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10 ways to become better at presenting
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10 ways to become better at presenting

Written by Leslie Hemmerechts on 6 November 2019 for Tech Professionals

As we discussed in our last blog post, sharpening your presentation skills is essential if you want to move forward in your career. In this post, we’ll be discussing ten surefire tips that anyone can use to improve their presentation skills, no matter their background or level of experience.

You may not be the world’s best public speaker, but the following ten tips will help you improve the quality of your presentations, whether you are presenting yourself during an interview, demoing a product, or trying to land that all-important promotion.

1. Embrace your nervous energy

As the old saying goes, most people’s number one fear isn’t dying; it’s public speaking! In terms of adrenaline-fueled fear, few experiences in life come close to the nervous panic that grips most people moments before they’re about to give a presentation. If you fall into this camp, we’ve got an unusual piece of advice for you: embrace it!

 

That’s right! Instead of trying to calm your nerves or get rid of your jitters, we recommend that you focus on turning all of your nervous energy into enthusiasm. Why? Well, studies have shown that when it comes to giving speeches, enthusiasm beats out eloquence. So, channel your nerves into a positive attitude and go for it!

2. Don’t fight your fear

So, let us put it a different way; don’t fight your fear! Look. Almost everyone gets nervous from time to time before giving a presentation. But the more you get yourself worked up about how you feel, the more you’ll just intensify your anxiety.

If it helps, try this simple trick to ‘hack’ your mindset. Those jitters you feel are real, but you can choose to call them whatever you want. Instead of labeling them as ‘fear’, make a conscious effort to identify them as ‘excitement’. Channel this excitement into giving a great presentation and you’ll be sound. Trust us!

3. Practice hard and act cool

You may not be the Winston Churchill of presenters, but if there is one thing you can learn from the great man it would be this: practice like there’s no tomorrow! Churchill was a master at appearing calm and spontaneous when, in fact, he often spent up to one hour practicing for every minute of the speech he was about to deliver.

10 ways to become better at presenting

Great presenters look cool and calm not because they are winging it, but because they can remember everything they’re going to say and they are fully prepared. Once you’ve nailed the details in your presentation, the rest should come naturally. So, practice, practice, practice and go out there like you were born to do it.

4. Practice your pauses

As you’d expect, much of this guide is about what to say and how to say it, but don’t forget that what you don’t say is often just as important! One tip that will help you give much better presentations is to always plan when you’ll take pauses during your presentation. In other words, practice your pauses!

This helps in a number of ways:

Firstly, pausing helps you avoid talking too fast – a dead giveaway that you’re nervous and/or underprepared! Secondly, strategic pauses will give your audience time to think about what you just said. Having the courage to remain silent for a few moments without appearing worried or awkward is a great skill to develop. Far from making you seem weak or unprepared, it is a great way to boost your presentation skills to the next level!

5. Stay hydrated

Do you get an attack of the old cottonmouth blues before going on stage? Does your throat get drier than the Gobi desert when you’re about to give a talk? If so, be sure to come prepared with enough water to stay hydrated. Water bottles are not only great for chucking at hecklers (ouch!) but they are great props, too.

Wait…props? Yes! If you’re a little nervous, holding a water bottle gives you something useful to do with your hands (instead of wringing them and letting on how anxious you feel). Plus, stopping mid-speech to get a drink of water is a real power move; it tells your audience: “You’re on MY time now, aren’t you?” (That’ll show them who’s boss!).

6. Adopt a power stance

Speaking of power moves, why not adopt a ‘power stance’ too? You may never become a public speaking maestro, but there are proven ways that you can appear more confident, even if that’s not how you feel inside. Enter the ‘power stance’ – a confident, assured way of standing that shows the audience you mean business. A well-chosen power stance is no substitute for shoddy preparation, but it can help you project the right vibes.

How? Well, we’re not telling you to puff out your chest like a gorilla in a suit! Instead, just walk tall, with your chin up and your shoulders square. One technique is to stand with your back to a wall before giving your presentation. If you’re a sloucher, this will make you realize how tall you actually are when you stand squarely with your shoulders back and your head up. So, hold your head high and go out there like you own the joint!

7. Smile to release endorphins

Listen. Grinning manically will make you look like a nervous wreck, but there is one good reason to smile broadly when you present; smiling releases endorphins! These feel-good hormones are guaranteed to help you feel at ease and make your presentation go a little smoother. Even if you’re doing a webinar and people can’t actually see your face, smiling lots can help you come across as more confident and enthusiastic when you talk – try it!

8. Breathe deeply

Hopefully, you don’t take the previous piece of advice to the extreme and start looking like a human emoji, but there is one other technique that can help you present better – breathing! When we feel tense, our muscles contract slightly and we may even hold our breath momentarily when we get extremely nervous. This is a huge no-go when presenting as it limits your body’s ability to get oxygen to the brain and affects your performance.

 

So, take deep breaths to unwind and start your presentation as you mean to go on.

9. Attend other people’s presentations

If you’re giving a talk as part of an event with other speakers, such as a conference, don’t miss the chance to watch other people give their talks. You’ll be able to pick up plenty of cool tips and tricks and techniques by watching others. It will also let you pick up the vibe of the event; is it stuffy and serious or cool and funky? Best of all, you can riff off what other people have said and refer to them later in your own presentation.

10. Join a Toastmaster club

Do you want some practical advice? Well, have you heard of Toastmaster clubs? These clubs are in every country around the world and help their members become top-notch orators. Toastmaster groups meet according to their own schedules and members take turns delivering short talks about a pre-chosen subject. As the saying goes, ‘Experience is the best teacher’, so the more you present, the better you’ll be! Simple!

 

Conclusion

Following these ten tips should help you knock any presentation out of the park. Nerves and jitters affect the best of us at times, but with the right preparation and by adopting the right mindset, you can make an impact and deliver a powerful presentation with ease.

But this is just the beginning. Do you really want to sharpen your presentation skills (or other business skills)? Check out our training and coaching programs and discover why becoming an Exellyst is the perfect way to accelerate your career. Good luck!