At some point in your career, the presentation skill you outlined on your resume is suddenly going to come into play. Are you prepared to present last season’s campaign results? Lead a team scrum session? Or are you introducing a client to the rest of the department? It’s a soft skill that demands time and a place sure, but that doesn’t mean it should be neglected. No matter your title, possessing strong presentation skills involves more than just droning on and on in a clear voice. Being a stronger presenter means building off those communication skills you already possess. Need more convincing? Shake off those nerves and prepare for some presentation skills training with these pointers below!
Even the greatest of the great had to work at their presentation skills and get over their stage fright so to speak (pun intended). From political leaders (Thomas Jefferson) to famous actors (Emma Watson, say again?) to even musicians (Jay-Z, fake it until you make it?), everyone needed to find a method to get it right.
One of the basics is to script it out. Writing down your key points helps you set up a roadmap for yourself and your audience. Does it make sense? Did you include everything you want to say? Are you able to cut some details out? Keep rejigging it until you’re completely satisfied. Being comfortable with your content is only going to make you sound more natural when presenting. Also with each revision, it’ll stick that much better in your mind’s eye. Whether it’s a piece of paper or in your iPhone’s notes, you’ll find peace of mind knowing what you’re going to say.
So how do you say it? That’s where practicing aloud comes in handy. You can go old school and just practice by yourself in front of a mirror or you can take it one step further by recording yourself. Set up your phone or webcam and go for it. By seeing yourself, you’ll see all the little ways you can improve. Sure, you might feel silly at first but just wait and see how much better you get at it in between takes.
The ultimate test run though is presenting to a close friend, family member or even a trusted colleague. Those nerves might bubble up here and that’s good. It’ll allow you to face them before the big show. Plus, that lovely audience of one will be able to provide some further feedback.
If your nerves are still coming through even after all that preparation and practice, then it’s time to find another source of calm. One of the best ways to channel your inner presentation guru is by watching some experts – thanks, YouTube! By watching some of your favourite speakers or TedTalks, the inspiration kick will hit and tune down those worries. Some of our favourite presenters of all time include Brené Brown, Michelle Obama and who doesn’t love Mr. Rogers?
Try to not dwell on your nerves. Remember, nerves are just a physical reaction to the upcoming presentation. If your mind is focusing on what could go wrong and keeps spinning like a hamster’s wheel it’s time to practice some mindfulness techniques. If you’re a beginner when it comes to mindfulness, then check out this blog we’ve put together: Your Thoughts & Mind Working Together: Conquer Work Stress with Mindfulness.In this case of battling the presentation jitters, some positive self-talk will go a long way in boosting your confidence. Positive self-talk is all about telling yourself the good rather than focusing on the bad. You can do this through an inner monologue or even aloud which is a bonus practice for presenting!
Whether presenting in a room or Zoom call, it’s important to get comfortable in that space. Arrive a bit early to set yourself up and get the best vantage point so you can see everyone. If presenting remotely, then make sure to get all your camera settings ready and clean up your video background. These last few minute touches will ease your mind and make you feel more in control of the upcoming presentation. Plus, it sets up a window for some small talk with any early arrivals. Need some pointers on all thing’s video? We have the blog just for you with tips and tricks on setting up your video for the best background and lighting.
Speaking of which, knowing your audience will affect your delivery. Do you know who’s attending? Their names? If you have to learn some new faces, then preparing for that moment beforehand will make it less awkward and not catch you off guard. So if they do arrive early, make sure to get their name somewhere in the conversation – they might ask a question later. Another good time to ask for names is during a Q&A portion of your presentation. It’ll break the ice and build rapport between you and your audience. Think of comedians who engage with their audience during their set. You won’t be heckling your listeners during a business presentation of course, but by casually using their names, it makes everyone comfortable and ready to listen. You’re the presenter who cared enough to know their name.
Even if presentations never become your favourite part of the job, having that communication skill in your repertoire is like having an ace up your sleeve. But there’s no bluffing here. You’re the real deal when it comes to presentation skills because you’re ready to do the work. It’s not just about having your audience hang on your every word. It’s knowing that what you have to say matters, and that’s the thrill of a great presentation.
As the semester winds down, you realize your professional image still needs work. If you’re wondering what to do next, maybe it’s time to start working on your brand.