Skilful presenting is a balancing act. You're balancing the information you present and how you relate to your audience.
Public speaking can be a daunting task, but it can be a breeze with the right approach and some preparation.
Good presentation skills can inspire confidence, convey critical information, and motivate people to take action. However, many executives find presenting challenges.
Are you often called upon to present to your team, clients, or board? Are you looking for ways to improve your presentation skills? If so, read on.
In this post, we will outline eight steps you can follow to help improve your presentation skills. By following these tips, you can become a more effective presenter and boost your confidence when speaking in front of others. Let's get started!
You'll be confident and polished in no time!
Tips for effective presentation in front of an audience
Step I: Setting Objectives
The most crucial step in preparing a presentation is establishing your objectives. By clearly establishing your objectives, you give yourself a road map that shows where you're going.
When preparing your presentation, determine your objectives first. Is your objective to:
- Gather ideas and explore them.
- Make recommendations?
- Evaluate, interpret or clarify?
Too often, presenters concentrate on "What am I going to say?" Instead, focus on "Why am I giving this presentation?" The rest of your presentation will be designed to support this answer.
Step 2: Know Your Audience
After you develop your objectives, evaluate your listeners. Who are they? What are their needs?
Gather information about your audience by:
- Requesting a list of attendees and their titles
- Studying background information on the organization, such as annual reports, press releases, organizational charts or brochures
- Talking with a few attendees before your presentation
- Interviewing others who have spoken to the audience
Remember, your audience is your customer. Think about what your customer wants and do the necessary homework to make sure your delivery is solid in content and context.
Step 3: State the Main Ideas
After analyzing your audience, state the main ideas your audience must understand. Think of how you would answer, "What ideas do I most want my audience to remember?"
Remember, less is usually more, so limit the content. The average person can absorb only about three concepts in a 45- to 55-minute presentation. One idea is sufficient when your presentation is only 10 or 15 minutes. The main ideas need to:
- State conclusions, spelling out what you want the audience to believe about your topic
- Accomplish specific objectives, leading to the action you want your audience to take
- Be interesting and memorable
- Be few in number, limited to three or four in a one-hour presentation
Step 4: Choose Supporting Information
Once you state your main ideas, identify the information that will communicate and support these ideas. Sources of supporting material include:
- Inside the organization--product descriptions, statistics, newsletters and reports
- Outside the organization--trade journals, newspapers, books, professional associations and database services
- Personal--insights, examples and anecdotes
Start a topic file filled with exam-pies, comparisons, quotations, statistics, graphs and experts' opinions.
Step 5: Create an Opener
The purpose of an opener is to capture your audience's attention--and keep it. An opener can make or break you. The average listener forms either a negative or positive opinion of you during the first five minutes of your presentation.
A dynamite opener must accomplish three objectives:
Sell your audience on listening to your presentation, introduce the subject and establish your credibility.
Besides these objectives, an opener should include these essential ingredients:
- An attention-getting statement such as quotations, declarative statements, anecdotes, real-world situations or scenarios
- The main ideas you'll cover
- Benefits to the audience such as, "If you learn these customer service techniques and use them in daily dealings with customers, you'll have less stress, fewer misunderstandings and greater results."
- Appropriate words and body language
Avoid opening with an apology, lengthy statements, a trite question or a joke. You can use humour in the opening, but make sure it relates to your main ideas.
Step 6: Develop Transitions
A transition is a link that joins the end of one point to the beginning of the next. It provides a natural flow into the key points of the presentation while continuing to build audience interest.
Why does your presentation need transitions? They help your audience move through the opening, body and closing. Transitions tie your ideas together, helping the audience follow you and your key ideas. When creating your "bridging" statements, follow these guidelines:
- Keep them short, no more than a paragraph or phrase. For example, "Now that we have looked at A, let's move on to B" or "Besides these benefits, the product also . . . ."
- Use attention-getting statements, such as quotations, summaries or anecdotes.
- Play up relevant statistics.
- Pause, using hand and body movements and voice modulation.
- Restate or summarize your main points.
- Use Visual aids
Step 7: Structure the Main Body
The body compiles your key points and supporting material (steps 3 and 4). Logically sequence your main ideas so your audience can easily follow, understand and remember your message.
What are the most logical sequences?
- Chronological order, organizing information by the time
- Priority, sequencing information based on importance with your most important points first
- The spatial arrangement, discussing critical points by area
- Topical approach, starting with the least important point and building to your most vital message
- Problem and solution, identifying the problem and its causes, and ending with a solution
Step 8: Prepare the Close
After you've presented your main points and supporting information in a clear and logical sequence, you're ready for your biggest challenge. Closing is the most vital part of your presentation and should:
- Provide a summary of the main ideas and objectives
- Review the purpose of the entire presentation
- Appeal for action.
You're selling more than a product or company; you're selling a partnership. Your audience should leave feeling confident about you and your ideas.
What are the key ingredients of a closing?
- A bridging statement that announces the closing, such as "To sum up where we've been . . . " or "Let me summarize."
- A restatement of the key points. People need to hear your key points three to 10 times to remember them.
- Benefit statement where appropriate, pointing out what's in it for them and why they should do what you suggest.
- The brief and memorable statement, such as a quote, personal story or poem.
Choose the type of closing that best matches your message, including a return to the opening theme, future challenge, or call for action.
Though giving a successful presentation can be daunting, following our eight steps will help boost your confidence and improve your skills. With practice and preparation, you can deliver an effective presentation that engages and informs your audience.
Are you ready to get started? Check out our other articles on soft skills and career advice for more tips and tricks.