Are your presentation skills up to scratch?

Good presentation skills are an important business asset, yet all too often speakers fail to represent themselves, or their subject, to full advantage.

The art of a good presentation is not the confined to the naturally outgoing - indeed, it involves a number of skills which need to be learned. Follow these pointers to help make the experience of giving a presentation more successful - and enjoyable.

Prepare

  • Get to the point. Decide on the key points you need to make in the course of the presentation
  • Put your spin on it. Highlight what is interesting, unusual or important about your subject matter, in order to engage your audience and make an impact
  • Assume nothing. Don't make your audience fill in the gaps. Important background information should be outlined, even if only briefly
  • Clarity is everything. Try to see the presentation from your audience's perspective. Are your points clear, and does your presentation have a logical flow?

Practise

  • Rehearse the part. Practise in front of a friend or colleague, or a mirror. Look out for any distracting mannerisms, such as fiddling with your papers
  • Know your stuff. Make sure you are familiar with the points you wish to make, and that you know how to use any presentation aids
  • Check out the back-up. Slides, charts, etc, are only an asset if they are clear and used to illustrate a point
  • Make your notes work. Use a series of words or phrases that will prompt you, rather than full sentences. Put notes onto small cards and double-space them: this will make them easier to see, and also allows for natural pauses

Deliver

  • Check the details. Make sure you know when and where you are to give your presentation
  • Dress the part. Wear clothes that are smart but comfortable
  • Take control. A little nervousness is not a bad thing - but don't let your nerves get the better of you. Looking down at the floor and speaking into your notes will be a turn-off for your audience
  • Breathe deeply. Take a few deep breaths before you begin. Look up at your audience - and remember to smile
  • Act the part. Project your voice. Speak as naturally as possible, so that your words have intonation and meaning. If possible and appropriate, inject a little humour.
  • Encourage participation. If you don't know the answer to a question, you can always offer to send on further details

Do's and Don'ts of presenting

Do

  • Think of your audience
  • Be enthusiastic about your subject
  • Speak clearly

Don't  

  • Hit a monotone
  • Retreat into your notes
  • Leave your audience to do the work

Remember the most boring of subjects can seem interesting if presented in an interesting way - and unfortunately, the opposite also applies!

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