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Presentation Training: How to Develop Your Presentation Skills
When you're tasked with giving a presentation, it's easy to focus solely on the information you'll be sharing with the audience. The reality is, though, that your presentation skills are just as crucial as the content of your presentation.
There are many different elements that go into a successful presentation– everything from impactful slides and speaking with conviction to making eye contact and varying your tone of voice can help make or break the event.
Presenting information to a crowd can be nerve-wracking, but you can work to develop your presentation skills with practice and diligence over time. Let's look at the different phases of any presentation, essential skills, and tips on how to improve these skills!
The Phases of a Presentation
Whether you're giving a short presentation to a small group of colleagues or a major one to hundreds of heavy hitters in your industry, there are three distinct phases to any presentation: preparation, delivery, and follow-up.
In each of these steps, there are opportunities to hone your skills and set yourself up to give the best presentation of your career thus far.
Before you stand up in front of a crowd or sign on to give a virtual presentation, you'll need to prepare. During this part of the process, consider the audience you'll be speaking to and what information you can offer that will be the most useful and interesting to them.
You might write out everything you expect to say or note brief bullet points to structure what you plan on talking about. During the preparation phase, you'll also create any slides you want to share and gather supporting materials.
This is also the time when you'll want to practice giving your presentation. You can do this alone in front of a mirror, in front of friends or family members, or while videotaping yourself.
The delivery phase begins when the preparation stage is complete and the time has come to stand in front of an audience (in-person or digitally). This is the part that the audience is witness to.
A complex network of skills is involved with being a great presenter, many of which are showcased during delivery. Ideally, you'll be able to summarize what will be covered as a part of the introduction, capture the audience's attention right from the start, and convey confidence and energy by using eye contact, body language, and other nonverbal skills.
When you're speaking, you'll want to use the power of vocal tone to emphasize certain tones and pause to give resonance to important points.
Once the delivery is over, your work isn't entirely done. Now it's time to follow up, which includes taking care of any physical equipment, communicating with audience members, and receiving and analyzing feedback.
This is another part of being a successful presenter that requires organizational skills. You might consider creating a form for the audience to fill out so you can learn what worked well and what didn't, which takes some planning ahead. You'll also need to analyze the feedback and determine what points should be incorporated into your efforts to develop presentation skills.
Depending on the circumstance, you also might feel it is appropriate to email presentation slides to your attendees, interview certain audience members for constructive criticism, and build a list of attendees to contact with information about future events.
Skills to Develop For Giving Presentations
Giving a presentation is an activity that incorporates numerous different diverse skill sets.
You'll likely find that you are stronger in some areas than others, but the sky is always the limit when it comes to becoming a more effective and engaging speaker.
Without organizational skills, individuals will struggle to deliver concise and timely presentations. You want to ensure that your laptop and projector are connected and ready to go when the audience starts to sit down. You'll also need to organize the points you make in your presentation to ensure everyone fully understands your most important points.
Similarly, you'll also want to ensure that your presentation's information fits nicely within the allotted time. You might be concerned that you won't be able to fit all of the information you want to share into the amount of time designated for your speech, but it's equally as problematic for the presentation to only take up half of the time slot given to you.
To develop your presentation skills, you'll need to be analytical. This will help you look at your performance honestly and determine which feedback you receive is relevant to how you desire to improve.
Additionally, you'll need to be quick on your feet when audience members ask questions– you'll need to analyze what they're saying and come up with the best way to respond in mere moments.
Public speaking skills involve engaging with an audience and appearing comfortable in front of a crowd, even if this isn't something that makes you feel particularly at ease. Some people struggle with public speaking more than others, and some individuals might find that it simply isn't one of their strongest suits, no matter how much they work to develop their skills.
Luckily, there is always the opportunity to improve your public speaking skills with practice. You'll want to be both attentive to the material that you are sharing as well as the audience and be able to respond quickly and appropriately to complex questions.
When preparing a presentation, it can be tempting to focus on the words you're planning on saying and the slides you expect to share. The truth is that how you carry yourself and present yourself can be equally important as what you're deliberately communicating with words and PowerPoint slides.
Some of the nonverbal communication skills you can work to improve include making eye contact with the audience, using good posture, and incorporating hand gestures into your communication style.
To give a successful presentation, there are additional verbal communication skills you will want to master beyond public speaking. For example, practicing answering questions in a way that is accurate, honest, and respectful is crucial when interacting with an audience.
Specific verbal communication skills helpful in this regard include affirmation, assertiveness, and enunciation so that you can respond to their question while driving home your key points.
When you're preparing your presentation, you're likely going to engage in some amount of research.
Whether you're preparing for a major, milestone speech, or a simple presentation in your team meeting, you'll want to be able to clearly identify the questions you are trying to answer, find accurate resources, and organize the information you find.
Even if you are only creating an outline for your presentation rather than writing out what you plan to say word for word, having a firm grasp of writing skills, including spelling, grammar, and proofreading, will be highly beneficial during the preparation process.
Tips For Developing Your Presentation Skills
Presentation skills are ultimately a web of interrelated skills, some of which you might feel you are stronger in than others.
Let's look at some general tips for building a strong foundation of skills for your next presentation to be built upon.
Focus on the Audience
It's easy to be overly focused on ourselves when we give presentations, making us self-conscious and less able to deliver the content, no matter how prepared we are.
When speaking to a group, try focusing on the audience rather than yourself and remembering that they are there because they want to hear what you have to say.
Look to Role Models
If you feel like your presentation skills are lacking or want to improve upon your already well-developed skills, consider looking to people you feel are great speakers.
Think about times you have attended presentations and felt wholly engaged in what the person was saying– what were they doing that was working so well? What skills were they exhibiting that you could work to develop yourself?
Be Honest About What Needs Improvement
One of the reasons people struggle to improve their presentation skills is that they have a hard time being honest or specific about what areas they need to work on.
Though it can be anxiety-inducing to think about presentations in the past that haven't gone as well as planned, this is where you can find valuable information about how you can grow as a speaker.
Practice, Practice, Practice
What's the best way to develop any skill? Practice, practice, and more practice.
That being said, the best way to present information is to be heavily prepared without memorizing what you're going to say. It can be good to give yourself plenty of time to rehearse your presentation– consider starting to practice about a month ahead of time.
You can ask a family member to listen or talk to the mirror, but practicing out loud is essential. You might even think about joining the local toastmaster club or volunteering to speak at a local community event to have the opportunity to practice.
Even though it's good to practice a lot to improve your skills, you still don't want to memorize what you're planning on saying. When you recite something from memory, the presentation can come off as flat and mechanical. If you are well-prepared for your speech, you can let go and trust that you don't need to state your presentation word for word.
Be Open to Constructive Criticism
Practicing in front of people is one of the best ways to improve your presentation skills because they can give you constructive feedback.
Though it can be hard to hear what others say about your practice run, listening to what others say and considering whether they offer insight that could help you improve is crucial.
Work on Staying Grounded in Your Body
One of the hardest things to do in a presentation is to stay connected to your body. If you're too wrapped up in your head, you can come off as stiff or mechanical when giving your talk.
You can engage in many exercises to stay grounded in your body when you're ready to give a presentation, including dance, tai chi, and yoga.
It can be hard to know exactly how we come off when giving a presentation, so you can gain valuable insight by videotaping yourself. When you rewatch the video, take an analytical view and write down each weak point you feel you can improve upon. Then, you can come up with a plan for how to attack each of those issues.
Another way you can gain more self-awareness of how you appear to others when giving a presentation is by using one of the many communication style assessment tools available. These tools will help you become a better public speaker and presenter and make you more confident and effective in your communication in the office and your personal life.
Learn Stress Management Skills
Giving a presentation can be stressful for anyone– even seasoned speakers.
One of the best things you can do is learn to calm your nerves ahead of time, so you don't get overly nervous as you walk out in front of the group.
Give It Space
If you are working to develop your presentation skills for a specific event, it's important to back off in the days leading up to your speech.
Trust that you have done the work you need to do to prepare so that you can give yourself some time to relax ahead of time.
Understand Your Communication Style to Improve Your Presentation Skills
When developing your presentation skills, an important first step is understanding your communication style. By learning more about how you communicate with others, you can identify your strengths and trouble spots. This can help you focus on areas where you feel you need the most improvement while also honing your strongest assets as a presenter.
If you are interested in improving your presentation skills or helping your team of managers become better public speakers, the Presentation Skills Profile and What's My Communication Style are the perfect tools for the job. By helping individuals identify their dominant communication styles and understand where they stand when it comes to presentation skills, they can learn to communicate optimally by enhancing their existing skills and incorporating new tactics.
Do you have any questions about how you can develop your presentation skills? If so, feel free to drop a comment down below, and we'll be sure to reply within a day or two! We make it a point to reply to all your comments and questions, and we'll be happy to help you out however we can!