There is no better way to improve your presentation skills than to be prepared. No matter how confident you appear, no matter how well-presented you are, or how bright your smile, if you don’t know your stuff, the audience can tell and lose confidence in you.
That’s because no amount of superficial flash can make up for a truly deep understanding of your subject. It’s like watching a master of martial arts – all they have to do is walk into the room for you to sense the control they have.
Well, the following five tips for presentations may not be enough to turn you into a Zen Master of the Meeting Room, but they will be able to help you communicate more effectively. And if you are really keen to improve your presentation skills with like-minded people, you might also look into joining Toastmasters Australia, which has social and training functions designed to improve your performance.
1. Say as much as you can from memory
Every debater knows that you don’t win a room over by staring at the cue cards in your hands. Use cue cards as prompts by all means, but you win an audience over by making eye contact with as many of them as possible as you speak. This means that you need to commit most of what you say to memory. That does not mean that you learn your speech like an actor learns his lines. It means that you use your cue cards as prompts, as springboards to the points that you want to make.
2. Present stories, not a flood of stats
Rather than hit your audience with a bunch of figures, humanise your statistics by creating stories. Instead of saying that one of your web design clients “grossed $50,000 in the first year, showing 15% growth against an anticipated 5%”, you could tell the story of the person involved: “Julia was a single mum who, thanks to our new web design, was able to put a deposit on a new home with the $50,000 profit she made in her first year. We promised her 5% growth, but she surprised us all by tripling that.” Same statistic but a completely different – and more memorable – impact.
3. Understand that people want you to do well
Every time we see someone get up to make a speech, a little bit of ourselves goes up there with them. We imagine how nervous we would feel, we think about how we would do in the same situation. Unless you are in a totally hostile environment, your audience is with you. They expect you to deliver information, but what they really hope for is that you are going to be entertaining and relaxed.
As long as you know your topic (see point 1) they are going to give you the benefit of the doubt; they want you to do well.
4. Never apologise
Apologising can make you seem timid at best – and incompetent at worst. Firstly, if you arrived a little late, it’s likely that no one noticed or that someone filled in the time for you. And whatever you do, never start a presentation with “I’m sorry but I didn’t have much time to get this together...” By starting out your speech with an apology, you are pointing something out to people that they may not have noticed. Similarly, if something goes wrong with your laptop, don’t apologise just finish the presentation without it.
5. Stay on top of communication
Communication is key to presentations, but it’s also important to your business. After all, you want to be ready to send important information about your services to prospective clients once you have finished your presentation.
With cloud-based technology, you can send and receive faxes online and even file share quickly and easily. Virtual fax numbers allow you to fax from a PC or smartphone by harnessing your email browser. By attaching documents (up to 1GB) to an email and entering the recipient’s fax number, you can send and receive faxes without an actual fax machine or running afoul of email size limits.
With cloud-based technology, you can present a style of communication that reflects well on you as a business professional. Imagine this – after your presentation you tell attendees that you are going to fax them the presentation notes – then you do it right there in front of them from your smartphone!