Six ways to improve your next presentation

Here are six quick tips to help you ace your next presentation. They are at the heart of the Podium Coaching philosophy. Ask yourself where you stand on each of these points: is there any area that needs your attention? Be honest here. If you have to deliver a lot of presentations it’s easy to get into a pattern. Just read through these six tips and ask yourself if it’s time to shake up your pattern.

Be yourself.  Don’t hide behind big words, convoluted sentences, or behind a persona you think the audience wants. Being yourself, being authentic, is your most valuable asset as a speaker. Don’t try to sound or act like someone else. Don’t use gestures that are foreign to you. Don’t try to use words that you would never use in conversation with a friend.

Be conversational. You are talking to your audience, not reading at them from an essay. When we talk to friends we use everyday words in simple sentences. But when we write, we sometimes draw on a different part of our vocabulary – the part that contains all the big words. Audiences are used to hearing the spoken word, and reading the written word; they get discombobulated when asked to listen to grand words in formal sentences. When I joined the BBC there was a newsroom veteran who told all new recruits: “I never want to see you typing a script. You must dictate it so it will sound like the spoken, not the written, word when you deliver it.” If you write in silence, and judge your words only by how they look on the page, it’s hard to capture your true speaking voice. And that is why TalkitOut is at the heart of our presentation skills training. The words have to come out of your mouth before you commit them to paper.

Be passionate. Be comfortable displaying your passion. Passion engages and inspires your audience. You must believe in, and care about, what you’re saying. Never talk about something that leaves you cold. If you can’t get excited, you have little chance of persuading an audience to believe in you, or follow you, or buy your product.

Be focused. Don’t try to cover too much ground or cram your presentation with information. Identify the one critical message you want the audience to take away. For your audience to receive a clear message, you have to be clear about the message you want them to get. Identify the main message, and condense it into one clear statement.

Be engaging. Use every tool in your arsenal to ensure your message is heard and understood. Your words are only a part of that arsenal. Never forget that you communicate with your tone, your energy, your posture, your hand gestures and your eyes. Don’t overlook the impact of non-verbal communication. Put simply, the more comfortable you are, the more comfortable the audience will be; the more confident you are, the more the audience will have confidence in your message. And don’t forget to pause. The pause is a key tool. You need to pause for the audience to reflect on what you say and for dramatic effect or emphasis. And a strategic pause is a great way to draw the audience’s attention to a point you’re about to make.

Be a storyteller. Stories define us, inspire us, comfort us and teach us. Well-chosen and well-told stories resonate with different audiences in different ways. We apply our circumstances to the story told. The magic of story is that it prompts us to respond ‘that could be me’. Facts tell, stories sell. Can you convert your facts and figures into a story people will remember? Is there an interesting anecdote or detail you can use that will help people accept, process, interpret and remember your information?