No matter what industry you’re in, excellent presentation skills can dramatically enhance your career trajectory. “[Even] in [today’s] digital age, making a strong presentation still remains a critical skill,” says Rutgers University Business Professor Marc Kalan in a recent article. If you’re presenting regularly, chances are you’re pretty good at it. But if not, read on. Whether you’re a seasoned speaker or someone just starting out, sharpening your skill set is never a bad idea. While there are numerous strategies that can help you deliver greater value and effectively engage your audience, reaching for them all at once can be unproductive and overwhelming.
These three tips will help you master your presentations and present like a pro:
Develop top-notch material. The basis for every great presentation is excellent material. Plan ahead by conducting solid, scholarly research and developing key takeaways for your audience. Organize your material in advance to ensure that you can thoroughly move through key points and set aside adequate time for questions at the end. Create a dynamic learning environment by including opportunities for participants to interact and apply the concepts introduced. Provide attractive, well-written handouts that can be referenced, which double as outlines and provide additional space for note-taking. Master this phase of preparation and you’re well on your way to creating a winning presentation.
#SavvyChat Tip: Consider creating a striking color cover and print everything else in black and white (unless graphs and charts require color).
Practice like a pro. Whenever you prepare for a live presentation, you should practice as if it were actually taking place. That means standing up, speaking aloud, delivering your points, and going through mock exercises. It may also mean days and weeks of endless preparation, depending on your learning curve. In the context of public speaking, it is often said that “People get rewarded in public for what they do in private.” Your willingness to practice “like you mean it” reflects your commitment—or the lack thereof—to excellence. Pros embrace excellence because they know that however you show up in practice is how you’ll show up on game day.
#SavvyChat Tip: Memorize your introduction and conclusion to help you open and close with confidence.
Review every presentation for “best” and “next” practices. Pros evaluate every performance with a fine-tooth comb. Whatever they’ve done exceptionally well, they simply rinse and repeat. But where blind spots exist, they acknowledge and discover ways to improve.
#SavvyChat Tip: Provide evaluation forms for the audience every time you present. Draft open-ended questions to elicit narrative responses. Make evaluations anonymous to encourage open and honest feedback.
Learning to become a top-notch presenter takes practice—a lot of practice. However, if you’re willing to put in the work, you can learn to present like a pro!
To your success!
Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq. is the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @wsrapport or visit her website, WordSmithRapport.com.