Whether you’re preparing to present a project in front of a small class, or getting ready for the biggest presentation of your life, it always seems to be just as nerve-wracking!
This could be your opportunity to land a new job, earn money from potential investors, or even just increase your grade in a class.
I have put together some of the most fool-proof and easy ways to improve presentation skills.
After reading this guide, you will be equipped with the knowledge to deliver an effective presentation that will shock your audience every single time!
So, let’s dive right in!
1: Determining Your Audience
An effective presentation cannot be delivered without doing some research beforehand. Determining what type of audience you have will dramatically enhance your presentation as you can cater it specifically towards them.
Many people tend to skip out on this step and think it is okay to jump right into their powerpoint or slide deck without knowing how they should actually structure their message.
These are some questions you should ask yourself and make a note of:
- Who is your audience?
- What are they searching for?
- Why are you presenting?
After determining these answers, you are now set up to create a presentation directly targeting their interests and desires.
This also helps when you are trying to figure out what exactly you should say in the presentation. Knowing your audience allows you to better connect with them and increase their satisfaction.
2: Formulating An Effective Solution
So, you know your audience and what they’re expecting to see from you. Now, it’s time to formulate a solution. Every presentation has one main goal in mind… to solve a problem.
This could be anything from a new venture that targets a problem in the market or a strategy to deal with an internal organizational problem.
Whatever it is that you are solving, you want to make your solution as clear and concise as possible, while also covering all of the major points that are required.
Why is this important?
Well, creating a solution that effectively solves the issue at hand will automatically boost your confidence when delivering the presentation.
Maintaining a high level of confidence can directly impact the way your message comes across (sometimes it can make or break your presentation). Just think about it for a second!
When you are super confident about what it is you’re saying, the delivery of your presentation will convince or persuade the audience with more impact than if you get up there all nervous and hesitant.
Your effective solution will also help you remain calm and collected throughout the question and answer period, further convincing the audience that your message is strong and compelling.
3: Structuring Your Presentation
This is a short but crucial component of your presentation. I know I’ve mostly talked about planning and research so far, but I promise that doing so will drastically improve your presentation skills.
Structuring your actual presentation slides before creating them will help lay out the foundation, making it easier in the long run.
All you really should focus on here is determining roughly how many slides you’ll have, the number of different headings, and a few bullet points for each slide. You can even grab a few images and have them ready to go.
4: Creating Your Presentation
Congratulations! At this point, you have pretty much done all of the complicated and boring work. Now it’s time for you to unleash your creativity and personality.
Start your presentation by finding a theme that best suits your audience (now do you see why step one was important). Your theme could be from a template found online, or simply by using a common colour scheme.
For business style presentations, I recommended you stick with monotone type colours like black and white.
You are obviously more than welcome to use other colours, but try to limit this as much as you can because it will draw attention away from you, the speaker!
When you finish choosing a theme, you can now make the heading and title slides that will organize your presentation.
For presentations that are longer than five minutes, I suggest you include an agenda following your title slide. This will let your audience know exactly what to expect throughout, and give them a chance to formulate any questions on topics you won’t be covering,
The next part is where you really get creative. Use all of the research you have conducted to create the rest of your slide deck. A few key components you should keep in mind are:
- Use a variety of captivating visuals (graphs, charts, maps, etc.)
- Keep it simple (your slides should only be a reference for what you are talking about)
- Consistency is key (use the same fonts, size, and colours throughout)
- 6×6 Rule (keep the words to a minimum, only 6 bullet points with 6 words in each max.)
Although there are probably hundreds of different opinions on how your slide deck should look, the above tips are the most common ones.
Following all of these will at least ensure that your slides are enhancing your presentation and not degrading it.
5: Practicing Your Delivery
Notice how I did NOT say practicing your presentation here?
Your actual presentation is not the slide deck that you have created, it’s YOU!
If you want to improve your presentation skills, one of the easiest things you can do is avoid making your slideshow the highlight and instead turn that focus on yourself.
After all, there are so many great slide decks out there, but there are not so many great speakers!
Your delivery is the most critical skill you can develop for effective presentations. Unsure of what a great delivery actually looks like?
Watch some videos on YouTube of presentations by CEO’s of your Fortune 500 type companies. You can even learn from shows like Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank if your presentation is more of an idea pitch.
In essence, all I’m saying is to simply deconstruct what some of those great speakers do and work on developing those skills yourself. This will only come with practice, practice, practice!
By the time your presentation rolls around, you should be confident enough to rehearse the entire script without needing your slide show as a reference.
If you can do this, you know that you are well prepared and ready for the big day!
6: Presentation Day
It’s finally here! Some of you might be sweating buckets because your stressed and anxious, and others will be hyped up for the presentation.
Regardless of how you are feeling, there are a few things you can do on presentation day to ensure everything goes as planned.
The first one is simple, but practice what you are going to say once more! You can never over practice so don’t think it’s bad to run through your lines again.
Next, you should be staying hydrated with lots and lots of water (just make sure you go pee before).
Water will help your body stay calm and cool down if you start getting nervous. It is also just something you should be drinking all the time.
Breathe! Take as many deep breaths as you can, inhaling for about four seconds and then pausing for a short second before letting out a long, slow exhale.
Always make sure you are breathing so your muscles and brain can relax, and get the oxygen they need.
This last one might sound stupid but it works for me… talk to yourself! Believe it or not, self-talk can actually calm down your nerves a lot more than you think.
Tell yourself that you are going to do amazing and imagine yourself in a situation afterward where everything went smoothly.
Continue doing this until you believe fully believe in yourself!
Wow! You just delivered the best presentation of your life. Hopefully, you are very proud of yourself by this moment. However, you are not quite finished yet.
Many people skip this stage, but it can drastically improve your presentation skills if you always follow it.
Ask for feedback! This is your chance to ask your audience what they thought of your presentation.
Be prepared to accept positive comments, but also some critical ones as well. In all honesty, the critical feedback is usually what will help you ACTUALLY improve for the future.
Positive comments are nice to hear, but they are basically just reassurance for yourself.
Use the feedback given to you for future presentations. The only way you are going to improve is by recording down what you are told and incorporating it into your next presentation.
If you make it a habit to always do this, I guarantee that you’ll be well on your way to becoming a highly skilled presenter.
Although I have only covered seven ways to improve, there are hundreds of others out there as well.
These are just some of the easiest ways that anyone can use to quickly improve their skills.
If you have any suggestions or tips that I didn’t cover, feel free to leave them in the comment section below for others to learn and grow.
And remember, you are going to kill every presentation you do from now on!