Presentation Skills – Go From Boring to Engaging
A few weeks ago I had to sit through a particularly painful presentation. The presenter not only had a never ending Power Point slide deck, but also spent most of the presentation reading from notes. To keep myself from falling asleep, I made notes on how this person could have gone from boring to engaging with some key presentation skill tips.
I’m sure the speaker didn’t get up in the morning thinking “okay, how can I completely bore my audience? Right, I’ll put tonnes of information on the slides, then read the slides verbatim all the while looking at my notes, not the audience. To make sure they don’t understand what I’m saying, I’ll use jargon and acronyms. That should do the trick. As an added bonus I will ask that all questions wait until the end so they forget what they wanted to ask and tune out the rest of my presentation.”
Does this sound familiar? If this is how you present, I’m sorry. Truly sorry for you and your audience. While few of us will admit to being this bad, most of us could benefit from learning some key presentation skills.
I’ve been presenting at conferences and working as a corporate trainer for over 15 years and I’m still learning and refining my presentation skills. I’ve found one of the best ways to learn is to watch others. Taking notes on how they connect with their audience, when they lose the audience (always a fun one), and various techniques they use to engage versus bore (or visa versa).
Here are some tips to improve your presentation skills, helping your presentation go from boring to engaging.
- Know your audience. Who are you presenting to? Peers, general public, industry specific? How do they receive information? Stories, facts or a combination? Tailor your presentation to meet their needs, not your needs.
- Key messaging. What are the three key points you want to convey? Now stick to these points so you don’t ramble.
- Body language. Remember that 80 per cent of communications is non-verbal. Be aware of the message your body language is conveying. Make sure you have open communications (arms reaching out or at your sides versus crossed at your chest).
- Maintain eye contact. Look at your audience not your notes. It’s okay, they won’t bite you. There’s no need to be afraid. Avoid using the notes section of your slides as they become a crutch.
- Keep slides clean. Don’t use charts with lots of information or too much text. Your slides shouldn’t distract from what you have to say. Remember – less is more.
- Use handouts or web links. If you really must go into detail use handouts for small groups or weblinks for larger groups (allowing people to access the information at home after your presentation).
- Be interactive. For most presentations, there is great value in having people ask questions during the presentation versus waiting until the end. The informal conversation is more likely to keep your audience engaged (and awake).
- Have some fun. If you look like you’re actually enjoying presentation (even if you dread it), your audience is more likely to enjoy your presentation. You don’t need to be a stand up comedian (and in some situations humor isn’t appropriate) but you can at least smile.
Now here’s one of my favorite TED Talks for those of you who would rather see the dentist than present. I love Amy Cuddy explaining Empowering Through Body Language. This is the short version, but if you have the time, definitely check out the long version on YouTube.
After reading this article, are there any tips you can use to improve your presentation skills? To help others (in a friendly way). How can you go from boring (or somewhat boring) to engaging in your next presentation? How can you better connect with your audience in a meaningful way?
If you want to learn more about how to improve your presentations skills, check out my Present Like a Pro package.