Presentation Magazine

31 Tips to Improve your Presentation Skills


It’s always tough to stand up in front of a real audience. But with a bit of practice and a few tips it can be much easier to deliver a good performance.

We asked a number of presentation experts for their tips on improving your presentation skills.

Mary Langan

1. Start planning your presentation on paper

Start planning your presentation on paper rather than PowerPoint.
It helps with creativity.

Thanks to Mary Langan www.nuatraining.co.uk

2. Avoid written bullet points on slides

Follow the Steve Jobs philosophy of using pictures or demonstrative pieces that capture the idea you are trying to get across. Recently at harassment prevention training, I used a “Tickle Me Elmo” doll. This was shortly after a New York politician had resigned after admitting — among other things — that he’d engaged his employees in a tickle fight. The whole audience got my point.

3. Make your ideas “stick”

Follow the formula laid out by Chip and Dan Heath in Made to Stick: the “stickiest” ideas are those which are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and are framed by a story.

4. If you make a mistake in presenting, don’t panic

Acknowledge it, laugh and move on.

5. Include the audience

Ask questions to allow them to participate.

6. Bring the audience forward

deb-volberg-pagnotta

Deb Volberg Pagnotta

If it is an unwilling audience, and people are sitting way at the back, laugh and tell all those in the back row that they need to come and sit in the front — that you know who the troublemakers are. (Keep laughing.) Then, you can engage them much more actively.

7. If possible, make everybody turn OFF their electronic devices

Thanks to Deb Volberg Pagnotta

8. Remain flexible

sue-fielder

Sue Fielder

To me one of the most important tips is to remain flexible. Don’t be totally tied to your presentation. You need to be able to assess where your participants are (in their learning) and then modify your presentation to meet their needs and the time you have available to present.

Too often I see presenters try to “cram” in all the information they have regardless of the time available.

Thanks to Sue Fiedler, PHR

9. Let the audience direct the content and order of your presentation

ellen-finkelstein

Ellen Finkelstein

If you have slides, you can do this with a menu slide, custom shows, or links to other presentations. By asking questions of the audience, you can know what they’re interested in, and have that content available by clicking on a link.

I would still research the audience as much as possible in advance, but when you can’t do that, incorporating this flexibility into your presentation is invaluable.

Thanks to Ellen Finkelstein

10. Lean forward to make a point

Howard Rokofsky

A wee step or slight lean forward on a positive point, and vice versa; otherwise stepping back during pauses, then slightly forward again.

11. Don’t read your slides
Paraphrase — it keeps people on their toes.  

Thanks to Howard Rokofsky

12. Don’t try to say everything on screen

The fewer words on screen, the more your audience will be focused on you and what you’re saying.

Think about stripping out the words that you are actually going to say – and just use short, punchy bullet points coupled with relevant, thought-provoking imagery.

13. Try not to “prove it” within your slide content

All too often we see slides that make a single point but are cluttered with loads and loads of supporting graphs and tables of information.

If the point that you want to make is that your market share is 26% – just say that. Your audience will typically believe you. You can always include extra data as addendum slides at the end of the deck to be called on if really needed.

14. Try to make one key point per slide

If you make more than one, your message will become complicated and won’t hit home. On the other hand, if your slide makes no point at all – delete it. You probably don’t actually need it.

15. Set your stall out early

Your audience will appreciate knowing at the beginning what you are going to cover.

As your presentation progresses, keep referring back to your initial agenda using highlights to show where you are up to.

16. Consider getting outside help

kate-lowe

Kate Lowe

A professional writer or presentation expert can often see things you can’t and give a totally new perspective on your project.

Overall, remember – less is often more when it comes to words on the slide. But as with any good rule – not always.

Thanks to Kate Lowe of www.article10.com

17. Engage the audience at the start

Use humour; tell a story; challenge with a question.

18. Use examples and personal anecdotes to add credibility

19. Involve the audience

Peter Westacott

Use PowerPoint only where it will add value. Use audio/visuals.

20. Know your audience

What will be meaningful to them?

21. Be positive

Projection is perception!

22. Summarise  

Mark Tamer

Thanks to Peter Westcott

23. Keep it short

Say everything that needs to be said in as few words as possible!

Thanks to Mark Tamer of the Presenters Coach

24. Turn off the projector

Jean Luc Lebrun

Jean Luc Lebrun

The presenter rarely realises that the presentation slide is desperately trying to steal their thunder and reducing their role to that of a voice over.

The best tip I can give a presenter is to use a blank screen to re-keep all eyes on you.  

Thanks to Jean-Luc Lebrun

25. You need to be yourself

don-ferguson

Don Ferguson

I have seen presenters try to imitate a style that was effective but did not fit for them and it caused an immediate disconnect with the audience. I use a lot of humour and case examples in my presentations, but one of my favourite presenters talks to the audience in a very calm way, as if she were just having coffee with them.

If I tried to imitate her, I think I and the audience would be bored and if she imitated me, it would look like really bad stand-up. You still have to work hard on honing your skills but within the best of you and not someone else.  

Thanks to Don Ferguson

26. Don’t spend too long worrying about voice and hand gestures

Jessica Pyne

Jessica Pyne

Yes, these can make a difference, but there are other changes to your overall presentation you can make that will have a much bigger impact.

27. Practice, practice, practice

If you don’t practice, the first time you deliver your presentation out loud will be in front of a room full of people. A sobering thought…

Thanks to Jessica Pyne of M62

28. Vary your pace and pitch

richard-mulholland

Richard Mulholland

A huge lesson I got given early in my speaking career was to vary my pace and pitch. We fall into patterns easily. If you want it to stand out when you’re getting frenetic and excited, you need areas of calm.

Too much of any one thing is boring.

Thanks to Richard Mulholland

29. Use a mirror

The old “smoke and mirrors” no longer works in so many of today’s smoke-free buildings — but mirrors are still allowed. The presenter needs to know what is on the screen behind or above them while still looking at the audience. Their computer should be visible to them wherever they roam on stage. A confidence monitor in front of the audience or even a second projected image at the back of the room will work.

bob-gallagher

Bob Gallagher

One presenter I worked with many years ago in the age of slide projectors really wowed an audience by never once looking back at the screen in a half-hour presentation. He used a remote control and hit every cue perfectly. The amazed audience never realised that the multitude of mirrors in the banquet room meant he never needed to look over his shoulder.

Even today when a computer or monitor cannot be in front of the speaker because of technical restraints, we still use a small auto mirror designed to see kids in the back seat for presenters to see what is behind them. Like a parent in the car using that mirror, the presenter doesn’t need to see all the details to know what is happening behind them.

Thanks to Bob Gallagher

30. Think about your audience, not about you or your stuff

denis-francois-gravel

Denis Francois Gravel

Answer the question of the attendees: what’s in it for me?

It is a basic tip, but so many presenters forget this.

Thanks to Denis François Gravel, Effective presentation & strategic selling, PRESENTability.com

31. Slides don’t make good handouts

If your slides are any good, they will be highly visual with few words, and therefore will have very little meaning without you – after all, they are there to support the message, not the presenter.

Yet without handouts most of your message is likely to be forgotten sooner or later. So use handouts wisely, include your slides as visual reminders of the live presentation and the communication at the time, but also add any notes, graphs, tables, etc. which also remind participants what you were saying.

phil-waknell

Phil Waknell

My usual tip here is to use the notes pages function in Keynote or PowerPoint, then print the slides plus notes pages to PDF and distribute that. The participants will get a nice-looking document with a slide at the top of each page and the detailed notes underneath. My students always appreciate that – and they like not having to take notes themselves without worrying they’ll forget something.

Thanks to Phil Waknell


Do you have any good presentation tips?  Have you seen any interesting presentations?  We would be interested in hearing from you.

Please leave your feedback in the box below.

 

Published On: 20th Sep 2010

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13 Comments
  1. Can’t argue much with many of those! 🙂

    Let’s add number 32: Signpost. Signpost *everything* so the audience knows where they are in the presentation; that way they can concentrate on the *content*, not the structure.

    Simon Raybould 20 Sep at 8:02 pm
  2. 32. Show passion and enthusiasm. If you sound disinterested in the topic or product that you are speaking about then your audience will feel the same way.

    Even if you would rather be anywhere but on the stage talking, show energy and enthusiasm as this will keep your audience engaged.

    Jim Price 29 Sep at 4:09 pm
  3. Avoid Jargon.

    The rise of the TLA (three-letter acronym) and ‘business-speak’ has left us feeling we have to demonstrate how we are synergising our SPV.

    In reality, few members of the audience understand what we are talking about and try to make sense from the nonsense being spoken.

    Speak clearly – assume your audience knows nothing. Talk in clear concepts, stories and anecdotes – and avoid touching based with TLAs.

    Andrew McFarlan 11 Oct at 2:40 pm
  4. if sombody feel hesitation while delivering the presentation.he/she should start a formal discusion with audiance before starting the introduction of presentation.
    Sanabar from pakistan Gigit

    Sanabar Hussain khanna 14 Oct at 9:11 am
  5. Good one!

    Poornima 21 Oct at 5:03 am
  6. Dress professionally but comfortably. If what you’re wearing makes you uncomfortable or uptight it will come out in your presentation.

    Heather 29 Oct at 8:43 pm
  7. Always have a checklist to enable consistancy of delivery.

    Always set objectives that you are looking to cover plus evalate the lesson at the end to ensure learning has taken place 🙂

    Cal Saul 15 Jan at 11:12 pm
  8. Use of Laser pointer in a manner that you have full control on it for the word or statement you want to highlight.
    Some people use laser pointer in ziz zac form and which does not exactly make the focus on term or statement to the audience.

    Sarmad Butt 30 Nov at 7:38 am
  9. good stuff.

    muga jeff 15 Jun at 9:14 am
  10. You should be confident and must went through your presentation at least twice. You must have an idea what the next would be

    George 14 Apr at 11:22 am
  11. Practice is spelled wrong. 3 times.

    . 29 Sep at 2:27 pm
  12. Hi, thanks for letting us know but Practise is the American spelling so we left it in! I have changed it now

    Rachael Boynton 30 Sep at 8:55 am
  13. good words

    anil kumar 17 Jul at 7:04 am
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