By Ben Liu, eCommerce Director at Kofax
Giving presentations during your career journey is a far cry from standing in front of an elementary classroom to deliver a book report. That said, you might still feel the same kind of anxiety that you did back then. Although you may think that some people are born presenters, speaking, and giving presentations are both skills that you can train and improve.
Developing confidence in front of a group early in your career will pay dividends for many years to come. When you effectively communicate ideas, engage your audience, and make listeners feel that they are spending their time wisely, you can establish yourself as a trusted resource.
In this article, you’ll discover six things that you can do to improve your capabilities and stand out in the meeting room.
#1: Refine Your Opening To Grab Your Listeners
Don’t bury the lead. When you take the stage and stand in front of an audience, the first few minutes of your presentation are essential. You must capture the audience’s attention and give them a reason to continue listening.
The more interesting your opener, the more likely you are to gain an audience who will follow along to hear what you have to say. This opener could be a funny and relevant joke, self-deprecating humor, or a shocking and attention-grabbing statistic. Whichever you choose, tie it into your first round of critical points. Avoid lingering too long in the opening phase—warm up your audience, then dive into the information that they most want to hear.
#2: Ask And Answer Questions
Avoid the monotone drone. If you view your presentation as a marathon to get to the finish line, you’re more likely to deliver all the material in a dry, sequential manner. It’s tough for an audience to stay engaged when someone simply tells them information.
Make your speech more interesting by stopping to pose questions. You may ask the audience to weigh in (if you are comfortable with that level of engagement), or you can pose targeted rhetorical questions. As you provide the answers, you have the opportunity to tell stories, share statistics, and keep your audience interested.
#3: Upgrade Your Presentation Software
Is your choice of software holding you back? The right tools matter when you want to let your speaking skills shine. PowerPoint alternatives such as Prezi and Google Slides offer a robust suite of features that may provide just what you need to give a stand-out talk. These tools are excellent for telling a story to your audience, a strategy which can be vital to delivering a memorable address that generates real impact.
Avoid using technology as a crutch. Fancy animations and slide transitions are good for “ooh”s and “aah”s, but they shouldn’t be what your audience remembers at the end of the presentation. Select software that empowers you to create coherent presentations while reducing the opportunity for technology mishaps on the day of your speech.
#4: Keep Your Audience Engaged
Providing handouts for attendees can be useful, especially if you have a lot of complex information to cover. A handout provides a convenient space for each attendee’s notes while making it simple for attendees to refer back to previous points as your presentation unfolds.
It can be tempting to skip this step because of the frustrations associated with prepping a slideshow for print. Advanced PDF software streamlines this process, making it easy to convert PowerPoint files into a printable PDF. Merge in additional information or graphics from other sources to create a richly detailed and print-ready handout in just a few minutes.
#5: Let Your Slides Support You
Stop reading your slides—let your audience do that. Although using your presentation slides to provide an outline is a basic rule of presentations, many presenters just read off each bullet point. For an audience member, this approach is redundant. Instead, let your slides prepare listeners for what to expect and be more expansive in your speech. Hit the key points but aim to spell out specifics with your words instead of what’s on the screen behind you.
#6: Expect The Unexpected
Even the most practiced presenter runs into trouble from time-to-time due to an unexpected event during a presentation. Most often it’s an interruption to your speaking flow, such as late arrivals or an unexpected question from a listener. Avoid the tunnel vision that you may develop when your focus is on getting through the presentation, rather than sharing information effectively.
Holding questions until the end is a common practice, but some presenters advocate for answering them right away—after all, you never know how many other attendees have the same concern. Listen, understand, and respond to questions thoughtfully, then circle back to recap your previous points before returning to your presentation. To develop a better response to intrusions, ask friends or coworkers to stage an interruption during a practice session.
Command The Room During Your Next Presentation
Strong presentations are all about adequate preparation. From laying out your presentation to building it with the right software to supporting listeners with concise hard copies, there are many steps that you can take now to enhance your abilities. Remember that there is no substitute for rehearsals. Practice, make necessary changes and keep looking for opportunities to improve—your keys to excellent presentations.