Improve Your Presentation Skills! 5 Tips to Help You Bring Your Audience to Life
To be successful at business presentations, you first need to shift your mindset about what it takes to speak to groups. The myth that the most successful speakers are talented extroverts is inaccurate. In fact, the best speakers are not always the ones who were born with talent and aptitude. Rather, they are people who have learned how to present through reading books and articles, taking presentation skills training programs, watching seasoned speakers, or just jumping in and trying. The very best speakers work at it diligently year after year. They seek out opportunities and feedback, and they are open to coaching and trying new things. Most of all they make an effort to learn the fundamental presentation skills that every speaker needs to master for success. Here are five tips to help you improve your presentation skills so you can bring your audience to life.
1. Structure Your Message: Use a clear structure with a beginning, middle, and end to keep you and your audience on track. Start with a strong opening, state your purpose, and then move to your three to five main points. Support each main point with touch points: stories, metaphors, rhetorical questions, examples, technical information, statistics, charts, and graphs. State the value point so that your audience clearly understands how your message benefits them. Close with a final thought and a clear call to action. This simple content structure will guarantee your presentation skills success.
2. Tell Memorable Stories: Storytelling is the pathway to personal connection. Telling the right story at the right time creates a powerful opportunity to engage with your listeners. Create engaging characters and add details and dialogue. Develop a beginning, middle, and end; make sure there’s a twist; and bring it home with a resolution. Stories penetrate deeply into the hearts and minds of others. They will be remembered long after your last word is spoken.
3. Strengthen Physical Presence: Your physical presence is what the audience sees when they look at you. Imagine that they can’t hear a word you are saying. The only information they have is the physical information you are sending with your body language. Use sustained eye contact (three to five seconds per person), active facial expressions (raise your eyebrows and smile!), erect posture, varied gestures, and powerful movement. Stay physically active to keep your audience alive.
4. Project Vocal Resonance: Your voice is a powerful tool. Imagine that no one in the audience can see you. How do you keep your audience engaged and stimulated? The vocal presentation skills that help you include volume, enunciation, pronunciation, rate of speech, pitch, inflection, and pauses. Pauses help your listeners reflect on your message, so pause long and often—after every third word is not too much!
5. Develop Distinctive Language: Your words give people access to your message and keep your audience involved. Effective language skills include concise sentences (keep them short—eight to thirteen words per sentence), language that is audience focused, and words that convey power and emotion. Use the word YOU often. It is the most powerful word in the English language. Eliminate distracting words such as “really,” “like,” “basically,” “okay,” and “you know,” and drop those grating non-words such as “umm,” “ah,” “er,” and “uh.” Keep your language clear and free of word pollution.
About the Author
Angela DeFinis is an expert in presentation skills training and coaching. As a presentation skills trainer, speech coach and founder/CEO of DeFinis Communications, she has spent over twenty-five years helping business professionals find solutions to their communication challenges and develop a broader repertoire of potent presentation skills. Her message and approach create positive, personal, and lasting change.