Simple Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills
If you want to improve your presentation skills, then whenever you attend a presentation, pay attention not just to the content, but also to the delivery of that content. In doing so, note what strikes you as positive or negative about the presentation. Then strive to emulate the positives in your own presentations and avoid the negatives.
When I’ve talked to people about what they’ve experienced as negative in presentations they’ve attended, they’ve cited:
- Showing slide after slide of bullet points
- Plodding through half the slides, then racing through the rest
- Explaining things in a condescending manner
- Not explaining unfamiliar terms or acronyms
- Reading the slides verbatim
- Showing slides filled with tiny type or clashing colors
- Switching continuously between audio, video, slides, etc.
- Moving around too much
- Speaking in a monotone
- Facing the screen rather than the audience
- Running over the allotted time
- Belittling people whose views differed from the presenter’s
Conversely, when I’ve talked to people about the positives in presentations they’ve attended, they’ve mentioned:
- Making eye contact with the audience
- Using a dynamic speaking style
- Telling relevant stories
- Using audio and video—in moderation—to balance the use of slides
- Using diagrams or images rather than bullet points
- Involving and connecting with the audience
- Speaking conversationally rather than in a formal tone
- Pausing to let key points sink in
- Speaking at an easy-to-listen-to pace
- Using humor to connect with the audience
- Inviting questions
- Appearing to enjoy presenting
Of course, a presentation can impress you positively in some ways and negatively in others. For example, I attended a presentation in which the presenter had great material, but she spoke so rapidly that my brain hurt from trying to keep up. I recall another presentation in which the presenter skillfully spoke for an hour without using slides or notes. I was impressed by his ability to do that. The trouble was, he had given no thought to who his audience was, and the material he presented was irrelevant to us.
Whether a presentation you attend delights you or disappoints you, you can learn from it. As you listen, jot down whatever strikes you as positive or negative. From your resulting list, flag two of the positives that you want to focus on in your own presentations and two negatives that you want to guard against. As you master each item, add another one to your list. This is a great way to undertake continuous improvement as a presenter.