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How to Improve Your Presentation Skills to Impress Audiences

A presentation provides you with an opportunity to effectively pitch your products/services, present your business plan or promote your business to a large audience. That’s why you should master the art of giving a presentation in order to impress your audience and get the desired results.

The following guide explains how to improve your communication skills and deliver an exceptional presentation.

How to Improve Your Presentation Skills to Impress Audiences

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Eric Lofholm
Master Sales Trainer
Keynote Speaker
EntrepreneurNOW Network

Subjects of Expertise

Sales Skills
Motivation
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TJ Walker
Bestselling Author
Personal Development & Habits Expert
EntrepreneurNOW Network

Subjects of Expertise

Communication Skills
Public Speaking
Personal Development
Arvee Robinson
Master Speaker Trainer
Bestselling Author
EntrepreneurNOW Network

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Public Speaking
Persuasive Presentations
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Brad Hussey
Web Designer
Marketing Consultant
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Carol Marzouk
Executive Coach
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EntrepreneurNOW Network

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Valerie Sargent
Emotional Intelligence Strategist
Award-Winning Business Leader
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Scott Robertson
Certified StoryBrand Guide
Public Relations Expert
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Paul Banoub
Technologist
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Focus on Your Needs

What’s the next presentation you have to give? Where you are most focused on improving your presentation skills? Is it giving a job interview, fear of public speaking, speaking to a large group, or something else? Determine your needs and focus on them.

When giving a presentation, you also need to focus on your audience. You have to look at every presentation through the lens of your audience. Your presentation should be tailored to the interests and needs of your audience.

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Brainstorm Your Messages

It’s time to brainstorm message points and ideas that you want to put in your presentation. This is a tricky thing for most people, but if you look at it from the perspective of your audience and their needs, then brainstorming will be easier.

However, make sure to narrow down your messages. You don’t want to present everything you’ve brainstormed. Narrow down to three or five messages you think are the most important.

Choose Appropriate Tools

If you want to be good at building your presentation skills, then you’ll have to learn how to identify the tools and tactics best suited to each particular situation. For instance, if you are giving a presentation to a venture, PowerPoint will be an appropriate format.

Practice on Video

Don’t ever give any presentation until you’ve practiced on video. Use your cell phone. Practice recording yourself on video, review it and keep doing it till you love what you see.

Get Feedback

After you record a video and you’re happy with the end result, send the video to a friend or two friends, a family member, or colleagues. Ask them to watch it and after they’ve watched it, ask them what they remember from the video. If you had any visuals, ask them what visual they remembered. 

If they remembered your visual and message, that means you were successful. If they just tell you that everything was smooth and professional, it means you’ve failed. You didn’t get them to remember any of your ideas. In this case, you need to go back to the drawing board, recraft your speech, rerecord it, resend it to them or a couple of other people until they tell what you want to hear.  Your goal is to make an impression on them with your message.

Upload the Video

After you’ve got the best presentation you’ve recorded so far, upload it to either YouTube, Facebook, or some video-sharing platform where it’s visible to people. You must get used to showing it to other people. Part of what scares us is the possibility of negative judgment, but remember that nobody cares about you, and even if they make judgments, you shouldn’t care about that. Sharing your presentation with people not only boosts your confidence, but you can get constructive feedback to improve. Of course, you shouldn’t share anything if it’s confidential.  

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Get Feedback from Your Audience

Though testing your presentation in front of your friends and colleagues can help you improve it, the objective is the actual audience you’re going to give the presentation. You want to make sure your presentation delivers what they are looking for. 

The best way to know what your audience wants is by asking questions. If you have given a pitch before and been successful, ask your client why they hired you or what about your presentation made an impression. It can seem awkward or embarrassing to do this, but people are happy to talk about that most of the time. It will help you know what moved your audience, and you can use that in your next presentation. 

Tell Stories

What’s the single most significant difference between great presenters and boring ones? It’s not about their vocabulary, accent, or how good-looking they are. It’s storytelling!

Great presenters tell personalized stories for every single message they want their audience to understand and remember. Now there’s a lot of confusion about stories. People tell me, “Oh, T.J., I’m not a natural-born storyteller.” Two minutes later, they’re telling me about their way into the training facility that day, how someone cut them off, how they were late to a scene, and they almost drove off in telling stories. All human beings tell stories all the time. We do it mostly with family and friends in a relaxed atmosphere.

However, great presenters use stories to present ideas about business, civic life, companies, goals, campaigns, and more. If you want to be a great presenter, you’ve got to tell great stories to illustrate your key messages. Your audience is going to love you.

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Add Visuals

Visuals help your audience understand and remember your messages more clearly. Visuals can come in all sizes and shapes. For instance, if your presentation is a marriage proposal, your visual might be a diamond ring. If you’re giving a presentation on a new tennis racket design, show the tennis racket. If you have a new super-slim laptop, show how slim the laptop is. 

These days, PowerPoint is the easiest visual for most people. However, you can have any sort of visuals, such as an image or a graph, as long as they effectively deliver your messages and make them more understandable for your audience. 

Use a Cheat Sheet

Don’t worry about memorizing, stressing, or trying to read bullet points on PowerPoint slides or your notes. You don’t want to read to your audience because it makes you look boring. Instead, prepare a single-page cheat sheet of your main messages, print it out in large fonts, put it down in front of you, and glance at it occasionally. This makes it easy for you to memorize your messages without going through a whole bunch of screens, and you look supremely confident and authoritative. 

Start the Presentation with Something Unusual

Starting a presentation can be challenging for most people. My clients ask me, “What’s the best way to start a presentation? Should it be with a joke or a story?” Don’t pressure yourself to be extra funny if you’re not a standup comedian. You don’t have to be overly dramatic either. 

All you have to do is figure out one thing a little different from what most speakers start with. Don’t start your presentation with something like, “Good morning; my name is John. Today, I’m going to talk about X, Y, Z, and blah blah.” Say something interesting and valuable to your audience. A story can be a great way of doing it or a question stating something that might get your audience’s attention. Basically, anything other than good morning, I’m happy to be here, etc. Talk about the audience when you start, and they’ll pay attention to your next point. 

Make an Eye Contact

Your eyes are your most powerful body language tool. When you are giving a presentation, you need to be looking at people. You don’t want to stare at someone and make them feel uncomfortable, but you do want to be looking at people most of the time. When you’re presenting to a larger audience, you may lock eyes with one person for a few seconds and then go to the next person.

If you’re giving a presentation and you’re ignoring your audience, they’ll also respond by ignoring you because they’ve got something a lot more interesting. If you don’t find them interesting, they’re going to find something interesting on their cell phone. They’re going to check email, texts, or social media. That’s why it’s critical to focus on having excellent eye contact every time you give a presentation.

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Influence the Audience

Most of the time, when you give presentations, it’s because you want to influence the audience to take your desired action. For instance, you want a specific budget item approved. You want someone to sign a new contract hiring you. You want an investment.

The question is, how can you influence your audience to take your desired action? It comes down to four particular areas:

Being Comfortable

Know how to look comfortable, confident, relaxed. There can be a lot of different situations any time you are presenting to someone, but you want to make sure you look comfortable, confident, and relaxed in any situation.

Shaping Messages

The second goal is knowing how to shape messages that are understandable to your audience. If you’re speaking too quickly or using too many complex phrases, words, or jargon, they’re not going to understand you. You want to make sure that your audience understands you.

Making Messages Memorable

Think of the last five presentations you’ve seen in your office, workplace, or school. Now, think of how many messages you remember from those presenters. Can you name ten, twenty, or thirty messages, or even five? Typically, people would say everyone’s boring in our company, and they don’t remember anything, or they occasionally remember one or two ideas. It simply means that you’ll have to make sure your messages and ideas are memorable.

Influencing the Audience

When you work on the above three areas, only then you can influence the audience to do what you want.

Eliminate Fear, Build Confidence

Fear and confidence are two different concepts, but they’re related when it comes to public speaking. Most people struggle with overcoming the fear of public speaking and being more confident when they speak. 

Let’s address fear first. If you have a fear of public speaking, it just means you’re normal. We’re born with that. But you have to ask yourself, why are you afraid? What do you fear? It’s like a lot of things in life. You fear the unknown. You’re a little kid; you fear a dark room because you don’t know if there are monsters under your bed. If you have fear about a presentation you’re about to give, it’s quite often because you don’t know if you’re going to be interesting to the audience. You don’t know if they’re going to understand you or care about you. So, it’s rational to have fear when you don’t know if you have exciting ideas. The solution is to practice your speech on video until you’ve seen yourself. 

If you go off and deliver a presentation without seeing yourself giving it, you might actually be boring people to death. The solution is not to just feel better about it or think of something else, but to fix the problem. If you’re fearful about speaking, it means you’re afraid about not giving an interesting presentation. The solution is to improve the presentation and make it interesting and memorable. 

Now let’s flip to the other side - confidence. How can you be more confident when it comes to public speaking? It’s related to fear. Many people have given a lot of presentations. They’re not aware of actually being fearful of speaking. Their hands are not shaking, they’re not sweating, but they still don’t feel confident that they’re great. Guess what? Everything I just said about how to conquer your fear of public speaking applies to how to have supreme confidence in your presentation skills. 

Practice on video until you love it. When you’ve seen yourself delivering information and ideas, you look at it and think, “Wow, this will really help people and that’s how I want to come across,” confidence will just come out. It will appear on your face, in your voice, your energy. You will be filled with confidence, and the fears will be a distant memory.

To Wrap it Up

If you actually do what I’ve shared in this article, especially recording yourself on video, then you’re soon going to be a good presenter. If you feel good about your last video and you feel that you have a grounding in this process, then you’ve actually done what you had to do. Work on other aspects like crafting your messages and visuals, storytelling, preparing a cheat sheet, and everything shared above, and your next presentation is going to be a hit. Good luck! 

To learn more, you can also check out my Presentation Skills for Beginners online course here.

TJ Walker
Featured Uplyrn Expert
TJ Walker
Bestselling Author, Personal Development & Habits Expert, EntrepreneurNOW Network
Subjects of Expertise: Communication Skills, Public Speaking, Personal Development
Featured Uplyrn Expert
TJ Walker
Bestselling Author
Personal Development & Habits Expert
EntrepreneurNOW Network

Subjects of Expertise

Communication Skills
Public Speaking
Personal Development

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