4 Tips to Improve Your Presentations

Many roles in business now require the effective sharing of information. Communicating well to internal audiences (such as your team, a workforce) and externally (clients, industry, stakeholders) comes to the fore when one takes on management and leadership responsibility.

Yet, despite the growing awareness of the impact of engaging presentations (think the global TED talks movement) the message is not getting through. Already in this calendar year, I’ve sat through far too many events with speakers who have singularly failed to consider the importance of not just their content but also the method of delivery. [...And I wrote this post whilst being uninspired by a speaker last week!]

My work as a trainer requires presentations in many different context (small and large; formal and informal). Looking back, now I’m very grateful for my first job as I learnt fast about speaking in public - I worked with young people from troubled backgrounds, including those in prison, and they gave me instant feedback if I was boring them! So, I thought I’d share my 4 tips to improving presentations. Many other resources exist to reference – and please do seek them – but here is a summary from my experience:

  1. You are the least important person in the room. The presentation is for the benefit of the audience not you. Setting in your mind the message the audience needs to hear is crucial, it frames what you say and how. I suggest you have one key take-away in your mind, so it can be overtly and covertly weaved into your presentation.
  2. It is not always what you say, it’s the way you say it that matters. If you do not communicate in a way that the audience relates to, your message will be lost. Potential customers, for example, do not want to know about the features of your company if they do not know your value to them first. A great example of how NOT to communicate is Don McMillan’s Life After Death by PowerPoint*. Choose your tone, style, phrases and timings to suit the audience – and don’t forget equality of access for issues such as sight or hearing.
  3. Numb bums make numb minds. If you want to show your competence then make space for your audience to engage with you. It could be Q&A, small groups, exercises, comments, etc. but find ways to include them. If they sit passively for 30 minutes or more they will be checking emails, writing shopping lists or day-dreaming and not listening to you!
  4. It’s a performance, so show you are enjoying it. I know we all have nerves about speaking but don’t forget you set the tone for the room. Even if you do not consider the impact of your body language, mannerisms and approach the audience will; they will feed off your cues. Try smiling it makes a big difference and just like a play on stage the audience only knows you’ve made a mistake if you tell them, so don’t reveal every fear or problem if it is not relevant.

So much material is available online to watch that even if you don’t want to learn by being in an audience, you can see different presentation approaches. For instance, these three videos* online are useful to view:

  • Simon Sinek transmits a powerful business approach with a pen, paper and he didn’t even shave beforehand!
  • This young man tells a personal story with humour masking discomfort to reveal his learnings on leadership
  • Sir Ken Robinson holds an audience with no visuals, just his passionate views on education and engaging stories

Finally, the only way to make use of these tips is to PRACTICE speaking and seek HONEST FEEDBACK. And if you want to discuss preparing for a successful presentation you can contact me for ideas on @berneeclarke or email bernard@knowanddo.com


*Note: These links are to external websites and were correct at the time or writing but please understand I cannot be held responsible for their content or changes.