There are plenty of articles, books and samples on creating spectacular presentations. One excellent book is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. I have seen some beautiful presentations with awesome graphics, wonderful photos and stirring quotes but they have also been absolutely boring at the same time. How is this possible? The Presenter! Sometimes the best presentations fall flat because of the presenter’s lack of skills or poor delivery.
Let’s make the assumption that you have built a beautiful presentation following all of the suggested guidelines and tools available. So what do you need to do to deliver an outstanding performance? Here are some suggestions that will surely help you improve your presentation skills.
1) Know your subject matter. This may seem obvious but I have seen many presenters read the slides along with the audience. This does not instill confidence in the presenter’s knowledge. The presenter should be filling in the gaps, expanding upon the slides, and sharing their knowledge. Absolutely never use flash cards. You will bore the audience as you read and look on the index cards.
2) Make it personal. Share a story or examples to help exemplify the point or lesson being taught. This helps engage the audience since no one wants to miss out on a great story.
3) Make Eye Contact. Look at your audience. People will pay better attention to you as your eyes move around the room and engage the audience. This helps connect you with your audience and keep them attentive.
4) Be heard. Make sure you do not speak softly or monotone. You are not trying to put your audience to sleep. If they cannot hear you or you do not speak into the microphone, they will tune you out. Your inflection in your voice is very important. Monotone voices are just plain boring.
5) Practice. Above all else, practice, practice, and practice again. If you think about great actors and artists, they are constantly practicing to improve their delivery and performance. Your audience can tell when you are unprepared by your erratic speech or flow of the presentation. Make sure you are not using “umm” and “you know” as fillers for pauses in your thoughts or sentences. Audiences have made games out of counting the number of “umms” a presenter makes.
It is not easy to perfect your presentation skills but the benefits and results are well worth the efforts. I hope this helps you make a great presentation great in your future. David (@davidawolf)