Presenting and public speaking can feel like a daunting task to many people, but the good news is that presentation skills can be improved with practice and dedication. Becoming a better presenter is all about preparation, practice, strong communication, confidence, and the ability to connect with your audience.
Top speakers did not get to where they are overnight. They honed their presentation skills and hone their craft over time. In this article, we’ll explore some of the advice, tips and strategies used by top speakers to help you improve your presentation skills and become a better presenter.
Know Your Audience
You can become a better presenter by knowing who your audience is and what they’re looking for in a presentation. This will help you tailor your message to their interests and help to ensure that your presentation is relevant and engaging for your audience.
Additionally, it’s important to be aware of cultural differences and adapt your presentation accordingly.
“Everyone has a story to tell or a product to sell.
Know your audience before you open your mouth.”
– April Sims
Preparation is Key
One of the most important aspects of becoming a better presenter is preparation. Successful speakers put a lot of time and effort into researching and preparing their presentations. They understand that a well-prepared presentation is more likely to be well-received by the audience.
It’s essential to know your topic inside and out, so you can answer any questions that may come up during the presentation. Additionally, it’s important to have an understanding of your audience and what they’re looking to get out of the presentation. This will help you to tailor your message to their interests and needs.
“It takes one hour of preparation for each minute of presentation time.”
– Wayne Burgraff
Practice, Practice, Practice
The more you practice, the more comfortable and confident you will become when speaking in front of an audience. Start by giving presentations to small groups of friends or family, and gradually work your way up to larger audiences.
Practice your presentation as much as you can, this will help you to be more confident, and it will help you to identify any issues with the structure or content of your presentation. If possible, rehearsing your presentation with friends or family can be a great way to get feedback and improve. They can help you to identify any areas that need improvement and offer suggestions for making your presentation more effective.
“Practice, practice, practice in speaking before an audience will tend to remove all fear of audiences, just as practice in swimming will lead to confidence and facility in the water. You must learn to speak by speaking.”
– Dale Carnegie
Being authentic is another key strategy used by top speakers. Audiences can tell if you have an ulterior motive or if you’re not being genuine.
When you speak from the heart, your audience will be more likely to connect with you and your message if they sense that you’re being genuine. This means being yourself and being honest about your own experiences. Being authentic can mean sharing personal anecdotes, pictures, being comfortable with the material you’re presenting and using words you’d normally speak in actual day-to-day conversations.
When you’re authentic, you’ll naturally be a better presenter and your audience will be more likely to trust you and be open to your message.
“You are authentic when everything you say and everything you do, you ACTUALLY believe.”
– Simon Sinek
Think about people you’ve met that made an immediate positive impression. Chances are they made you laugh in some way! Humour is a great way to connect with your audience and make your presentation more engaging.
A well-timed joke or two can help to break the ice and put your audience at ease. Humour can also be used to lighten the mood and make your message more memorable.
However, it’s important to use humour appropriately. Avoid making jokes at the expense of others, and make sure your jokes are relevant to your topic. Also, ensure that your humour is authentic and true to yourself. If you’re not someone who is more serious and doesn’t like to crack jokes, forcing humour into your presentation might seem forced and make you uncomfortable.
“Humour creates a bond, a sense of closeness. The audience relaxes. They’re at ease. They feel good, energized, alert and eager to hear what you have to say.”
– Susan Dugdale
Tell a Story
People remember stories better than facts and figures. So it comes as no surprise that storytelling is one of the core presentation skills you should develop to make your presentation more engaging.
Instead of simply listing facts and figures, use anecdotes, examples, and case studies to illustrate your points. This will help your audience to connect with your message on a deeper level and make it more memorable.
“People hear statistics, but they feel stories.”
– Brent Dykes
Confidence is key when it comes to public speaking and soft presentation skills. To become a better presenter, speak with conviction and enthusiasm. Record your voice during practice sessions so you can hear how you sound from the audience’s perspective.
When you’re confident, your audience will be more likely to trust and believe what you’re saying. However, it’s important to strike a balance between confidence and humility. Avoid coming across as arrogant or dismissive of your audience’s opinions.
“The confident you speak it, the stronger the message.”
– Anthony Liccione
Be Aware of Your Body Language
Nonverbal cues can have a big impact on how your audience perceives your message. That’s why body language is an important aspect of becoming a better presenter. Whether it is making sure you maintain good posture, speaking clearly, making eye contact with your audience or becoming more aware of your facial expressions and gestures, there are hundreds of little things you can do to ensure you project positive body language throughout your presentation.
You should also take care to avoid using filler words as a crutch, such as “um” or “ah”. Instead, use natural pauses to help you gather your thoughts and keep the presentation flowing in a natural way. Too many “ums” and “ahs” are often taken as a sign of nervousness, which greatly hurts your credibility as a presenter.
“Body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we had speech, and apparently, 80% of what you understand in a conversation is read through the body, not the words.”
– Deborah Bull
Pay Attention to Your Audience
A huge part of becoming a better presenter is the ability to interact with your audience. This means being attentive to your audience’s reactions and being able to adjust your presentation accordingly.
You can tell if your audience is getting bored with your presentation based on nonverbal cues like closing their eyes or nodding their head. It’s also important for a presenter to respond to questions or comments in a timely and appropriate manner. When an audience feels like they can engage with the presenter, they will be more likely to show more interest as the presentation feels more like a 2-way street.
“If you want engagement, be engaging. Be conversational. Ask questions.
Leave room for your audience to add their voice.”
– Darren Rowse
Keep It Simple
Another key strategy used by top speakers is to keep their presentations simple. You can improve your presentation skills and become a better presenter by avoiding jargon or technical language that your audience may not understand. Instead, use clear and simple language to communicate your message.
However, while this is a great general rule for all presentations, there is an assumption that your audience has no knowledge of the subject you are presenting. If you are presenting at something like a trade show or an industry event when the audience consists of people with an advanced level of knowledge in your presentation subject, then you should tailor the complexity accordingly.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
– Albert Einstein
Visual aids can be a powerful tool for making your presentation more engaging and memorable. Use slides or other visuals to help illustrate your points and keep your audience engaged. However, be mindful not to overdo it with too many visuals or animations that can be distracting.
“The more strikingly visual your presentation is, the more people will remember it. And more importantly, they will remember you.”
– Paul Arden
Calm Your Nerves
It’s natural to feel nervous before giving a presentation, but it’s important to take care of your nerves. Try doing breathing exercises or visualization before the presentation to help you to relax and focus. Additionally, remember that it’s normal to make mistakes, and try not to worry about them too much
“The more prepared I am, the more I’ll be in control, less nervous, less stressed and more focused.”
– Marilu Henner
Learn Effective Presentation Skills at FirstCom Academy
Want to develop presentation skills quickly and effectively to fast-track your progress towards becoming a better presenter?
FirstCom Academy’s presentation skills course is a WSQ-certified and SkillsFuture Credit-eligible presentation skills course ideal for anyone in Singapore who wants to learn how to use their voice, body language and other resources to deliver engaging business presentations.
Whether you haven’t presented before or you are a working professional looking to improve, practice presentation techniques, get real-time feedback and tips from master presentation trainers with our in-person courses.
Remember, becoming a better presenter is a skill that can be developed with practice and dedication. Find out more about Effective Presentation Skills at FirstCom Academy today and see if it is the right course for you!
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