How to Improve Presentation Skills
5 Simple Tips You Can Use to Crush Your Next Presentation!
10 years ago, I left my very predictable job as a department director in the professional sports industry to become a consultant, public speaker, and facilitator. At the time I needed to know how to improve my presentation skills. I had no formal speaking training outside of a couple of speech and/or presentation classes in high school and college. Today, I charge as much as $15,000 for one keynote or facilitation session. Now, there are others that charge more, way more, but my goal with this course is to take you from the masses to very good. One that stands out from the others.
So, I am a professional speaker. Every day, my job is to connect with audiences and inspire and motivate them to make positive changes. That, in a nutshell is what I do.
Communicating and expressing ourselves has always been important, but in today’s new era of virtual meeting and presentations, getting our ideas access effectively and efficiently has never been more important!!
Tip #1 – How to Improve Presentation Slides
- Too much info
Your slides don’t tell the story, you do! Slides are there to enhance, and add to your story, not be the story. This may be the biggest culprit when it comes to lousy presentations. So often, presenters feel compelled to put every bit of information onto their slides. Not sure if this is some type of credibility – like…” look at all of this information I found”, so as not to forget anything when they are speaking. There are so many things wrong with this. You should never be reading your slides. Slides are there to enhance your audience’s experience, not to serve as your script.
Animate, animate, animate
There is never, ever a reason that all your content on one slide should pop up all at once – never! For those of you of a certain age you may remember being back in your elementary school classroom when overhead projectors were the cutting-edge technology. What did your teacher do when she had a full page of content that he or she was about to cover paragraph by paragraph? They would take a piece of paper and block everything on the page except for what they were talking about. They knew if they shared a full page of words with a classroom of kids, very few would pay attention to the specific words they were supposed to at that moment. Well, guess what – the same goes for a room full of adults, but even worse.
When you advance to the next slide and EVERYTHING you are about to talk about appears, you will lose your audience. Some will read ahead and draw their own conclusions on what you are about to say, others will simply be overwhelmed and tune out. Use animations and let the words or visuals reinforce what you are speaking about WHEN you are speaking about it. You do not need to become a Guru in PowerPoint or Keynote, but simply watch a quick video on using animation to learn how to make your content appear WHEN YOU NEED IT, and not before.
Tip #2 – How to Avoid Crutch Words in Presentations
Find your crutch. We all have one, but they are usually in our blind spot – meaning we really do not know it exists. You need to actively look to find yours. Here is a hint – sometimes they can be words, they stem from that little voice in our head that tells us we need to add something. Crutches can be so difficult because we very often don’t even realize that we are using them.
Crutch Words usually stem from fear; often fear of awkward silence, and then quickly become habits. They can go well beyond the traditional use of um or like. If you find yourself ending sentences with phrases such as “so, yeah!”, or finishing a statement with the question “right?”, you are not extenuating your communication; you are detracting from it. One of the best ways to uncover your crutch is to take a video of your next presentation. Be warned, using crutches is a habit, so if you have one, you have a bad habit to break, and we all know how hard that can be.
Tip #3 – Know Your Audience
It is always about the audience—always. It is never about you. Even if it is your introduction, or you are telling a personal story, always have the audience tie-in in mind. How does this tie back to the audience I am chatting with today? If you ever feel like you are talking a little too much just about yourself – you are speaking a lot too much about yourself.
This counts for interviews too. Even when you are telling a great story about that angry customer you saved, or how you led the team to a win.
Tip #4 – Prepare for Your Presentation
Never wing it. Even if you are being put on the spot, always have a plan.
I was once speaking at a conference, and I was invited to an executive lunch before I presented. Towards the end of the luncheon, my host came up to me and asked if I would introduce myself and give an overview of my session later that afternoon. This did not give me a ton of time, but enough to outline a beginning, middle, and an end in my head. The beginning was simple, a quick overview of my background by way of introduction and why it was relevant to them. The middle was a little meat from my presentation—based on the conversations I had over lunch, what was most relevant to the people in the room. The end was the WIIIFM – what is in it for me, why should they be looking forward to my presentation, what will they gain from it?
Tip #5 – Practice Word Economy
OK, now that you have great slides, you are limiting your crutch words, focused on your audience, and following your plan – let’s practice word economy. Practice word economy. The fewer words to get your point across, the better.
I know, this one sounds a little counter intuitive. Here you are delivering great information through a presentation, so of course you should be using as many big, beautiful words as possible, right? Wrong! Word economy is all about using the least number of words as possible to deliver your message.
- Too Much Info
When I first started speaking full time and going through training, I thought I needed to paint this elaborate picture for the audience, taking them on a journey with me. “Stop – too much info” was the interruption I received from my trainer (and boss) John DiJulius. “You are telling me every little detail—I don’t care” was his next sentence. It took me a long time to learn this one and put it into practice. I finally realized that instead of taking my audience with me on a journey, I was pushing them away as I went on and on without getting to the point.
- Writing Your Presentation
Here is a great way to make sure that you are practicing word economy that I learned from the great presenter, Patricia Fripp – write it down. Yes, writing and speaking go hand in hand. Even if you are never scripted, always off the cuff. Once you have your content written, you can then go back and decide what words do not have to be there. Writing your presentation can help with clarity and keeping to the point.
Bonus steps: Four more ways to take your presentation to the next level:
Once you are feeling confident about your content and your slides, you need to practice. Whether you stand in front of a mirror or video yourself on your phone, go through your slides and content focusing on timing of your delivery, the use of animation (syncing your words and your slides), tone and volume, and practicing how you share your content. Do this as often as you can – the more practice you have, the more confidence you will have.
Also, rehearse in small chunks! This one was a game changer for me when I first read it in Timothy J. Koegel’s book “The Exceptional Presenter.” Our natural tendency when rehearsing is to go start to finish, nonstop. We want to know out total time, etc. Koegel’s advice is the complete opposite. Rehearse in 5-minute chunks. Master those chunks. You not only will be able to really focus on those chunks and get them down—but you are also creating an inventory of 5-minute vignettes to pull from. If the boss comes to you and says the meeting is running late and you need to cut out 10 minutes, you simply need to pick the least important 5-minute chunks, and you are all set.
Get in front of audiences!
When it is appropriate for your content, get in front of live audiences and share. If your content is work related, this may mean getting in front of other departments. When your content is more general in nature, speak to a Rotary Club. Nothing can replace the energy you give and receive from a live audience. I have very often presented at my kids’ schools on things like career day, etc. Students can be a tough crowd—so that is a great opportunity. I have often heard my boss, John DiJulius, a keynoter of 25 years, say he needs to get in front of an audience if he has too much time between speaking gigs and he has been doing this for 25 years! The more you present, the better you are and the more confident you feel.
Use pace elements
Pace elements are simple changes you make to your presentation that alter the pace to keep your audience engaged. I first learned of pace elements from the great presenter Darren LaCroix. Darren and his business partner, Mark Brown, have 19 “go to” pace elements that they use. Also, keep in mind, pace elements are very important for a successful live presentation—and even more important when presenting virtually. These can be very simple but need to be used wisely.
One example of a pace element is asking questions. Simply asking a question engages the brains of your audience. Try using short, meaningful video clips that apply to your content. Polling your audience by asking them to raise their hands is another great example. A good rule of thumb is to have a pace element in place at least every 10 minutes of your presentation. If you wait longer, you run the risk of losing engagement.
Make your case!
In Carmine Gallo’s book “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs”, Carmine talks about the need to “introduce the antagonist” and then “reveal the conquering hero”. This is a classic problem/resolution strategy, but when stated in this way, it really allows you to make a splash. How do you tell the story regarding the problem? Carmine suggests making the problem tangible so that your audience truly understands it and feels it. What is your audience’s pain point? When you deliver your solution, remember this very important tidbit—your audience really does not care about your product, service or even the solution itself. They care about solving their problems–so paint the picture on how you will solve them!!
Brand NEW Workshop, Feb 28, 29, 2024
Presentation Skills to Get Ahead in the Corporate World
Being a great leader entails being able to inspire and get everyone in your organization to rally around a common purpose and ignite their passion to execute your vision. Being a great presenter involves a combination of skills, techniques, and personal attributes. In this two-day workshop you will learn the keys of how to nail your next presentation. Practice makes perfect – you will be delivering your presentation and receiving feedback multiple times during this 2-day workshop.
In this workshop, we will cover:
- How to put together and deliver a great presentation
- The 5 elements of a great presentation
- Having more confidence in front of an audience
- How to present more clearly and be more concise
- Engagement with the audience
- Effective use of visual aids
- Passion and enthusiasm
- Good timing and pacing
- Avoiding the very common pitfall of using slides that are hurting your presentation and detracting from your message
- How to identify your presenting “weakness” and how to turn it into a strength
- And much, much more!
Chief Revolution Officer John DiJulius of The DiJulius Group talks to Tom Smith. In John’s three decades of researching and consulting on world-class customer experience, all the companies he has worked with and personally experienced, Tom Smith is one of the best he has ever met. Tom was born to serve, born to be a day maker.