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How to perfect your presentation skills
Presenting to an audience is an important professional skill to have and perfecting this skill is something that every job seeker should aspire to do. Good presentation skills are crucial for interviews that require formal presentations to demonstrate a particular problem-solving approach.
Effective presentation skills can get you noticed, hired, promoted and even headhunted and so stand you in good stead throughout your professional career.
The following advice will help you perfect those important presentation skills.
Planning and preparation
Know your audience
You need to know who you are presenting to – find out if there are any time constraints and tailor your content accordingly. The organisation may have already communicated these details but if not, find out.
Structure your presentation
Share this with your listeners. Think of it as a captivating story with a beginning, middle and end. Briefly summarise what the presentation is going to consist of in the introduction, elaborate in the main body and finally resume what you have just told them.
Practice, practice, practice
Once your presentation has been brought to life, hone those presentation skills in front of a mirror, family and friends, or an independent party if you can.
Scope out the room
Does it have the equipment you’ll need, e.g. laptop and overhead projector? Can you do a dry run to make sure your slides are visible and your voice can be heard from the back of the room? Getting a feel for the room can be a good method of easing those pre-presentation nerves.
Dress to impress
Professionally speaking of course; and comfortably. This will help you feel confident and self-assured. You will be the centre of attention so don’t let scuffed shoes detract from your presentation.
Slides should not be used as crutches. They are there to guide the audience through your presentation, not to help you present – your planning, preparedness and practice will do that.
Don’t write out your presentation and read it out. The audience will too. Let your slides breathe and only include the most relevant bulleted information that you can build on and develop during your talk.
This shows professionalism. Set up your equipment if necessary and calm your nerves.
Greet the room warmly
A smile can relax you and your audience. Introduce yourself and the presentation topic. Summarise the structure of your presentation and don’t forget the language of presentations – ‘firstly, secondly, moving on to my next point...’ Leave time for questions at the end – then you won’t worry about losing your flow.
Hide the slide
If you find that your audience is fixated on what is on your slide, temporarily hiding it from view is a useful presentation tip – press the B key on your keyboard. Press it again to bring the slide back.
Maintain eye contact
Use a natural steady sweeping motion. Don’t focus your attention on one person. This might potentially make that individual feel awkward and the others feeling left out. Try skimming the tops of people’s heads, giving the impression you are actually looking at them.
Speak naturally take your time
Pause during natural sentence breaks – speak clearly, project your voice and don’t rush through the presentation. If you forget a point, carry on, it happens – you can always come back to it later with a variation on ‘one point I should also mention is...’
Towards the end of the presentation, summarise your main points again as a subtle reminder for your audience. Thank them for their time and invite questions.
If you can’t answer a question – perhaps because it’s not directly related, apologise and offer to find out or direct them to someone, or literature that could help. Don’t ‘umm....’ but rephrase the question to give yourself some thinking time – this is not only an effective presentation skill to learn but an effective communication skill too.
You’ve done it! Thank them all again, smile and breathe.
Want a job that makes use of your presentation skills? Browse Michael Page jobs for new opportunities.