My best “back to basic” presentation skills:
- Outline Before You Do Your PowerPoint – Many experienced presenters will skip the first steps of brainstorming their topic and developing a thesis and jump straight into their visual aid, PowerPoint. While you may think skipping the first few steps will save you time, it actually doesn’t because you make more changes to your PowerPoint than someone that outlined their presentation first. Also, you tend to lose the focus of your presentation when starting in a visual aid program, so you meander as a speaker and get off topic, leaving your audience bewildered and lost. I suggest developing your visual aid after you’ve done at least one walkthrough of your presentation outline.
- Practice Your Presentation – Another vital step experienced speakers will skip, either to save time or because they don’t think they need it anymore, is practicing the presentation. Practicing allows you to refine what you’re going to say and to rely less on notes and your slide deck (if using a visual aid). Even if you’ve presented the presentation a dozen times, you need to review your adjustments as you tailor it to a specific audience. Practicing your presentation also allows you to feel more comfortable and be able to focus more on the audience to be more engaging.
- Simplify Your Message – As my company name and first book title states – Speak Simple. You can not speak to your audience like speak to your colleagues. Even when speaking to a trade association full of with audience members in your profession, you can’t assume they understand every acronym, jargon, and complex term because they have different specialties and experiences than you. When speaking to prospective clients, customers, and the general public, you want to simplify what you’re saying to ensure your audience understands you. After all, you are speaking to share your message and you impair your audience’s ability to understand you by speaking over their head.
- Debrief After Each Presentation – You’ll never improve unless you review what went well and not so well. Reviewing yourself is just like professional athletes watching the game film the day after a game. You can video your presentation, but sometimes that option isn’t available. (You can also video a practice with your smartphone with a cheap attachment that snaps to a tripod.) When you can’t video yourself, ask your organizer for their input and if they have any suggestions for improvement. Many conferences and webinars survey audience members and share those surveys with presenters. If they don’t share the surveys, ask for them and review them. You won’t get a perfect score each time and you can’t make everyone happy every time, but you’ll find nuggets of great feedback to continually improve your presentation skills.
Remember these four back to basic presentation skills and you’ll be a better presenter, which will allow you to share your message with more people and be more profitable presenting.
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How Speak Simple Can Help You
Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being an excellent presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.