5 Terrific Tips to Boost Your Presentation Skills

1. Prepare Your Material

One of the keys to a successful presentation is “knowing your stuff.” Regardless of what you will be talking about, you need to be as informed and knowledgeable as you can possibly be. Do an in-depth study of the materials you will be presenting or discussing.

Know it all-inside and out. Be prepared to answer any questions about the material that might arise. Then create an outline or bullet points to work from for your actual presentation. Don’t read from a speech word for word; that sounds unnatural and forced.

2. Prepare Yourself

Once you know your material, it’s time to get yourself ready for the big presentation. You want to dress for success and wear comfortable shoes, be well groomed, and portray confidence when you speak in public. But it also important to prepare yourself mentally. Take deep breaths and do other physical exercises to help you get ready and avoid the jitters. Eat or drink something prior to the big moment. Go to the bathroom. Check your hair. Do whatever you need to get psyched up for what you are about to do.

Most importantly, imagine everything going right, visualize your success, and remember you are there to help other people in some way via the information you are presenting, so you are there to provide a valuable service.

3. Hold Their Attention

Know your audience. If possible, find out as much about the demographics (age, background, sex, etc.) of the group you will speak to, so you can customize your presentation to better meet their needs. Then take it a step further. Learn the stages listeners go through during a presentation so you can use techniques that will hold your audience’s attention-from the beginning to the end.

Tell stories, use analogies, include metaphors and similes, share handouts, incorporate multi-media such as visuals or music, and infuse your presentation with humor. Utilize whatever is at your disposal to keep them engaged.

4. Choose Power Words For Impact

Your choice of words can often make an incredible difference in your presentation. Depending on the topic, certain words hold an almost magical power-creating dynamic impact for the audience. Some words call listeners to action. Others help them visualize their potential. Choose certain specific words that hold power for your particular audience, write them on your outline in bold letters, and deliberately use them as appropriate during your presentation, especially at the beginning and the end-in your opening and closing. Whenever possible, tie the beginning and the end of your presentation together to provide a feeling of closure and indicate that your presentation is complete.

5. Maximize Your Effect

There are various techniques you can learn and use to maximize your personal effect on your audience. From how you dress to the gestures you use (or don’t use) and the inflections in your voice, your body language creates an impression that can either support or negate your message and enhance or detract from your presentation. You want to make deliberate choices about the body language you use and the other non-verbal clues and cues you give your audience.

One of the best ways to do this is to experiment by giving your presentation (to yourself) in front of a mirror and trying different motions, gestures, expressions, and voice inflections to develop the impression you want to leave. You may also wish to practice in front of a “test” audience of people you trust and ask for their feedback.