Quick Tips to Improve Your Next Presentation

I follow gentleman named Dave Mac – a.k.a. The Presentation Blogger – online because he offers great suggestions for improving presentations and presentation skills. I highly suggest you visit his website, and I’ll share some of his other helpful articles in the coming months.

His presentation style “Cheat Sheet” will help you right away, whether your presentation is tomorrow morning or months away. Keep it handy!

VISUAL COMMUNICATION

Eye contact

You look confident when you make eye contact with your audience. Don’t look at any one person for a long time, but make a point of scanning gently throughout the audience as you deliver your speech. Don’t fall for the advice to “look slightly over their heads” if you’re nervous – the audience can tell you’re avoiding them!

Movement

Want to look like a professional presenter? Add movement to your presentation style. Not fast, jerky movements, but slow, steady, purposeful movements as you walk across the stage or toward the audience. Movement helps you readjust your eye contact from person to person without having to move your head constantly.

Gestures

As you are presenting, imagine it as a conversation between you and someone you know, rather than a formal affair. When you have a conversation with someone you know, you generally use your hands to describe or emphasize what you are saying. Do the same throughout your presentation for a professional effect. However, do not practice and memorize gestures that align to your script. Doing this makes the gestures appear unnatural or forced and comes across as amateurish.

Body Position

Throughout your presentation, maintain an open body position. Don’t cover your body for long periods of time by clasping your hands in front of you or behind your back… this will make you look nervous. Maintain a confident and relaxed stance.

DELIVERY

Start with a “hook”

Begin by asking a question or two instead of reciting boring introductions or an agenda. Ask questions while you hold your hand in the air to encourage audience response. Asking questions also takes the focus off of you and allows you to settle into your role as a speaker. After you get some responses, follow up with brief response to explain how your presentation will answer the question(s) and benefit to your audience.

Start with the screen off

If you can, begin your presentation with the screen off, (just hit the”B” button to turn the screen black; hit it again to return to the presentation) and talk to the audience from the center of the room if possible. Do the first 30 to 60 seconds of your presentation with the screen off to encourage the audience to focus on you, not your PowerPoint. Treat it as a conversation and speak with your audience, not to your audience.

Speaking with your audience in a conversational manner rather than leaning on your presentation will increase audience engagement and retention. You will also be more relaxed and project more confidence.

Don’t fret over mistakes

If you make a mistake, laugh about it, simply correct yourself, or move on. Fretting over small mistakes and apologizing unnecessarily makes you appear to lack confidence. Often, your audience will never even realize you’ve made an error.

Use Presenter View if possible

When delivering your presentation, use the presenter view with PowerPoint or Keynote so you can see which slides are coming next. This improves your verbal transitioning and increases your confidence.

SLIDE DESIGN

Minimize content on slides

Try, as much as possible, to minimize slide content. Slides overloaded with information are confusing for your audience, who will spend time reading slides and completely miss what you have to say. People simply cannot read and listen effectively at the same time. Use white space liberally.

Don’t show all of your information at once

If you have something impactful to say, eg. “We doubled profits last month!”, or “Allow me to introduce our latest product!”, don’t have the information visible on-screen while you give the background or preamble. Showing it later – when you deliver the meaningful information – will add impact to your presentation. If the audience sees the information while you are introducing it, they will be unsurprised – even bored – when you actually deliver what should be high-value information. Use that “B” key often!