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Have you observed how our entire life is one big dramatic presentation to the world?
We’re constantly transforming to present ourselves better, so we look better, think better, act better, do better, choose better, live better, and ultimately, become so much more better ourselves. It’s one heck of a way to personal expansion!
This is never truer than in a corporate Presentation. Professional presentations are a tiny glimpse of the larger cycle. They provide us wonderful opportunities to present our best foot forward, to a live audience.
Yet, public speaking ranks among the top fears suffered by professionals.
- I’m naturally shy!
- I’m a boring person!
- I’m not as good as this person, or that person!
- People will laugh at me!
- What if I get stuck or forget my lines?
- What if I (shudder) fail?
If you’re one from this crowd, we have good news for you.
Presentation skills are skills that can be honed, in any individual. So throw away your angst and your fear, coz in this post, we outline 10 ways that are guaranteed to make a powerful presenter out of you!
Stay Real. Stay Yourself
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If there’s one reason we see people fail with their presentation skills despite adequate preparation, it’s because they *think* they have to become someone else in front of an audience: naturally playful folks pretend to become serious, reserved folks (fake) laugh a lot, and simple folks suddenly get complicated. The result is an undeniable disaster!
Let us assure you about this first: developing great presentation skills does NOT require you to change who you are inside. For instance, if you’re a naturally quiet person, you are not expected to become a flamboyant extrovert overnight. Quiet people have friends too and can express themselves effectively. In fact, their communication is perhaps more effective than a mindless chatterbox!
You are allowed to be yourself, only that you consciously present to others your best self.
This begins by throwing away all nonsensical ideas you believe, that take away from your best self. These ideas typically arise from comparison:
- I’m not as expressive as this person. (So your presentation will have less drama. Big deal!)
- People don’t laugh at my jokes as they do for that person. (That’s not true, you simply need to Google funnier jokes!J)
- I’m short so people can’t see me. (Are you saying people can’t see you standing, when they’re sitting? If so, you’ll just have to use your “booming voice” to reach people, or perhaps use a long stool to sit on. Adds good drama! J)
As you can see, building solid presentation skills requires you to give up the *wrong* attitude and ideas.
As you work through the rest of the tips outlined here, you’ll discover that there’s always something you can do better, even as you stay true to yourself.
Express Your Passion
Passion is that special ingredient that adds a huge dose of interest to your presentation. You see, passion brings with it the 3 mighty E’s: Enthusiasm, Excitement and Energy!
Conversely, if you’re struggling to connect passion with your presentation skills, ask yourself what triggers the 3 E’s for you.
- What gives you a kick and gets you excited?
- How can you use this in your presentation and spread your enthusiasm?
- How can you flood your audience with a powerful dose of high energy?
This in turn will lead to your passion.
Sometimes, we may feel “compromised” to present a topic that’s not aligned with our passion. Here’s an open secret: awesome presentation skills is all about making the most out of EVERY presentation opportunity.
Even in those circumstances where you don’t feel connected to the topic, or the audience, or the timing is all wrong, you can still find something to feel passionate about. Perhaps you can use this as opportunity to tighten your presentation skills, or treat this as an opportunity to learn something different, or create a stage to showcase humor, or attempt to draw answers from others. Just something, anything, coz if you’re not passionate about your own presentation, you cannot expect others to willingly share their attention!
So inject your talk with tremendous passion. You’ll find that this naturally leads you to add supremely interesting elements to your presentation. And that is the key to building audience participation (and rock-solid presentation skills).
Prepare for Perfection
You’d be surprised to know that the greatest of presentations delivered are backed not just be mere skill, but continuous preparation.
We live to become better. So with every new session of preparation, we will get better. Heck, it’s the rule of the game!
Let me give you an example here. The first time you prepare the material for your session, you’re likely to discover that you don’t have it all right, or even have it all together. But as you continue to work on your material, the scattered pieces begin to fit together.
It’s the same with your presentation skills.
The first time you hear/see yourself present, you might either be flabbergasted by your ghastly delivery, or awestruck with how cool you sound. Either way, don’t stop there. Don’t take yourself for granted.
Continue to prepare tirelessly without looking for “The End”. You will achieve perfection.
Rehearse, and rehearse some more
This is a little different from preparation. With rehearsal, you present your final polished act before a live but “mock” audience.
We suggest that you present with the following mock audience to get the best out of your rehearsal:
To yourself, in front of a mirror.
You are your most adamant critic. When you rehearse in front of a mirror, it will reflect your conviction. This in turn will help you understand what to tweak to strengthen your conviction. This is the key to stay confident and convincing in front of an external audience.
To close friends or family.
Did you know that people find it more challenging to present to known people than to complete strangers? We care more about their (perceived) judgment coz we care about them. If you can comfortably present to people you know, you’ve literally passed the acid test. It’s a great way to strengthen your presentation skills.
To the stage where you will present.
Treat this as a “dress-rehearsal,” where you get a chance to figure out the dynamics of the room where you’ll finally present. This will help you tweak the amount of movement during your presentation, your most comfortable stance, and the best way to use any props the stage provides.
Finally, remember this: the intent of rehearsals is for you to catch potential improvements for your presentation, coz it’s all really about getting better every moment. So don’t feel disappointed if your rehearsal doesn’t turn out “perfect”. Building awesome presentation skills is an iterative cycle and no small effort goes wasted.
Leave Space for Spontaneity
There is such a thing as an “over-practiced” presentation. Here, we don’t mean that you’ve prepared too much, but that you’ve left no room for spontaneity in your preparation.
Despite all your preparation, there will be always be a surprise or two. Believe us when we say that this is a good thing to happen to your presentation.
If you can become comfortable with this, you will:
- Become comfortable with not knowing it all.
- Learn to improvise on your feet when put on the spot. Without panic.
- Find ways to engage the audience to provide answers and increase participation.
Together, they can provide avenues for your sparkling spontaneity to shine throw. It is the spark of spontaneity that takes your presentation skills to a different level all-together. We gently suggest that you allow this to happen.
Mix Things Up
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There is only one guaranteed formula that great presenters have for success: there is no “set” formula.
The best way to handle your presentation is to handle each delivery as a new learning experience. For instance, if using a Q&A session at the end of your presentation has worked for you in the past, don’t automatically assume that this is the only way for success in the future. Perhaps a fun quiz will work better for your next audience. Or you may choose to use rock music insertions to appeal to a younger crowd and powerful visuals for a professional crowd.
Prepare to experiment and mix things up to get the results you desire. Let your presentation skills be backed by solid variety.
Participate in Your Own Presentation
Let’s take a step back here and imagine that we’re the audience. Let’s take another step back to a different time, when someone else presented a potentially interesting topic. BUT, the speaker spoke to the wall as he blindly changed one slide after another. Perhaps he didn’t even wait to check if the audience had finished reading the slide, or worse, had questions.
Not much fun, was it?
Don’t make the same mistake with your presentation.
A good speaker actively participates in his or her own presentation. This means that they:
- Don’t take their audience for granted. They consciously connect and engage with the audience. (It’s not just the audience that can have questions for you; you can have questions for them too!)
- Actively listen to the audience. Do they have questions? Is the pace too fast? Too light? Too much? They also actively listen to themselves, just like the audience.
- Stay confident and comfortable when they discover (perhaps quite rudely during their presentation) that they don’t know something. They treat it as an opportunity to expand their knowledge and presentation skills.
- Allow for “planned” distractions. Nobody wants to attend a monotonous session no matter how intense or important the topic is. If you don’t introduce some entertainment into your session, the audience will find their own entertainment, perhaps at your expense! Best to balance your intense sessions with some fun elements.
Armor Yourself with the Right Body Language and Attitude
As any body language expert will tell you, we communicate more through non-verbal signals through our gestures than through our speech. Hence it makes sense for every good presenter to invest himself in learning basic body language skills. After all, you don’t want to inadvertently stand in aggressive posture while you speak eloquently on “How to make friends, easily” do you?
With positive body language at play (and these do include exceedingly simple tricks like maintaining eye contact, adapting a non-threatening posture, smiling often, etc.), what you speak and how you act cohesively align to send out a powerful, consistent message.
Better still would be to include the right attitude to your presentation toolbox. In fact, almost all sub-conscious gestures arise from the attitude we carry. If we’re anxious, we are likely to mimic body language gestures like closed arms, stooped shoulders, etc. that reflect our anxiety.
Here, the top 2 traits that are always welcomed by an audience are Openness and Confidence. Together! If you show your openness without confidence, the audience is likely to find you underprepared. And if you appear confident without openness, you may come across as arrogant. So armor your presentation skills with the right body language and attitude traits. Together, they will support you to consistently come out a winner!
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Recognize Your Audience
Do you know what ranks as “the most threatening fear” of public speaking? Fear of being judged by your audience. It’s even bigger than the fear of failure.
We tend to the think that the audience is constantly judging us and waiting for us to err and fail. But that’s simply not true!
You see, almost nobody enjoys a bad presentation. So even before you begin, a large part of the audience wants you to succeed. They are rooting for you. They are with you. They are on YOUR side.
If you can remember this constantly during your presentation, your natural self will flow through easily and make the session a resounding success. Good presentation skills are also all about letting your natural-self shine through.
Having said this, we do advice you, repeatedly, to never take your audience for granted.
When you begin your presentation, take a few minutes to understand their interest and comfort level with your topic. Accordingly, don’t hesitate to make minor adjustments on the go so your session sits well with your audience. They will better appreciate you for it.
Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
A lot of our perceived failures are because we take ourselves way too seriously. We judge and critic ourselves and believe that unless we deliver this, this and that, our presentation is not a success.
If you’re serious about packing in undeniably solid presentation skills, that is one attitude to ruthlessly throw out of the window!
Drop your judgments on what a “good” presentation or a “successful” presentation looks like! If you have lasted until the end of the presentation (without falling apart), and you’ve engaged the audience, your presentation is a success. Your presentation skills are rolling. YOU, are a success!
But off course, there’s always the next opportunity, to do even better.
Recognizing this truth can dramatically reduce the pressure that comes from negative, self-inflicted judgments.
This post is set to fortify your presentation skills and make a winning presenter out of you. Don’t take it to heart if you don’t get it all right with your first session. Just as long as you don’t give up after any perceived failure, you are on your way to becoming a mighty effective presenter!
We leave you with one last-minute tip so you always get it right. This is one trick you can use any time you find yourself stuck, panicky, forgetful, anxious, tired, confused, etc.
Just BREATHE. Smile. And continue.
See, it’s that natural. There’s nothing to it!
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