Presentations can be nerve-wracking for anyone. Even with relative experience, you’ll never be able to predict how things will turn out. You can’t ever be a hundred percent sure about how the audience will react. If you want to be ready for anything, you need to practice and perfect your presentation skills.
These techniques are based on activities outlined by Gabrielle Jones, an ESP teacher who writes at The Business English Experience. Jones uses these activities to teach her class about presentation delivery. To do it at home or during your free time, start by setting up a camera and record yourself while practicing. You can then use the footage to review what you said, noting all the areas that need improvement.
#1: Practice structure and brevity
Time and again, we’ve written about the importance of structure and brevity in presentations. In ten minutes, practice your ability to logically structure ideas by telling a story that you’re completely familiar with. In Jones’ class, she asked her students to introduce themselves one by one.
In your presentation, you can do the same thing by picking out the most important details about yourself and ordering them in a way that would be easy to follow. For a real challenge, you can also try to recall your favorite book or movie. To relay the story in 10 minutes, you will have to choose the details that are most crucial to the narrative. Try to keep your story linear and avoid segues.
#2: Practice how to transition from one idea to the next without losing sight of your main goal
When tackling a variety of topics, you will need to know how to properly transition from one idea to the next. Practice your ability to sequence various ideas while keeping in line with your main goal. To do this, Jones asked her students to relay instructions describing a certain process.
A few of them described how to use gadgets like Google glass while some talked about studying at university and filling up your car with gas. Choose a process you know well and try to describe it step by step. Make use words like first of all, then, and finally to help audiences keep track of the progression of your ideas.
#3: Practice making an impact through rhythm and intonation
Adding variety in your speech will allow audiences to distinguish the emotions and attitudes in your presentation. Avoid a monotone and deadpan delivery by practicing your rhythm and intonation. This is best done if you already have a presentation prepared.
You can also use a presentation you’ve delivered in the past or something you commonly give every now and then (like a sales pitch or a quick introductory seminar for new hires). Deliver your speech as you would in front of an audience. Give yourself time to pause in places that need a more dramatic effect.
Add feelings to your voice by changing up your intonation. Be mindful of what mood you’d like to express and experiment by reading your speech in several different ways.
#4: Practice improvisation and responding to difficult questions
As we mentioned earlier, there’s no way of knowing how your presentation will turn out. Practice your ability to think on your feet by doing some improv exercises. Try some of the common techniques comedians and actors use.
Aside from improvisation, you should also practice how to navigate through difficult (and perhaps aggressive) questions. Do a quick Google search for an article on any topic that interests you.
After reading it, scroll down to the comments section and browse for one that you disagree with. Imagine that this was a comment in your own presentation. How would you answer it? To make things more challenging, look for comments posted by “trolls” and think of a way to handle the situation.
You can do these activities all at once, or focus on the ones where you think you need the most help with. Ready? Try these four techniques to improve your presentation skills.
Need more help improving your presentation skills? Download the Definitive Guide to Designing Presentations for Business. If you have your own tips and tricks to share, give us a shout out by clicking on our social media links.
Featured Image: Glen Wright via Flickr