Ever have that recurring dream where you’re standing naked in front of a crowd?
You’re not alone. In fact, 77% of people have some anxiety or fear of public speaking. And one of the best ways to alleviate some of that stress and anxiety is to prepare for the presentation and practice ahead of time.
We’ve put together some presentation tips to help you give a great presentation, no matter what topic or venue.
What makes a great presentation
The difference between a good presentation and a great presentation comes down to a few different factors:
- Content. When it comes to content, you want to make sure that you’re providing value for your audience and using language and examples that appeal to them.
- Delivery. A clear and confident delivery can go a long way in keeping the audience interested and helping them retain the information.
- Engagement. Keeping your audience engaged is essential to holding their attention and gauging their understanding and interest.
- Materials. Are you using PowerPoint? Worksheets? Video? Choose the best materials based on the audience, topic, and venue.
- Takeaways. Great presentations give the audience some important takeaways that they can think about or apply long after the presentation is over.
Now that you know the elements of a great presentation, let’s jump into some presentation tips you can use to up-level your next presentation.
10 presentation tips that will help you knock it out of the park
Whether you give presentations regularly or you’re just preparing for a big one, it helps to prepare and practice. Here are 10 presentation tips you can use to improve your presentation skills:
1. Tell stories
People love stories. Not only are they interesting, but they have a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end, which make them easy to remember. Stories will help your audience better connect to and understand the presentation topic.
Use relevant and engaging stories to your advantage during your presentation. For example, you might open with a story about a client who had a problem related to the topic. This is a great way to introduce your audience to what you’re about.
If the people in your audience have the same problem, they’ll be able to relate to the client in your story, so they’ll be more likely to pay attention.
2. Keep the presentation materials simple
When it comes to presentation materials, the simpler, the better. There’s a fine line between engaging and busy. You want to design presentation materials that will capture and hold your audience’s attention without distracting them from the presentation itself.
Here are some easy ways to make sure your presentation materials are simple:
- Don’t write everything you’re going to say in the presentation. Use bullet points with short statements that help the audience follow along and stay on track without having to read a bunch of text.
- Use relevant visuals when you can. Visuals help keep the presentation interesting and they also help visual learners retain more of the information.
- Stick to a few colors and fonts. You don’t want the presentation to be in black and white, but using too many colors or fonts can make it feel too busy.
Remember, simple doesn’t have to mean boring or ugly. Here’s an example of a PowerPoint presentation that’s interesting and stylish, yet simple:
There isn’t an overload of distracting visuals or so many colors that it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. It’s limited to 3 fonts and a few colors. It may be simple, but it’s still beautiful and professional.
3. Use high-quality and engaging visuals
While you want to keep your presentation simple and accessible, certain concepts may be best explained with visual aids. Use infographics, charts, tables, videos, and drawings to explain complex concepts when necessary. You can also use these visual aids to share examples or provide proof of your talking points.
4. Make it interactive
Humans have short attention spans. If you want to keep them engaged in a presentation that’s longer than 5 minutes, you’re going to need to add interactive elements. Choosing the right interactive elements will depend on the presentation topic and goals.
For example, if you are trying to teach the audience something that they will be able to apply to their lives, then you might have them do an exercise during the presentation. That could be to jot down some ideas on a topic or speak with the person next to them. This will help them better grasp the topic and make them more likely to actually apply it when they leave.
If your presentation doesn’t lend well to exercises, you can still make it interactive by asking the audience questions or inviting them to consider a certain perspective. For instance, you might ask them to close their eyes and think about a time that something specific happened. This gets them to interact with the material and understand it on a deeper level.
5. Check for understanding
Checking for understanding is a classic teaching strategy that lends well to presentations, especially those focused on informing or educating. Throughout your presentation, add checks for understanding. These are basically questions you ask the audience to make sure they understand what’s going on.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be an open-ended question. If you’re presenting to a larger crowd where asking a comprehension question might be logistically difficult, you can instead gauge the comprehension and engagement of the whole crowd. For instance, you might ask them to raise their hand if they’ve experienced what you’re talking about or ask them to give you a thumbs up if they’re with you so far.
The thumbs up/thumbs down model of checking for understanding is one that’s easy to use with a large crowd because you’ll be able to quickly discern if your audience understands. You can then adjust on the fly to accommodate those who might need more explanation or examples.
6. Summarize throughout the presentation
Immediately after hearing someone talk, the average person only remembers about 50% of what they heard. That’s why it helps to summarize important information after you’ve presented it.
At the end of each presentation section or after about 10 minutes of talking, provide a quick summary of the most important points you’ve just covered. You can also list those important points at the end of each section on your presentation slides as you reiterate.
7. Smile and make eye contact
Making a personal connection with your audience goes a long way in earning their trust and attention. One of the best ways to do that is to make eye contact while presenting. This makes the presentation feel more like a conversation between you and the audience.
Also, don’t forget to smile! It’s an easy thing to forget, especially if you’re nervous or have anxiety about public speaking. But smiling shows your audience that you actually enjoy what you’re talking about and you’re approachable. They’ll be more likely to pay attention and ask questions.
8. Use your hands and body language
Now it’s time to answer the age-old question… what do I do with my hands?
Using your hands and body language to match the flow of the presentation helps keep people engaged and listening. It also allows you to show your passion and enthusiasm for the topic, which will make people more likely to listen.
Here are some ways you can use your body to make your presentation more engaging:
- Avoid standing behind a podium or laptop. Instead of staying in one place, use the space to your advantage by calmly moving around the floor or stage.
- Use your facial expressions to match the material. When you’re really excited about a topic, let your face show it.
- Stand up straight with your arms unfolded. This makes the audience feel welcome and communicates confidence.
While Steve Jobs may not have been the pinnacle of fashion, he was certainly a confident and engaging presenter. Notice how his presentation stances always communicate excitement and confidence:
9. Practice your delivery.
It might feel a little silly in the moment, but practicing your delivery is one of the most important things you can do to prepare yourself for a presentation. Don’t just read through your notes. Pull up the presentation and go slide by slide through the entire thing, adding any stories or tips that you plan to add during the actual presentation.
As you’re practicing, make sure that you’re speaking out loud and not just thinking through your presentation in your head or reading silently. When you present out loud, you can hear where things may sound awkward or not quite make sense. The time to iron out these details is during the practice period, not the actual presentation.
10. Time yourself
Most presentations will have some kind of time limit. When you’re practicing your presentation delivery, time yourself. This will help you pace the presentation effectively so you’re not moving too fast or too slow. It will also help you make sure you’re sticking to the time limits.
Practice makes “progress”
While there’s no such thing as the “perfect” presentation, you can definitely up-level your presentation skills and become more comfortable with presenting. All it takes is a little effort and practice. And this list is a great place to start for kicking your presentations up a notch!
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