Presenting and public speaking are common fears with estimates of up to 77% of the population experiencing some level of anxiety regarding public speaking, and yet presentation skills are key for elevating your professional communication and enhancing your career journey.
How do you improve your communication and presentation skills? How can you develop engaging content and deliver the message with impact, while connecting with the audience?
Here are our strategies for overcoming your challenges and delivering successful communication in presentations.
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Understand the audience for your presentation
Before you start planning your presentation, think about who you are talking to, what interests and motivates them, and what their views are on your topic. Effective presentations tailor the information to suit the audience, considering what will engage them best and connect them with the topic. If you know the audience because you already work with them, then this should be straightforward. If however you have never met the group before, it works well to do some research and ask the organiser to give you insights into the people attending.
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Structure the presentation for maximum impact
Before writing any slides, define why you are giving this presentation, the story that you want to build for the audience and what action you need them to take afterwards. Identify the key takeaways and your final message, and from there you can plan the flow of the presentation. One way to do this is using a virtual whiteboard or stick-it notes to plan each point, which you can then re-order, add extra points and remove sections. The advantage of doing this before you start writing slides is that it is easier to work with the topline messaging with these approaches, and not get stuck too quickly in the detail.
Effective presentation delivery techniques to connect with the audience
There are many ways to amplify your presentation through the power of your visual aids and verbal communication. Imagery and a limited amount of words work well for slides, and consider how you will open and close your presentation in an impactful way. Best practice includes using a quote, telling a personal story, sharing a shocking statistic or getting the audience to do an exercise. Utilise a variety of communication skills, for example, your voice and verbal techniques to emphasise your message, such as varying intonation, stressing key words, and speaking at an appropriate volume and pace for the meeting space.
The power of your body language
Explore how you will employ your body language or non-verbal behaviours to enhance your communication skills in presenting, for example, planning how you will stand or sit, how you will move and which hand gestures can emphasise your message without distracting. Also don’t forget eye contact and smiling – the best way for you to be relatable, communicate your warmth, as well as look and feel more confident yourself.
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Cultural influence in presentations
Cultural values of the group play a role in how you approach your presentation, such as how formally you should dress and act, how interactive and involved people want to be in presentations, and how expressive and mobile you are with your voice and body language. Using cultural intelligence and adapting your communication style to the audience will lead to a more successful rapport.
Humour in presentations
Some presenters are very successful with using humour in presentations, and this can work for you too, as long as you take into account a few factors including knowing what works for your audience, if the style of humour is appropriate culturally and inclusive to everyone watching.
A question that often gets raised is do you have to be an extrovert to present well. The secret is that confidence is a journey and even the most confident presenters have been nervous at some point in the past, and may still feel nervous, depending on the context and the group. It is also helpful to think about nerves as the other side of excitement, and if you reframe it in this positive light, this can be helpful to you. Finally, for handling nerves in the moment which are starting to impact your communication, why not try our recommended confidence technique for presentations – PSS, Pause, Smile, Start again.
Dealing with challenging questions
Sometimes people consider they have achieved effective communication, if the audience does not ask any questions at the end of their presentation. Silence can mean different things culturally, and could indicate respect, acceptance, disagreement or even boredom. So welcome questions with curiosity to learn more about what the audience have taken out of your presentation, and key learnings for next time. When challenging questions come up, remember you always have the opportunity to follow up after the presentation, if you do not feel comfortable or confident to answer at the time.
How can Culture Cuppa improve your people’s presentation communication skills?
We offer presentation communication skills training for teams so they can overcome their challenges.