Presentation skills are a valuable asset for anybody in our modern society. You can be very talented and do marvelous work or have great ideas for products or research topics, however if you don’t manage to sell your work or ideas, nobody will be eager to invest in them, hire you or even take you seriously. Luckily presentation skills can be learned and in the following article we will explain the most important aspects to sharpening your presentation skills.
The most important presentation skill is your ability to create entertainment value. A presentation should always be entertaining. If not, people will lose interest and there is no way you can get your point across when people are not paying attention. Try to never be boring. Even if you have boring stuff to present try to incorporate some humour, interesting facts, (famous)quotes or show a related cartoon. You could also try to engage your public in your presentation by asking them questions or giving them small tasks like “raise your hand if you have ever….?”
How to give a presentation
In a presentation you use effective presentation skills to play a crowd, to keep them entertained and convince them of your views or results. Firstly we can distinguish 2 different forms of communication:
- Effective nonverbal communication
- Effective verbal communication
The first and most important part of any presentation is nonverbal communication. If you think verbal communication is more important you are wrong! It has even been suggested that non-verbal communication is as much as 16 times more important than verbal communicationHow To Make a Presentation. With nonverbal communication we mean not only gestures, but also “the presence” of the presenter and the paralanguage used(usage of intonations, pauses and speech volume/speed).
In general the most important is to show enthusiasm to enthuse people and look confident to show authority. Keep in mind that although it helps if you are, you don’t actually have to be confident or enthusiastic, you just have to look like you are. Nobody can look inside your head so if you use the right poses and gestures you can make people believe that you are. Basic pointers are:
- Smile, if you smile you show enthusiasm and enthusiasm is “contagious”.
- Make yourself bigger. Use a lot of open gestures, spread your arms and reach out. This will show confidence.
- Speak loud and clear. You are the presenter, everybody should be able to hear what you have to say. This will show confidence as well.
- Look at your crowd! Try to look at individual persons, this will not only make it easier for you to present since it will seem like you are talking to one person, it will also make your audience feel more connected. Be sure however to not look at 1 person too long. Move your eyes to another person every couple of seconds since talking to only 1 person can make this person uncomfortable and make the rest of the people feel unimportant or uninvolved which in turn leads them towards losing attention.
- Be aware of your paralanguage(the usage of tones, speaking speed/volume, pauses etc.). The use of paralanguage is very important. By pausing after a sentence or word you can emphasize its importance or by playing with your voice you can show you are building into a conclusion or a problem.
The best way to get our point about the importance of nonverbal communication across is to make you experience it yourself so watch the video of the TEDx talk of Will Stephen below:
And? Did you watch the entire 5:55? Most people do, although he actually only talks about the fact that he has nothing to say But he keeps you interested and entertained throughout the entire presentation. It’s quite a brilliant example of the power of nonverbal communication and the importance of this as a presentation skill. Study this video closely as Will shows all important aspects of nonverbal communication in presentations.
This brings us to verbal communication. Verbal communication encompasses the words and sentences you use to tell a story or get a message across. Although nonverbal communication is the most important, verbal communication is important as well. There are several key points you should take into account:
- Try to use terms your audience is familiar with, if you cannot, be sure to take the time to explain them.
- Don’t overcomplicate your story. Don’t try to look smart by making things more complicated than they are, you want to get your point across. The easier you can do that, the better!
- Use grammatically correct sentences
- Speak slowly and clearly, this is more nonverbal than verbal communication but we can’t stress this enough. Make sure that everybody in the room understands what you have to say.
- Don’t be rude
- Use appropriate etiquette
As you can see lot of these points depend heavily on your crowd. So it is important you know who you are speaking to. If you sell a pharmaceutical product and you are talking to pharmacy owners who have to sell it, you’ll give a much more technical presentation in comparison to when you talk in front of potential consumers. Also things like etiquette and rudeness are perceived differently by different crowds. So be sure to know who you are giving a presentation for.
How to make a presentation
How to make a presentation is almost a science. Most important are not the esthetics, which you might expect, but it is the structure. If your presentation has a clear structure it will be much easier for people to keep their attention, which enables you to get your message across more efficiently.
An often heard saying about the structure of a presentation is: “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them and tell them what you told them”.
Every good presentation consists of 3 main parts: introduction, the message
and the conclusion and all of which should be clearly distinguishable for your audience. For a detailed overview on how to make a presentation visit our How To Make a Presentation page.
The most important presentation tip we can give you is practice practice practice! Practice with an audience, practice out loud and practice multiple times. For this reason we developed our exclusive presentation simulator software which gives you the opportunity to practice presentations for a realistic virtual crowd.
Disclaimer: the presentation simulation software is developed based on scientific background. Every person reacts differently so no rights can be reserved on the effectiveness of the software.
For more tips you can visit ourPresentation Tips page to further optimize your presentation skills.
 ARGYLE, Michael. Bodily communication. Methuen, 1988.
 MEHRABIAN, Albert. Nonverbal communication. Transaction Publishers, 1977.
 GELULA, Mark H. Effective lecture presentation skills. Surgical neurology, 1997, 47.2: 201-204.