When the time comes for sharing data with your fellow colleagues, everyone can benefit from a few ways to improve your presentation skills. Whether it’s for a few coworkers, a department, or a full audience, nerves can get the better of any presenter. The trick is to be organized and to avoid “winging it.” However, being organized isn’t so easy since there are numerous ways to handle any topic. Therefore, allow me to share with you some ways to improve your presentation skills that have helped me with numerous other times.
1. Wear Something Blue
Did you know using the color blue is just one of the many interesting ways to improve your presentation skills? Studies have shown that blue registers as “honest” in the mind. I’m not encouraging that you try to lie and get away with it during a presentation, of course! However, if the goal is to be persuasive, little life-hacks here and there couldn’t hurt. There’s a reason why every other courtroom drama has a scene involving a lawyer telling a witness to wear a blue tie on the stand.
2. Avoid Big Walls of Text
This is a common offender in the ubiquitous PowerPoint presentation. It’s tempting to stick every item of information on your slides. However, this will intimidate your audience and make tuning out a tempting alternative. Furthermore, it will force you to turn your back to your viewers, which is a big no-no in all forms of public interaction. Keep your slides brief, and keep the attention on you.
3. Make (Some) Eye Contact
Keeping the connection between audience and presenter is key. As I stated earlier, turning your back kills the bridge. However, moderation is key. Staring down your viewers, unblinking, can be…creepy. It’s also stressful on you. Shift your gaze, and sometimes it’s acceptable to glance at some note cards on a podium (if you have one). Just don’t read off them, because then it’s no better than regurgitating your slides.
However, with the attention off the slides, you become responsible for your information. That’s good! It can be scary, especially if you’re used to reading slides. However, you don’t need to memorize data, because presentations should be flexible and organic. Instead, become intimately familiar with the topic, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to move through your slides fluidly.
5. Break Tradition
Speaking of slideshows, they aren’t the only way to present. Try utilizing other services, like Prezi, which is online and free. Also, you can include polls via “Poll Everywhere,” which allows for direct audience participation. Keep in mind that as long as your viewers are engaged and awake, you win. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
6. Speak Slowly
For some reason, people talk faster onstage. I remember in my acting days I was once told to “speak slowly until the point where it’s uncomfortable.” That will be the perfect tempo for the audience. I promise, it will only feel weird initially. But what’s weirder: speaking a tad slower than usual, or stumbling over your words and confusing your listeners?
7. Be Resilient
Take comfort knowing that nobody understands your data better than you. A popular mantra shared by theater experts is “the audience doesn’t know the script.” Sometimes, mess-ups happen. Instead of freaking out, freezing up, or trying to ignore it happened, just try to be graceful about it. Chances are that it went unnoticed. If it was noticeable, all you need to do is say “excuse me,” and try again.
Believe it or not, presentations can be fun. All you need to do is be prepared and know your audience. The ways to improve your presentation skills don’t end here, though. Do you have tricks you wish to share?