My School teacher’s all said the same thing in my end of year report.
He is shy. He needs to speak up in class. He will go a long way if learns to sell himself more.
For the first 18 years of my school life I received the same message.
My teachers knew that strong Presentation Skills was the foundation of much success.
It is little wonder that at the start of a new year, improving Presentation Skills always makes the list of New Year Goals. It certainly made my list year after year.
Here are my Top 22 tips to help you improve your Presentation Skills for 2022.
1. To be a great speaker, be a great person first!
Your message must be congruent with who you are as a human. Imagine a person who treats others poorly giving a talk about kindness or a person who lies and cheats taking about Integrity. Your audience will not tolerate a inconsistency like this. Remember nothing speaks as loud as who you are.
“Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Your message but always be consistent with who you are as a person.
2. Focus on sharing an important message that you have knowledge on and believe in.
The message always comes before the delivery. Clearly define your message and speak about something you are passionate about and really believe in.
Your audience will know very quickly if you are committed to your message or not. The audience will forgive you for imperfections like too many um’s and ah’s, poor eye contact and weak gestures.
They matter but come second to your message, passion and belief.
3. Give the same talk again and again
Too few presenters practice and improve the same talk. The best talks like the best songs are given many times and improved each time. Imagine how many time the Beatles and Elvis Presley performed their hit songs.
Find different audiences to speak to. Your family, your friends, work colleagues, organisations like Toastmasters, Rotary Groups, Colleges, even record yourself and send it to others to watch.
Get feedback after each talk and refine your presentations to make them better. Few presenters give an incredible talk the very first time they deliver it.
4. Tell good Stories.
A well told story takes a listener on a roller-coaster of emotions.
Think about your favourite movie. One of mine was the “Karate Kid Series” and now the follow-up “Cobra Kai Series on NETFLIX”. Watching it makes me cry – sometimes I wonder why?
Good stories elicit emotion. A good story has relatable characters who go on a journey of learning. The character is faced with an obstacle that they must overcome and do so with the help of a teacher. The character changes for the better.
We all have obstacles, life lessons, business lessons, teachers and stories. Write them down and use them. It makes your presentation original, relatable and enjoyable. They will never remember what you said, they will only remember how you made them feel.
A good story makes you feel something.
5. Be natural, Be yourself
There is only one YOU and besides everyone else is already taken – so keep it simple and easy and just be yourself. Ideally the best version of yourself.
Too many speakers go into character when they are asked to give a presentation. They become “Speaker Man” or “Speaker Women”. Don’t make it hard. Learn from children just be yourself, express yourself, show your true colours. This is real, authentic, and genuine and audiences love this.
6. Learn how to present virtually.
Buy an external Video Camera and learn how to use it. Virtual Presentations are here to stay. Present standing up. Position yourself on camera like you would on a photograph. Learn how to use your eye contact and your virtual stage to enhance the impact of your message.
Presenting virtually has best practices just like presenting in person. Don't just sit down and talk to the computer screen. Remember real people are listening to you.
7. A good Start will set you apart.
Our audiences are more distracted than ever. Today, speakers are competing with Social Media like Tik Tok, Instagram and Facebook that are very engaging. Audiences are Working from Home with lots of opportunity for distraction.
A good start will set you apart. In fact it is vital. If you don’t capture your audience’s attention in the first 7 seconds you may lose them and never get them back.
8. Be present, rather than perfect.
Too many speakers, spend too much time thinking about the next line they are going to say. They are focused on executing a perfectly rehearsed talk.
If you are in your head, you are dead to your audience. Your audience knows if you are really in the moment with them or if you are a robot regurgitating a speech.
9. Slides are a visual aid and NOT your presentation!
Powerpoint Slides are over-used and used poorly. A slide should only have one message per slide and should be clear and simple. Often a picture is best.
Other visual aids exist and can be more interesting than Powerpoint. Be creative, use props!
Remember slides are not your presentation, they are a visual aid that may enhance your message – that is all.
10. Learn the art of impromptu speaking.
Speaking with zero or little notice takes skill. Every leader need to feel comfortable speaking with no notice, it is a reality of leadership. Learning impromptu speaking skills can take the pressure of many speaking engagement. You simply don't have the time to prepare for every occasion.
11. To be a better speaker you need to Speak.
Just like driving, you will never become a better driver sitting in the passengers seat. Too many people think they will become a better speaker by reading books or watching others speaks.
To be a better speaker you need to speak more than before and you will get better for sure, with some guidance from a more experienced speaker, mentor or coach.
Take suitable opportunities and Speak Up!
12. Have incredible fun and enjoy the moment.
Whenever I have competed in a “Speech Contest” my wife would always say “have fun”. To her it was never about winning a contest.
It was simply about doing something you enjoyed, wanted to do or sharing a message that you are convicted to share. No body really cares about trophies and no one will remember who won.
Your audience knows what you are focused on. They want it to be about them, so have fun. Most audiences like to be entertained.
13. Keep it simple.
Speaking should be simple and conducted in a way that is clear, concise and easily understood. Explain it to me like I’m in the 5th Grade, now explain it to me like I’m a 5 year old without disenfranchising the 30 year old. PIXAR and Disney have this mastered.
Learn from the best!
It is Da Vinci that said "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication".
14. It’s not about you. It is about your audience.
Due to a fear of Public Speaking too many people make speaking about them. This make them fear speaking even more. It becomes a vicious fear cycle. Good speakers know it is never about you, it is always about your audience. Your audience wants to be entertained, informed, inspired or persuaded. Shift the focus! Shift the Fear!
15. No Notes please.
Save the notes for the practice session. Their is nothing more boring than watching a speaker read from notes. Remember rule 8. It is better to be present than perfect. Ditch the notes!
16. Don’t speak.
There are times when we are invited to speak where we should not. If you are asked to speak on a subject that you are not passionate about or do not believe in, say NO! You will do more damage speaking than not speaking on such occasions.
17. Secret is Solid Structure
With no structure you will ramble. Learn the basic presentation structures.
It all starts with Tell them what you are going to Tell Them, Tell Them, Tell them you Told Them. Know the rule of 3. Learn the Storytelling Structure. Learn a World Class Structure.
A speech structure is like a road map. It keeps you on track.
18. Power of the Pause
Speaking is not a sprint. Pausing creates suspense, allows the audience to ingest what you just said and is used for emphasis that something important is coming. You will always get a bigger applause with a well time pause!
The best speakers in the world pause for effect and to help your reflect
19. Use the Stage to enhance your message
Whenever we speak, we have a space. Great speakers use their space to enhance their message. They position themselves for the greatest impact to help the audience understand their message more clearly.
Just like a good sporting team has positions, so does a a good presentation.
20. Delivery like a child
Great Delivery includes facial expression, dialogue, eye contact, gestures, reactions to dialogue, using your space, moving with purpose and much more.
Learn and master effective delivery techniques to enhance your message. Children to do this naturally. As adults we hold back, overthink it and do it artificially. Watch a child in action and learn.
21. Love to Laugh
Learning the art of humour is a powerful way to enhance your presentation. Your humour must be true to your presentation style. Remember you don't add humour you uncover it! The humour is usually already their - just reveal it.
22. A great speaker is a feedback seeker.
Speak with a learning mindset. Anyone who improves at anything values constructive criticism. "Feedback is the breakfast of champions" - Ken Blanchard.
Find a coach, mentor or experienced speaker and get feedback.
My Teachers were right. Speaking up and learning Public Speaking skills have given me much opportunity in life. I hope these 22 pointers give you some education and inspiration to improve your Presentation Skills this year.