Does the idea of giving a presentation at school make you break out into a cold sweat? Does your mind go blank when you give a talk to your colleagues? Presenting is tough. But there are a bunch of tips and tricks we can use to become better, more confident speakers at work.
When it comes to presentation skills, TED Talks are the ultimate. They’re a series of short video talks on everything from cartoons and the sixth sense, to body language and bionic limbs (many of the best TED talks have gone viral). The best presenters are the ones who make you laugh and feel inspired…some of them are even able to make statistics interesting – now that’s talent.
But even the most jaw-dropping speakers had to start somewhere. Developing excellent presentation skills will help you succeed at work – whether it’s a big presentation to hundreds of your colleagues or a job interview.
Maybe you want to convince a customer to buy a new product, or maybe you’d like to convince your boss to bump up your salary. Either way, your presentations need to influence people. You need to get your point across in a clear and interesting way. Presenting is an important transferable skill, and it’s also part of becoming a great leader.
So here are 6 ways to improve your presentation skills that are actually fun:
1. Act like a superhero
And we don’t mean this figuratively – to be a good speaker, you literally need to act
like a superhero. In her (very well presented!) Ted Talk, Amy Cuddy explains how body language can make you feel powerful. “Power posing” is even backed up by science.
So the next time you have to make a presentation at school or work, take a few minutes beforehand to stand with your shoulders back, head up and hands on hips. Then find how much more confident it will make you feel during your talk.
2. Make the audience lol
Presentations don’t have to be boring, even when they’re about serious topics. Crack a couple of jokes or tell a funny story – it will keep your audience interested. And if you’re not sure whether a joke is too much, try it out on a teacher or colleague who will give you honest feedback.
3. Create your own avatar
When we’re giving a presentation, we have a mental image of ourselves. So we need that mental image to be an outgoing, confident speaker – even (or especially!) when we feel nervous. Think of this tip like creating an avatar (aka a character or alter ego) when you’re playing a video game. Most people pick a character that’s fierce and determined. You can do the same in your head when it comes to presenting. It’ll do wonders for your confidence.
4. Use props
Presentations that are just talking and a few bland PowerPoint slides are pretty dull to watch. Take your presentation skills to the next level by using props. For example one speaker used a flying robot bird and another brought a human brain on stage to explain what happens to the body during a stroke. You don’t have to be quite so ambitious in your next work meeting – but you could check out these presentation tools to spice up your speech.
5. Imagine the audience naked
This is an old trick to stop yourself feeling nervous. But it’s useful to remember that the focus of your presentation should be your audience, not yourself. Ask your listeners what they think. You even could start by asking them to answer a poll or survey. It makes them feel like they’re part of your talk.
6. Practise, practise, practise
Okay, so we know this tip is a bit less fun but it’s true that practice makes perfect. Try out your talk on friends or family who will give you constructive feedback. Think about keeping eye contact and time yourself. Learn your material inside out so it won’t seem like you're just reciting information – it’ll help you let go of nerves and be yourself.
What other top employability skills have you got? Put your key skills to the test.