the presentation that you have delivered and to ensure that your main points are well communicated to your audiences.
28. Accept constructive feedback and apply it in the future
Always practice before your actual presentation, and if possible, practice in front of your peers as they can be of great help by giving you constructive feedback. With this feedback, you will be able to understand what your strengths and shortcomings are so you can make improvements. Accept these feedback as an opportunity for you to work towards your goals.
29. Attend other presentations and observe
A trick to finding out how to improve your presentations is to attend presentations by other speakers themselves. This is because you can observe and take note of what you should and should not do to be a better presenter. Not only that, it helps to show respect for other presenters and also gives you the opportunity to observe how presentations are delivered – helping you gain the perspective of the audience.
30. Join Toastmasters
Toastmasters Clubs helps individuals enhance their presentation skills and allow others to seek guidance to combat their fear of speaking to a large audience. Individuals from different walks of life gather to develop their presentation skills in front of an audience so they can receive constructive feedback which can be applied to further improve and polish their skills. Not only will Toastmasters provide a platform for you to practice, you will also be able to pick up some tips and tricks from the experts at Toastmasters!
Use these 30 proven presentation tips to help you ace your presentation. Don’t miss the opportunity to apply these for your next big pitch and let us know in the comments if it worked for you.
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