How to Improve Your Presentation Skills as an Entrepreneur

© Shutterstock.com | ImageFlow

This article is going to teach you all about presentations. It will acquaint you with: 1) an introduction to presentations, 2) what makes you a good presenter, 3) preparing a great presentation, 4) delivering an effective presentation, 5) tools for presentations, and 6) a conclusion.

INTRODUCTION TO PRESENTATIONS

Almost all of us have at some point or other attended a presentation of some sort. It may have been a lecture, a speech, a PowerPoint or slide show. It could have been informative, persuasive or presented to explain a concept or build goodwill.

Usually during a presentation, a presenter talks about a topic or concept to an audience and explains it using visual aids, printed matter or other such material that support his presentation. Thus a presentation is the act of acquainting an audience with an idea, concept, product or theme, by explaining and demonstrating it to the audience, with the aim of encouraging the audience to agree to and act upon the presenter’s ideas.

What Is a Presentation?

There are many ways of communicating ideas to other people, but during a presentation, the ideas are put forth by a presenter, so there is a human element involved. The presenter’s personality affects the quality of a presentation. There is an immediate interaction between the audience and the presenter, and question and answers can be exchanged. The presenter has to be prepared and aware, should have an engaging personality, and should know the topic very well to be able to give an effective presentation.

A presentation can be designed to communicate to a small group of people or a larger audience. It could be presented in a room or broadcast through media and internet across a wider area. Presentations can be used in education, business, marketing, research, and social and cultural situations. Wherever there is a need for exchanging ideas or educating about a concept, presentations can be used.

Types of Presentations

Though we tend to think of presentations more as an element of business communication, presentations are much more than that. Presentations can be used anywhere and in many different contexts. There are many different types of presentations that are used to connect to the audience and encourage them to act according to what the presenter is proposing. Based on the aim behind the presentation, they can be categorized as follows:

  • Motivational: These presentations are used to motivate the audience into doing something more than they are doing at present. These are used by leaders or people in authority to energize the audience to act. The presenters of motivational presentations are experts in their field and know how to build up a frenzy that makes the audience react in a particular manner.
  • Arousing: These presentations are designed to make the audience think about particular things. The presenter arouses the emotions in the audience to make them receptive to his/her point of view. This involves trying to build up trust, sincerity and solidarity with the audience, before including a call to action.
  • Training: These presentations are normally used to teach the participants some skills. These are used by educational institutes to train the students or teachers, or by businesses and enterprise to teach marketing and sales techniques, or to build up the leadership to take charge of a situation, etc.
  • Persuasive: These presentations are used to persuade an audience to accept the presenter’s point of view and accept whatever he or she is proposing. The presenter needs to convince the audience to support his point and alter its beliefs and actions to coincide with those of the presenter.
  • Instructional: These presentations are used to give directions or very specific orders. They are used to teach processes, or to give directions for the way a thing needs to be done. The presenter needs to have in-depth knowledge of the subject being presented, and the audience should come away with learning how to do something in a very detailed manner. These presentations can be longer than others and may be supported by reading the material to enhance the learning process.
  • Informative: These presentations are used to deliver information of some sort. They can be of two types – reporting and explaining. Reporting presentations inform an audience of developments and bring them up to date. These presentations are used in sales, marketing, research grants, etc. The explanatory presentations provide information about products, concepts, techniques, methods and explain the processes to the audience. Presenters use facts and keep the information simple for such presentations.

Not all presentations use only one technique to win over the audience. Most presentations employ elements of one or more types of presentation to succeed in connecting with the audience. So, most presentations can be said to be Multi-Purpose Presentations.

Essentials of a Good Presentation

The purpose of a presentation is to engage an audience, alter its opinion, and steer it toward the natural conclusion of the presentation which is to act upon the ideas that have been put forth. In order to be classified as good and effective, a presentation needs to have certain key features. The most important feature of any presentation is the presenter, which we will discuss in a separate section. The other essential features include:

  • Planning: This includes details such as when the presentation will be given, what the venue is, whether the presentation is a formal one and requires a formal setting or an informal one. The nature and the size of the audience, what tools you will need and the type of interaction you are expecting from the audience.
  • Content: The content and how it is delivered to the audience is very important. So a presenter needs to have an idea of what the audience wants in order to deliver content that is interesting and absorbing for them. Prepare content that is useful and interesting. Give only as much information as the audience can absorb in one sitting. Do not cram in too much.
  • Structure: Make sure that the presentation has an introduction that is engaging. The presentation should be properly structured and contain a body, summary and conclusion along with the introduction. The information should have a logical progression and should be sequenced. The pace should be easy and comfortable. Do not lose the thread and wander too far from the main topic.
  • Theme: Decide on the theme of the presentation beforehand and stick to it. A presentation need not be just verbal communication, freely use visual aids and body language to emphasize the point. You can also use the reading material to be distributed in the audience to support your argument. Prepare yourself well and know the theme intimately in order to convince the audience.
  • Method: How the presentation is going to be delivered is also important. Whether it is going to be a direct contact method or will be delivered via an audio visual medium such as a podcast, video conferencing, etc.
  • Interaction: Once the presentation is over, the audience may have questions that need answering. It is important to allow time for that, as this is the feedback for the presentation and its effectiveness. A good presenter will be able to gauge the impact of the presentation by the way the audience responds.

PRESENTATION SKILLS – WHAT MAKES YOU A GOOD PRESENTER

Any presentation is only as good as the presenter. A skilled presenter is essential for a presentation to be effective. The personality and demeanor of the presenter have to be appealing to the audience for them to connect and be receptive to the ideas being presented to them. A good presenter should have all or most of the following qualities:

The Voice: This is what the audience connects to the most, as the voice is what guides them and leads them on to accept the ideas being presented. A presenter has to be aware of his or her voice, its pitch, tone and quality to make an effective presentation. It is important to pay attention to the volume of the voice, or how loud it is. The volume should be just enough for the audience to hear properly without the presenter having to shout. Good speakers know when to modulate their voice, what tone to use, when to speak softly to draw the audience in and when to raise it to emphasize a point. Speak clearly and at a pace that is neither too slow nor too fast. Varying the tone, pace and pitch of the voice helps to sustain interest.

The Body: Whenever we are communicating with one another, we use our body to emphasize what we are saying. While making a presentation, the audience is not only listening, it is also watching the presenter. So a presenter must pay attention to the body language. One of the main things to watch for is the posture. How the presenter holds himself conveys a lot, so make sure that you hold your body well, have a good posture and do not slouch. Make ample eye contact with the audience. It demonstrates interest and establishes an element of trust between the presenter and the audience. Facial expressions convey the state of mind and help to connect. Have a pleasant expression and smile often. Be friendly and warm. Do not hesitate in using gestures and hands to communicate.

The Attitude: The attitude of the presenter helps to establish a relationship and effective communication with the audience. The presenter should be open, friendly, and encouraging in order to relate to the audience better and create a trust factor. Feedback is an important part of the presentation and the effectiveness of the attitude and skills can be gauged through feedback. The presenter should encourage it by:

  • Listening: The job of a presenter is to talk, but it is also important to listen to what the audience has to say. Do not hog all the time by talking, let others come up with ideas and encourage conversation.
  • Evaluating: Evaluate what the audience has to say and determine whether it is valuable and appropriate to the presentation or not and express your views.
  • Interpreting: Explaining the questions or queries to the rest of the gathering so that it is clear to everyone present what was being asked.
  • Supporting: Encourage the members of the audience to ask questions. Be supportive of their attempts.
  • Questioning and answering: Question the inquirer to understand clearly what they wish to discover and answer the questions in as much detail as possible.
  • Probing: Get as much information as possible, continue to encourage a dialog and clarify the doubts.
  • Understanding: Understand the need of the communicator before answering. Do not ridicule a questioner. Answer the question even if it is one that has been answered before.

Demeanor: It is a daunting task to stand in front of an audience and address it. The best of us can get nervous. It is how you deal with the situation that determines how good a presenter you can be. Do not display your nervousness to the audience as it will not be taken kindly. Be confident and sure of yourself. Learn to deal with your nerves and tension.

Preparation: Be thoroughly prepared before you start. The presentation should be complete and ready to go, and you should be sure and confident of yourself and your subject matter. Be aware of your audience and what it might expect from you and prepare yourself accordingly.

Habits: Almost all of us have certain quirks and habits. A good presenter is in control of these habits and tries to overcome these, at least while addressing the audience and for the duration of the presentation. It is important to address the habits or quirks as they distract the audience and makes the presentation less effective.

Attention to Details: This is perhaps the most important of all the traits of a good presenter. Look at everything – the location, audience, the theme, message, tools, etc. in minutest detail so that there are no last minute problems that crop up to derail your presentation.

PREPARING A GREAT PRESENTATION

One can never prepare enough, and the same is true for presentations too. It is essential to be thoroughly prepared in advance. Being prepared will ensure that it progresses smoothly and that you know exactly what needs to be done at any particular time during the presentation. Being ready and prepared boosts confidence and helps to avoid problems. Here are some other points to ponder while preparing for a presentation:

  • Subject of the presentation: You need to be familiar with the subject or topic that you are going to present. Most of the time you may be able to pick the subject matter yourself, but sometimes you may be given the subject by others who are organizing the presentation. Get to know your topic intimately before you get up to present your ideas.
  • Objective of the presentation: Discover the objective of the presentation, why it is being organized, the reason behind it, and the expected outcome from the point of view of both the presenter and the audience. Once you are clear of the objective, it becomes easier to plan and execute it.
  • Audience: You have to consider the kind of people you are addressing and how it benefits them. You may need to create or modify your presentation according to the audience. The age, occupation, interests and other demographics of the audience will determine the content and the mode of presentation. The size and your familiarity with the audience are also the factors to be considered.
  • Venue of the presentation: You should find out as much about the venue as possible. It is a good idea to visit it and familiarize yourself with the place before you walk in to give the presentation. If you have a choice of venue, choose one according to the size of the audience you wish to address. It is not a good idea to have a lot of people crammed into a small room or a small audience in a large hall. Make sure that all the tools that you may want are available to you at the venue.
  • Your limitations: It is important that you are aware of your limitations so that you do not take on more than you are equipped to do. Sometimes you may push your limits and come out on top, but this is not likely to happen every time. So stay within your limits to avoid disasters and embarrassments.
  • Theme of the presentation: Decide upon the theme of your presentation, whether you wish to inform, sell, convert or just entertain the audience and stick to it.
  • What should be included in the presentation: You need to decide upon the content in advance. Before you begin to create your presentation, think of what you need to convey to your audience, why you need to do it and how you are going to accomplish it. Once you have these points clear, you can start to work on your presentation, keeping the following in mind:
    • Opening: Introduction to the presentation that sets the tone for the rest of the content. It should be engaging, friendly and designed to break the ice and get the audience’s attention.
    • Body: This is the main subject matter of your presentation and should be presented in such a manner as to prevent boredom and monotony. Create different segments for different ideas contained within the main body. Each segment should have its introduction, body, and summary.
    • Summary: This portion should be short and sweet and should be used to reinforce the ideas that were contained in the main body.
    • Conclusion: This should encompass all that has happened during the presentation, including the feedback and question and answer session. Pass out any additional material, contact details, etc. that you need to give to the audience during this time.
  • Editing: Once you have created a presentation, it is time to review and edit it to suit your audience and purpose. Check the language, the tone and voice, theme and ideas. Include anecdotes and stories to engage the audience. Check your captions, handouts, and other material. Check for grammar and spelling mistakes. Check the images and illustrations as well as print quality.
  • Select the mode of presentation: You should be careful about the mode of presentation. You may wish to use visual aids, handouts, PowerPoint, etc. depending upon what you finally decide after considering the factors above. This will largely depend upon the following:
    • Facilities available to you
    • The occasion
    • Audience
    • Your preference
  • Create your visuals: If you need visuals for the presentation, prepare them in advance. Familiarize yourself with them and where you wish to introduce them in the presentation.
  • Rehearse your Presentation: Do rehearse your presentation in front of an audience of your friends, family or co-workers, so you are familiar with it and know what you need to do when. Also the feedback you receive from your audience can help you improve upon your performance and make the presentation more powerful.
  • Follow-up: Make sure that your objectives were met. Ask people to determine how successful you were with your presentation. Get feedback, encourage people to get back to you if they have any additional queries or problems.

DELIVERING AN EFFECTIVE PRESENTATION

Delivering an effective presentation is an art that needs to be perfected. A good presentation has to be enthusiastic, flexible and effective, and the presenter has to be a powerful performer. The main thing to keep in mind is to be organized. Manage your text, keep cue cards or slides ready, so you know where to proceed and what to say or do next. Create keywords and mind-maps. What you do to handle your notes and cues is up to you. Find a method that works for you and stick to it. Here are some Dos and Don’ts for an effective presentation:

  • Be prepared to give a performance. Be yourself and avoid habits that may distract the audience.
  • Practice your presentation.
  • Assert yourself through your posture and presence.
  • Connect with your audience through eye contact, body language, gestures and facial expressions.
  • Do not read from handouts you have given to the audience.
  • Address the audience directly.
  • Use humor to keep the interest alive.
  • Speak clearly and enunciate the words properly. Do not speak too fast.
  • Walk and circulate around the venue, this creates proximity and encourages intimacy with the audience.
  • Discuss your objectives.
  • Do not hesitate to change your approach if you feel you are not making a connection with the listeners.
  • Time yourself. Do not exceed your time limit.
  • Most importantly believe in yourself.

TOOLS FOR PRESENTATIONS

You do not have to depend only upon manual means for presentations these days. There are many tools available that can help you to create a good, effective, and engaging presentation easily and quickly. Some of these are:

  • PowerPoint: A part of the MS Office software, PowerPoint has ruled the roost for presentations for more than 25 years. It is a presentation software where you can create slides that can include text, images and graphs to create powerful presentations.
  • Overhead Projectors: This is an older form of visual aid that is still very much in use. Acetate slides were prepared to be projected onto a screen. These have now been replaced by projectors that can take a feed from computers to display PowerPoint slides or other such software.
  • Prezi: This is a web-based presentation software that can work on most basic OS platforms. It is free for the basic version and costs $59 per annum for the pro version. It provides dynamic transitions and much more to create a professional quality presentation that can be used offline.
  • Google Presentations: This is a web-based presentation tool that is free for use. It is a pretty basic software that offers cloud-based backup and allows you to share your work and collaborate with others easily.
  • SlideShare: It is a convenient and easy way for people to share their work with the public. It is used mostly by sales and marketing people. It allows people to embed third party SlideShare into social media accounts, websites, and blogs.
  • Keynote: This is an app that has been developed for Mac devices. This is Apple’s presentation software and is a part of the iWork suite that is priced at $79. It is a simple and quick app that allows users to create professional quality presentations. It has inbuilt themes, great animations, and transitions.

These are just some of the presentation apps and software available on the net. Others include Zoho Show, AuthorSTREAM, Present.me, TimeGlider, etc.

CONCLUSION

If your goal is to improve your presentation skills, then you will have to work on yourself. The effectiveness of a presentation is directly linked to the efficacy of the presenter. You may have created a great presentation but if you do not deliver it properly, all your hard work is wasted. So, the first thing you have to do is to improve your communication skills. Be consistent and constantly practice so that you are comfortable with your presentation and can deliver it with confidence. Keep the presentation simple and straightforward. Don’t create a presentation that has too much information in it. This could confuse people. Discuss one idea at a time and explore it in depth. Pay attention to your voice, your body, and your attitude. Attend other presentations to see where you have scope for improvement and to gauge the level of competition. Most important of all, overcome your fear of public speaking and turn the nervous energy into enthusiasm for your work. Meet the audience before the presentation so you are not overwhelmed by them. Use positive thinking to get yourself into the winning zone. Always arrive early so you can relax and familiarize yourself with the audience. Once you have worked on yourself, giving a great presentation will become easier.

Share your thoughts and experience

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.

1 comment

by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest
1
Robert Stillman

Great Tips! A guide that you may want to share with others is the guide by Dale Carnegie: Presentation Effectiveness: A Free Guide to Effective Public Speaking. This guide helped me out tremendously when I started giving presentations.