Ever feel like you're presenting on "auto-pilot"? Or like you've gotten to the point where you present okay, but still feel like you could do better?
Here are four suggestions for taking your presentations from okay to outstanding, so you can really connect with the audience and convey confidence as you communicate your message.
Rethink Your Content
Don't overwhelm your audience with information and tell them everything you know about the topic. Focus on the few points that they need to know and keep the details as backup material to answer questions or to hand out later as a supplement.
Also, include personal stories that are relevant to the message and the audience. For example, if you're talking to new project managers, share a story of how you learned from the mistakes you made on your first project, when you ignored the growing gap between the planned and actual budgets.
Rethink Your Slides
Before you automatically open up PowerPoint and start creating slides, think about whether you even need them. How will they add to your presentation? If you truly believe they will be helpful in your presentation (or if they are – unfortunately - required by organizational culture), then rethink your content and formatting.
Move beyond long sentences and cheesy clip art, and instead include high-quality photos that you've found online or taken yourself. For example, in a presentation about conveying leadership presence, I included a photo of a peacock that I had taken at a zoo – with the words, "Be confident (not cocky)" in 40-point, bold font.
Rethink Your Presence & Your Non-Verbals
Do you convey confidence, knowledge, sincerity and energy? Having a strong and confident (but not cocky) presence will make it easier for the audience to view you as an authority and respect your knowledge. As one manager said to me, "When my team presents, I want them to have all the information and also look like they know what they're talking about."
Make sure that your non-verbals – your eye contact, voice, gestures, movement, posture and facial expressions – communicate the same message as your words. For example, the audience will be less likely to hear, understand and believe you if your voice volume is too soft to be heard, you face the screen instead of the audience and you pace nervously in the front of the room.
Rethink How You Practice
When you get less nervous about presenting, it's a good thing! However, if it means you no longer spend any time practicing, it can prevent you from having more impact and taking your presentation to the next level.
Practice out loud in as close to a dress rehearsal as you can manage. For example, stand or sit based on how you will really present. Record yourself on audio or video and then review it or get honest feedback from someone whose opinion you respect – and who also is a good presenter.
The next time you have to give a presentation, follow these four suggestions so you can take it from okay to outstanding. You'll be amazed at what it feels like to really connect with the audience as you communicate your message.
Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people improve their presentation and communication skills so they can be more successful. Sign up to receive more public speaking and networking strategies from Gilda's e-newsletter: http://www.gildabonanno.com/Pages/newsletter.aspx
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