Here’s 6 professional presentation tips that you can take away today and use instantly to help improve your public speaking skills.
But first, I’ll let you in on a story.
I attended a business exhibition, many years ago and one chap presented on the concept of leadership.
He was the skipper of an around the world yacht, where he took people on the voyage of a lifetime, racing against other teams.
It was one of the most enlightening speeches I had witnessed. So much so that I still remember the majority of the presentation today – and that was over 8 years ago.
The audience watched his slides, which were photos of some of the most breath-taking scenery from around the world.
They ranged from passing through glaciers, to Dolphins swimming in-line, to traveling around the tip of South Africa, and even getting their bow fixed in an emergency stop off in Norway.
We followed him on tenterhooks throughout his hour-long presentation.
He described the hurdles his team faced throughout the journey, and how they constantly overcame adversity.
The true race was with themselves and whether they could complete the journey.
He spoke with so much passion that you couldn’t avoid being inspired and thrilled.
Did the topic touch on leadership skills and the ‘How-tos’ of leading effectively?
Nope, but what we got was an enthralling adventure that was delivered with so much passion and energy and in a way that flowed effortlessly.
And when it was over, our beloved skipper got a standing ovation for an excellent presentation.
I sat at my desk and dissected it recently and it’s clear that he ticks the pre-requisites that great presentations have.
Can you learn these professional presentation tips yourself?
And you can do it extremely quickly, too. In next to no time, you can be conducting your next public speech or presentation to the board, with a great reception to boot.
Is this over-egged hype? No, the following professional presentation tips are from a lot of trial and error on my part, but can literally transform your next presentation.
There are 6 key factors that you need to get right in your next presentation.
And here they are in detail:
In order to write or speak about something, you have to know the subject. And ‘to earn it’ simply means to have a deep understanding, and experience for it.
There’s no point talking about something that you have limited knowledge of and haven’t lived.
Talk about something you know, and you know that you know. In fact, talk about something that you have so much more to say than the limited time you have standing up speaking about.
Once, during a presentation skills training course, a task was given to a group of trainee presenters, to choose a topic to present back to the team. One of the members, Sarah, decided to talk about the effects of a single currency in Europe.
Was she an expert on the subject?
No, she wasn’t. She admitted that she simply read a magazine the day before and decided to talk about what she had recently read. In fact, she read the article three times and tried to recite it in the form of her next public speaking assignment for the course.
The fact that she had limited knowledge of the subject conveyed in her speech. It was bland and uninspiring, with too many “ummms” and “errrrrs.”
By having a deep understanding or first-hand experience about something, you can present with clarity. You can present with no “ummms” or pauses. You can present with confidence and assuredness.
This comes across to your audience in the form of confidence and clarity.
In the case that you have a deep knowledge or experience about something, you may or may not be passionate about it.
And if you’re not passionate, it won’t come across as passion and energy to your audience.
Going back to Sarah: When she was asked whether she was passionate about her recent public speaking subject, she replied, “No.”
In fact, her course progress seemed to be stifled, and it was largely to do with the subjects she was choosing to present at each session.
She sought inspiration from media and magazines… and would read something and present on it in the next session, no matter how bored and disinterested she was of the subject.
This disinterest came through in her deliveries of her presentations.
The rule is this: if you’re not engaged and inspired by the subject, your audience won’t be either.
They’ll see right through you and they’ll reflect on your demeanour and body language.
Instead of talking about what she knew and what she had learned in her lifetime of experience, she opted to talk about things that were not in that category at all.
This is a very common trap that many inexperienced presenters have fallen into.
Making a list of all the things you have first-hand experience about will mean you can increase your chances of a better presentation.
It’s not enough for you to have the knowledge and passion about a subject. You have to want to tell the world about it!
You have to have the desire to talk and discuss your experiences or knowledge from your angle.
This the next of the professional presentation tips, because without the desire to tell the world about it, you’ll sound boring and uninspiring. You’ll make an unconvincing speech, which your audience will sniff out in a heartbeat.
Without passion, you’ll not be able to keep people engaged and following you throughout the presentation.
There are subjects that we all have that we may be good at, but we just don’t want to talk to people about. That’s just life, but don’t get caught up talking about something you know and which you are not inspired to share. Pick a sub topic that you’re passionate about and you’re happy to discuss.
The added bonus is that if you know your subject, and you’re passionate about it, and want to tell the world, then you can talk in the most natural conversational style, that’ll flow with ease.
You’ll be more than half way towards giving a great speech.
The best presentations are smooth, and natural in their delivery.
And they come from the heart, which leads me on to the next point…
Trapping yourself in scripts that you try to relentlessly recite verbatim, stops you from focusing on being you. It consumes most of your energy on worrying about getting every word right.
The golden three tips above form the bedrock to this point.
If you have the deep knowledge or experience and you have an abundance of passion, and the need to share it with everyone, you’ll find that your story is told with zest and with fluency.
You won’t be bound by any limiting script.
You won’t have to remember the words to say, because you know your subject.
And you won’t sound like a lifeless robot.
Instead, you’ll be able to talk freely and in a conversational style that everyone can engage with and follow.
So how do you put it into practice?
Instead of writing a script word-for-word, simply write key points that you want to talk about.
In the case of our Skipper, he probably used things like:
The bow breaking, sailing with Dolphins, Trouble in South Africa, a crew member coming down ill, and so on.
Because he knows his stuff, he only needs his memory to be jogged, so he can talk about the key points in his journey.
Map out your presentation and write simple one or two word pointers on topics that you want to talk about.
Then put them in order from start to finish, and use them if you need to be reminded.
If it’s easier, you can keep these on reference cards and glance at them from time to time, so you can keep on track. This is perfectly fine for long speeches.
But never do either of these things:
Our skipper knew the importance of this. He knew the general topics that he wanted to talk about and he did it with a natural flow.
As a result, each presentation will be subtly different to the next, because he presents in a natural way. He doesn’t labour on trying to get the presentation word for word perfect or the same every time. He just ensures he converses freely and delivers on the main points.
And this natural way allows him to be himself, and present in his own unique way.
The next thing our Skipper did was he used plenty of examples and stories. By far the easiest way to make a presentation interesting is to use illustrations and examples.
Our Skipper littered his speech with so many examples and stories, that the crowd could not help but be enthused and absorbed into his speech.
When I write and create presentations, it’s not really to get ideas that’s the hard thing. It’s the time it takes to think of the illustrations and examples to make my ideas vivid, clear and unforgettable.
The Romans used to say, “Exemplum docet”, meaning ‘examples teach’. And it’s an important step in your professional presentation tips.
Here’s a great free ebook to show you how you can describe anything. It may help you in creating stories, and clarity in your descriptions.
Download another free ebook to help you master Powerpoint 2016, and use it to craft great visual slide decks.
Once you do have your presentation and key topics outlined, you have to perfect it and prepare for the real thing.
Stand in front of a mirror and practice talking out loud, using your own 1-2 word key points as prompts.
If you can, stand in front of a camera and film it, so you can play back how you come across.
Also, why not try to practice some key pointers on friends, bringing them up in conversations. You just want to talk about the key topics in a natural conversational style.
And the more you talk about them, the more fluid you’ll be when it matters.
On an additional note, someone once said to me, that for every minute of presentation, prepare 10-15 minutes.
This will ensure that you’ll hone your talk, and your points come across in the most natural and inspiring way.
Returning to our example at the start, our Skipper executed these 6 professional presentation tips with perfection.
In total contrast to our Skip’, here’s a recent example of a not so good presentation I witnessed.
A few years ago, I was lined up to pitch my company’s services, and an entrepreneur provided was on before me.
To be honest, his presentation was so painful and boring that I can’t remember anything about the topic or what he was talking about.
It did leave an impact though. Unfortunately for him, it a negative one.
He started by issuing his handouts.
And they were terrible.
They were hand scribbled notes that had been photocopied. And I couldn’t read a word of his scrawly hand-writing.
In one look of the notes, I had already sealed his fate. in my mind, this was going to be a band one….
“If his notes are this shocking…. What’s the presentation going to be like….?”
I braced myself to endure the next 20 minutes of boredom and pain.
And unfortunately for us all, him included, I wasn’t wrong.
His slides that he used were terribly designed: They had 20 -30 bullet points to each slide, and the colours looked like he had stepped out of the days of the 8-bit computing age, as he used bright yellow and blue contrasting colours.
When he did speak, he seemed to mumble his words in a monotonous tone that was so dull and boring, it had many people yawning.
His presentation was so incredibly dull, that some people got up and left.
It was excruciating to watch, whilst he spent most of the time staring at his own slides, with his back to most of the audience, as he proceeded to present.
And lastly, he overran his slot. What should have taken 20 minutes, took him 30 minutes, until the host stepped in and concluded proceedings prematurely.
It was cringe-worthy. If ever someone needed professional presentation tips, it was this chap.
I felt sorry for him.
I also felt frustrated that he allowed it to be this bad!
Here’s his performance up against the 6 professional presentation tips:
I follow these professional presentation tips every time I stand up and present.
Can I present effectively, to the point that people enjoy what I am saying?
We all can, as long as we follow the 6 professional presentation tips that you can use today to enhance your public speaking skills.