Imagine yourself in a room full of colleagues and being able to grab their attention with real leadership — to paint a truly compelling picture for them. Trouble is, most presenters spend more time focusing on which slides to use and in what way — pouring over pictures, colors and fonts — but when it comes right down to it, presentation skills matter far more than materials.
Here are some proven ways of honing them:
1. Make it About Them, Not You
It’s easy to get caught up in ideas excitement and forget that a presentation’s purpose is to inform and persuade. You’re not just talking to yourself, but to other people who have their own interests, concerns and priorities. So, even if you have a great idea that will solve all of their problems, they won’t care unless you help them understand, specifically and succinctly, how it will do that.
So, consider including thought-provoking questions like, “What do you think causes the most mental stress for people at the workplace?” or “Why do businesses struggle with finding talented employees?” This will help get an audience engaged from the start.
2. Perfect Your Posture
When you stand up to deliver a presentation, remember that the audience is making judgments partially based on appearance. If you slouch, they might think you’re lazy, or could consider you defensive or fearful if your shoulders are hunched over. If your chin is tucked into your chest, one conclusion might be that you’re arrogant and unapproachable, and if your arms are crossed over your chest, a reasonable supposition is that you’re closed off and uninterested.
So, if there’s one thing I ensure prior to any public speaking, it’s to perfect my posture.
Related: How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
3. Hook ‘Em with the Opening Line
There’s no better way to ensure that an audience stays engaged than with a powerful first line that hooks — memorable and unique — something that can’t be easily forgotten or ignored.
4. Make Connections
Your best chance of resonating with an audience is to give them what they want — to promise a solution, or at least a compelling answer. But don’t be afraid to inject some light and fun, even when addressing a serious topic. You’ll find that people respond well when entertained, and are more likely to remember what you’re saying if they’ve had a good time hearing it.
5. Tell Stories
People love stories. They are an incredibly powerful way to communicate ideas and connect with an audience. But when it comes to presenting, we tend to avoid using storytelling because it can be hard to pull off without sounding cheesy or pretentious.
It doesn’t have to be that way; the key is to make sure a story has a clear point — something concrete that the listener can take away.
Related: Harness the Power of Storytelling to Transform Your Business for the Better
6. Capitalize on Visuals
A picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is worth even more. Visuals are key. No matter what kind of address you’re giving — whether a pitch, a positioning effort or a casual update — use visuals to support your points, and feel free to apply a mix of images, videos and simple charts.
7. Keep it Short and Simple
No one likes to sit and listen for an extended period. It makes people either bored or anxious (watch as they disappear into their phones), and that’s not a good way to engage. You might think that you need to fill time with all sorts of information, but all you really need is an elevator pitch — a quick summary of what your concept is and why it matters. That way, when someone asks you about your product or service later in the meeting, you can say, “Oh yeah! We’re a [product/service] that helps [fill in the blank].” And if you have any visuals, such as a logo or product image, make sure they’re on hand so they can be passed around in these after-speech chats.
8. Close on a Strong and Promising Note
Remember the last time you watched a movie that ended with a cliffhanger? One of the most frustrating things ever, right? You’re left sitting in your seat, thinking, “What the hell happens next?”
That’s what you need to avoid.
A great way to close strong is by both promising something exciting, then actually delivering. Say the presentation is one dealing with a new product launch or an upcoming sale. Consider asking, “Do this one thing for me, and then I’ll give you a discount ” — a good example of an actionable step with an immediate payoff.
Related: The 5 Steps I Took to Become a Paid Public Speaker
9. Don’t Feed the Trolls During Q&As
Q&As are, ideally, a particularly dynamic component of a good presentation, but there’s always the chance you’ll run into rudeness and/or the unexpected. You’ve worked hard, and now someone’s asking you a question that makes you feel like an idiot.
That’s actually okay, but there’s a huge difference between answering a tough question honestly and getting into an argument with someone who just wants to pick a fight.
Don’t take the bait if someone is obviously trolling. Just give a smile and say, “Thank you for that observation; let’s set up a time to chat after,” then gracefully move on.