Presentation Skills

For many of us presenting is an important part of our business lives. The ability to communicate ideas, whether in a small meeting, or to a large audience is essential to our ongoing success. However, many of us continue to feel uncomfortable at the prospect of speaking in front of a group of people and we will try to find ways of avoiding it as much as we can.

In this article we’ll be looking at some key advice to help you achieve more in your next business presentation.

Presentation Skills – a natural gift or skills you can develop?

You may think that the ability to be a successful presenter is a natural gift that you are either born with or not. But this is rarely the case and most successful presenters spend time developing their skills and techniques.

So there is no reason why you can’t do the same.

Presentation Training can make all the difference

Liz Banks - Skillstudio MD If you want some expert coaching to help you enhance your presentation skills then Skillstudio are there to help. We provide:-

Presentation Skills 121 Coaching (for all levels)
Half day of full day, 121 coaching in business presenting by an expert trainer. Held throughout the UK on a date and time to suit you and tailored exactly to your personal requirements.

Beginner Level Presentation Skills Training
These 1-day public courses are held regularly in Central London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow.

Effective Presentation Skills (Intermediate level course)
These 2-day public courses are held regularly in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow.

Advanced Presentation Skills
This 2-day Public course is held regularly in Central London.

We can also run our presentation skills courses for your organisation on an in-house basis at your premises throughout the UK and Europe.

Call us today on 08456 444 150 if you want to discuss how our training can help you or your team.

Three key steps towards a successful presentation

There are three key steps that you need to consider to help you deliver a successful presentation:

1. Content – creating a clear message

2. Delivery – communicating your ideas with confidence

3. Audience – relating to and engaging with your audience

Step One – Creating a clear message

You may feel overwhelmed when you first start planning your presentation. You don’t know where to start, what to include, how to organise your ideas etc. But with all presentations, it is important that you are clear in what you want to achieve from it.

Your first task is to consider the following three questions:

  • What is the main purpose of your presentation?
  • Who are your audience and what are their needs?
  • What is the key message of your presentation?

What is the main purpose of your presentation?

In order to identify the purpose of your presentation, ask yourself the following question:

What is it that you want your audience to do or think?

Your response to this question will provide you with the main purpose to your presentation. Write it down in a short sentence and in direct language, as though you are speaking directly to your audience – eg “I want you to agree to my new initiatives”.

Who are your audience and what are their needs?

You have just identified what you want from your audience but in order to create the desired effect, it’s important to understand them and to see things from their point of view.

To help achieve this, you can build an audience profile in order to gather as much information about your audience as possible. Here are some things to consider when you build your audience profile:

  • What is their level of expertise on the subject matter
  • Will there be key decision makers present?
  • Are they an invited audience or do they have to attend?
  • What are their expectations – do they have any concerns about any of the issues you may be raising
  • What will be the environment you will be presenting in. For example Number of people; Length of presentation; Seating arrangement (theatre style, boardroom style, informal meeting style)

You can use the information you have gathered to assess the audience and environment that you will be presenting in. You can then plan your content around this . For example:

  • If the audience is not very knowledgeable, you should keep the detail restricted and your language clear. Support your message with examples that are easy to understand.

What is the key message of your presentation?

Your key message should provide the audience with a clear motivation to listen to you. It will give your presentation a clear focus and this will help you to feel more confident when you start to speak.

To create your key message you must consider the main benefit for the audience to listen to you. You can brainstorm several benefits first and then select the one you think is the most powerful and relevant to your audience. Having done this you should write it down and learn it off by heart so that you can deliver it confidently at the start of your presentation.

Structuring your presentation content

Regardless of the length of your presentation, your structure should contain the following main sections:

  • The Introduction
  • The Main Body
  • The Conclusion

The Introduction of your presentation

You are probably going to be feeling at your most nervous at the start of your presentation. A strong opening will help you to feel more confident. To help you achieve this, structure your introduction so that you are clear about what you want to say.  This should include the following:

  • Personal Introduction
  • Your Key Message
  • Any other important information (such as when you will take questions etc.

The main body of your presentation

It’s important to keep your main body clear and focused so that your audience can follow easily. To help achieve this, aim to restrict your main body to three key points. You can then divide these points into sub points to develop your ideas.  For each point it’s important to have

  • A beginning
  • A middle
  • An ending

This will help you to break up your presentation into more digestible sections, rather than one stream of information. This makes it easier for you to deliver it and easier for your audience to follow.

The ending of your presentation

This is when you want to leave a lasting impression on your audience. They are more likely to remember your final words so take the opportunity to include the following important points:

  • Your Key Message – reinforce the benefits to your audience
  • Action Step – tell the audience what you want to do or think now
  • Final Thought – end on a strong note – with a final thought or interesting fact that the audience will remember.

Step Two – Communicating your ideas with confidence

No matter how well you plan and structure your presentation, the ability to be able to deliver your message with confidence and to communicate your ideas with enthusiasm is also very important.

There are three key areas to address to help you develop a confident delivery style:

  • Controlling your nerves
  • Speaking with confidence
  • Creating a strong presence

Presentation skills to help you control your nerves

When you first start to speak it’s inevitable that nerves will kick in. This is natural and common amongst even the more experienced presenters. However, there are many ways to help over come nerves and develop a confident style when you are speaking.

The most common trap people fall into when they first start to speak if they are feeling nervous is to speak too quickly. This results in a lack of control of your voice, body language and thought processes – and ultimately makes you feel hesitant and lacking focus.

Here are some ways in which you can help to control your nerves before and when you first start to speak.

  • To help you slow down before you speak – take two slow breaths – focusing on breathing out for as long as possible – as this will encourage you to take deeper breaths in.
  • When you first speak – take your time over the first few words you say. Remember you will have a tendency to speak more quickly than usual so make a conscious effort to slow down – so that your audience hear every word you say
  • Learn your introduction off by heart and practise before you present. If you know exactly what you are going to say you will be less likely to sound hesitant and include um’s and err’s at the start of your presentation.

Presentation skills to help speak with greater confidence

Your voice says a lot about how you are feeling. It’s therefore important to convey the right kind of emotion to your audience when you are speaking.

To sound more confident and enthusiastic to your audience here are three vocal techniques to use:

  • Speak in shorter sentences – these are easier to deliver and easier for your audience to follow
  • Pause for a couple of seconds at the end of your sentences – this may feel unnatural but it will sound very natural to the audience and allow them time to absorb what you have just said
  • Emphasise important words in your sentences – this will inject energy and enthusiasm into your voice and it will help your audience remember your key messages.

Presentation skills to help develop a strong presence

Your body language will also say a lot about how you are feeling and your audience will pick on the vibes you send out. So it’s important that you send out the right vibes in order that you convey a confident style. To help achieve this here are three body language techniques to use:

  • Adopt a strong stance before you start to speak – so that you look confident and you are less likely to resort to fidgeting or use of negative gesture
  • Take a couple of seconds to look at your audience before you start to speak – this gives the impression you are comfortable in your space.
  • When you speak – give specific eye contact to individuals in the audience. Share this around the audience at random – this helps you to appear more assertive and will increase your overall presence

Step Three – Engaging with your audience when you present

You have already created an audience profile, as part of the planning process and the information you have gleamed from this profile will help you select the most appropriate content that relates to your audience and stimulates their interest.

You have also considered how to create a confident manner, how to sound enthusiastic and how to use eye contact to make contact with your audience. All these techniques can help you to engage more fully with your audience. However you can also enhance your relationship with the audience further by considering techniques that can help your audience stay focused and interested in your presentation.

It’s easy for an audience to switch off in a presentation especially if they are passively listening throughout the time you are speaking. So it’s important to turn them into active listeners. To do this you want to actively engage with them mentally and emotionally.

To help achieve this here are three key techniques to use:

Ask your audience questions

These may be direct questions – where you actively encourage a spoken answer, or indirect questions – where you ask them to consider something. Audiences don’t expect to have to react in a presentation but by involving through questions – it will help to keep them alert and concentrated.

Help your audience follow the presentation

Incorporate ‘signposts’ into your delivery. This is when you tell the audience what you are going to say, then reinforce what you have just said after. It helps keep the audience on track of where your presentation is going.

Engage with your audience’s imaginary powers

Include stories in your presentation. Stories help to lift dry facts and illustrate abstract ideas in a colourful way that will help the audience to remember your messages.

Summary of the Three Key Steps for Successful Presentations

We have now looked at the three key elements that help to create a successful presentation:

  • The Content of the Presentation
  • The Delivery of the Presentation
  • The Engagement with the Audience

You have seen that there are many skills within these three areas that you can develop to help you to become a proficient and successful presenter.

By developing effective structuring techniques, strong delivery skills and powerful ways to engage with your audience, you will be more prepared, feel more confident and communicate more effectively with your audience when you present.

Invest in your own presentation skills

There are no hidden secrets to being successful when you present. You can develop these skills through training and practice. It is worth the investment. By enhancing the ways in which you present and communicate you’ll be able to develop a much stronger influence on your audience and encourage them to respond to you in the way you want!

To get some expert advice and coaching and enhance your presenting, click on one of the links below:-

Presentation Skills – 121 coaching
Business Presentation Courses – Open to members of the public
Business Presenting – In-house training for companies and organisations

Skillstudio also offer public courses, 1-2-1 coaching and in-house training in many aspects of presentation skills and communication skills, including public speaking, vocal skills and body language awareness.

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