8 Simple Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills

Business woman presenting

No matter how much you try to escape it, there will be moments throughout your professional career, where you will be forced to present. And, one way or another the dreaded fear of public speaking will find you, even when you’ve tried your best to hide it.

The good news is that your employer believes in you so much that he wants you to share your knowledge with others. The bad news is that you must now conquer your fear and deliver a killer presentation.

To survive and succeed in this office rite of passage, follow our helpful tips listed below.

1. Be genuine

Delivering an honest pitch is the key to a great presentation. Whether you’re pitching a new idea or presenting a marketing campaign, the success will largely depend on your delivery.

Evidently, most effective presentations are anchored on genuine emotion; a universal feeling that’s shared by people from all walks of life. So, instead of trying to come off as confident when you’re not, start with sharing how you really feel. Make a joke about how nervous you are. Anyone who’s ever had to speak in front of a crowd will understand how nerve-wracking that can be.

By starting with the truth and being open with your faults, you make yourself more relatable which captivates your audiences better.

2. Take a page out of the comedy book

To keep people interested, you should have a level of humour in your pitch; even standup comics know the importance of a good story when trying to keep an audience’s attention. They manage to connect the first joke all the way until the very end, which can be very tricky to do.

So, if you want your stories to sound seamless, take a page out of a comedian’s book and ensure that your entire presentation has a strong and cohesive narrative. Not only will it be much easier for the audience to follow your train of thought but you’ll sound less rehearsed and more natural too!

3. Have a secondary goal

When preparing a presentation, you usually have a goal in mind. It could be that you hope to teach your audience some professional skills or convince them to get on board with a new marketing campaign.

But even when you’ve tried your best, the reality is that you won’t be able to completely control or predict the outcome of your work. Sometimes, people won’t learn as fast as you’d like and other times, clients will choose to go with another campaign. That’s just how the world works.

Even with this in mind, the pressure of that one goal can still mess you up. To avoid this from happening, come up with a second goal that’s not necessarily as important as the first but has some personal meaning for you. For example, if your primary goal is to teach skills, your secondary goal could be to establish new connections within the company. You may have failed at teaching new skills but you’ve succeeded at making a valuable relationship.

4. Turn it into a conversation

Most people wait until the end of the presentation before they open the floor to questions. While this is perfectly okay, one of the best ways to combat stage fright is to keep your presentation a two-way conversation. Ask for the audience’s thoughts or opinions at some point during your talk and keep them engaged throughout.  

You could pose questions like “what do you think about learning these skills? Who here thinks these things can help them?” By turning your presentation into a conversation, you can take the spotlight off yours truly and onto the audience for a while (so you can catch your breath in the meantime), thereby easing the pressure on you.

5. Think of your body as a temple

If you haven’t been eating healthy all that much before being assigned to a presentation, then do yourself a favour and get on it – right now! When it comes to public speaking, you have to be both mentally and physically prepared. Think of it this way, your body needs the right amount of nutrients to function to its optimal capacity.

When you don’t eat properly before a presentation, there are two likely, very unpleasant scenarios: you can either faint from starvation or vomit all over the audience. To avoid losing face and ruining your reputation, load up on the right fuel. And, if you don’t feel like eating a full meal before a presentation, munch on a banana or some nuts instead.

6. Burn off that stress

When you’re under a lot of stress, your body secretes a lot of cortisol which is a hormone that not only causes weight gain but also limits your creativity and hinders your ability to process complex information, too.

So how do you get rid of this stressful feeling? The answer is exercise.

Even when you’re busy, try to sneak in some physical activity in your day-to-day routine. Walk or bike to the office instead of taking a car, have a heavy breakfast and use your lunch break to go to the gym or consider getting a few stretches in at your desk. Whatever you do, make exercise an integral part of your lifestyle - that way when the day of your presentation arrives, you’ll be more than ready for it.

7. Embrace the worst-case scenario

The last thing you want to think about when preparing for a presentation is how awful things could go. But rather than dodging the age-old question, ‘What if?’ embrace it.

By imagining all the possible worst-case scenarios, you’re able to prepare better and eliminate any irrational fears. The closer you examine the situation, the more you’ll realize that none of them is truly life-threatening.

Your friends and family won’t love you less, you won’t lose your job and the world won’t end. This may sound unconventional, but the more you think about the worst thing that could happen, the less you’ll be afraid of it.

8. Keep it consistent

There are tons of tried-and-tested ways when it comes to improving your presentation skills: arrive early, don’t read from your slides, keep it short, and make sure that your font size is between 60 to 80 points.

But if there’s one tip that bears repetition, it’s this: practice, practice, practice. There’s no way of knowing if an introduction is too long if you don’t say it out loud.  You can’t tell if your body language is awkward if you don’t practice in front of a mirror and the PowerPoint won’t cue properly if you don’t test it first.

The only way to avoid making too many mistakes is by practising your presentation for as long as you can. Cramming might have been acceptable when you were still at university, but employing the same strategy never works in real life.

As with any responsibility that comes with adulthood, improving your presentation skills is all about consistently putting the work in and showing up when it matters most. So, whether you’re a beginner or a certified expert in presenting, taking the time to thoroughly prepare and practice for your presentation will ensure that it’s a winning one!

Ever had a difficult time preparing for a presentation? Share your horror stories in the comment section below.