Becoming a Better Presenter: From Bad to Superb Presentation SkillsJonathan Berntsen
Have you ever come across a speaker who knocked you breathless with his or her speech? A speaker who pulled you to the edge of your seat and made you feel like you’re part of a privileged audience? At least once in your professional career, you’ll be granted the chance to be that speaker. You’ll find yourself holding the opportunity to make an impact and leave a lasting impression that will resonate with the audience for a long time.
It doesn’t matter if you’re ready or not. Circumstances don’t choose their preys. You’ll have no choice but to take the limelight when the moment strikes, so bask in its glory while you can. No excuse is good enough to turn down an opportunity to be great at something. Greatness doesn’t happen by accident, and mastery doesn’t come in a snap. You need to invest both time and effort to be a better presenter.
Below are some aspects of public speaking that you can hone with dedication and perseverance.
Building Around Your Core Message
You can’t plunge head-first to a speaking engagement without fully understanding your core message. Take time to get your thoughts straight and identify the essentials of your speech. Don’t treat your presentation like a dumpster for ideas. If you cover too much material, your audience will end up either bored or boggled. In a typical public speaking setup, less is more, so know what to include in your talk and what to leave out. Once you have a tight grip on your message, structure your thinking so that you can present your ideas in a way that’s both interesting and comprehensible.
The Audience as Your Touchstone
You can’t preach to an audience that you know nothing or little about. Unless you speak with their interests in mind, don’t bother speaking at all. The audience is an important part of your presentation that you can’t ignore. You need to know their pains, opinions, desires, and goals. What do they understand about the topic? Where do they stand about the issue? How can you challenge them to think differently? How can you improve their lives?
Your presentation will be for nothing if the audience remains unreceptive to your message. Make sure your ideas don’t fall on deaf ears. Speak on a personal level to encourage your listeners to engage in a conversation with you. When you make the mistake of being self-righteous, you’ll lose the game. Remember, the goal is to communicate effectively, not to look impressive.
Crafting a Killer Slide Deck
Your supporting visuals can have a huge bearing on the success of your presentation, so make sure you use the right design elements across all your graphics. Do away with bullets, long texts, and cheesy slide transitions. Be consistent with the font, and stick to a simple color scheme. If you’re going to use an image, don’t go hunting in the clipart library—use high-quality stock images and authentic photos instead. If you need assistance for PowerPoint design, collaborate with a slide design artist who can take the aesthetics of your presentation to the next level.
Fine-tuning Your Presentation
How many stage presenters does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Four. One to do the actual task, and three to help him rehearse the act.
That may be a pathetic attempt at comedy, but it sums up the importance of constant practice in public speaking. Once you have your content and design all figured out, it’s time to put everything you’ve worked hard on to the test. Demonstrate your presentation to three qualified people, and elicit their feedback and reactions. Make sure to address everything they have to say. Find time to practice your gestures and rehearse your speech. Learn the piece by heart, and don’t stop until the day of your presentation. Don’t worry about over-practicing—there’s no such thing.
A Word on Authenticity and Confidence
Presentation jitters are natural, but that doesn’t mean you should let them overpower you. Don’t beat yourself up for having the urge to shy away from the spotlight. Although it’s true that the audience don’t want to see how nervous you are, they will likely empathize with you if you fail to keep your composure onstage. You’ll be amazed at how many people can relate to the nerve-racking feat that is public speaking. Just take deep breaths and remember who you are and what you’re there for. Tell yourself, “I have something unique that the audience wants, and I’m going to go ahead and share it.” Stamp out your self-doubt by letting your personality shine through. If you stick to the real you, the audience will be more willing to receive your message.
The Performance of a Lifetime
Take every public speaking assignment like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Prepare for it like it’s the performance of your life. If you look at it this way, you’ll be able to prepare thoroughly and put your best foot forward. While onstage, you need to project a good stage presence. You can do this by dressing professionally, establishing eye contact, taking full control of your voice, and breathing evenly. It would also do you and everyone else good if you respect your audience’s time by sticking to the schedule.
Of Passion and Enthusiasm
If there’s one thing you should be while delivering a speech, it’s enthusiastic. Nothing beats the warm vigor of a presenter brimming with passion about his or her speech. If you’re passionate, the audience will be too because passion is infectious. When all’s said and done, energy is more impactful than eloquence.
Becoming a better presenter will serve you well throughout your professional career. It will open new opportunities that you’ve never had before. Take your presentation skills to the next level, and watch as you get closer to finding success.
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