Too often, human resoucres professionals struggle to prepare and deliver a presentation, while their audience struggles to maintain interest. Most, even those who fail, begin with good intentions.
No one is born a brilliant public speaker. Effective public speaking is a learned skill that can be improved by applying specific techniques. Learn these five basic principles to improve your presentation skills:
- Understand your audience
- Define your purpose
- Have a clear message
- Organize your content for optimal impact
- Maintain a natural, relaxed state
Understand your audience
The ability to connect with the audience improves if your presentation is aligned with their needs. Begin by asking yourself some simple questions: Who is my audience? How much knowledge do they have about this subject? What do they need to get out of this presentation? Will they be receptive or hostile to the subject matter? Answering these questions will help you tailor your presentation and heighten its relevance.
Define your purpose
Are you seeking support for your idea or new policy? Are you updating the organization on the new benefits package? Presenting copious amounts of information with an ambiguous purpose may frustrate and confuse the audience. By defining the objectives, it will be easier for you to create the presentation and easier for your audience to understand the content.
Have a clear message
Remember, you are the subject-matter expert and your audience may not have the same depth of understanding. Keep your message brief, specific and repeatable. Then, share it in a clear and concise manner. Ask yourself: If they only remember one key concept about my talk, what is it I want them to remember? Then state that concept clearly throughout the presentation. The audience will leave the presentation with a clear understanding of your purpose and intent.
Organize your content for optimal impact
After clarifying your message, develop a strategy for effectively delivering the content. Your format will affect the overall impression with which you leave the audience. For more advice on organizing a presentation, consider attending Exec|Comm's public presentation skills program.
Maintain a natural, relaxed state
Remember, body language communicates information to the audience. The audience is not only listening to your presentation, but also interpreting nonverbal messages. It is critical that you project confidence while at the same time appearing relaxed. Maintain good eye contact, use purposeful gestures and speak in an expressive manner to enhance your credibility and keep the audience engaged.
The most important of these skills is eye contact. Rather than scanning the audience, focus on one person at a time while relaying a full thought, think: One thought, one person. Remaining focused on one person for a complete sentence creates the impression that you are simply having a conversation with the audience rather than delivering a formal presentation. It will calm your nerves and improve your confidence.
As you prepare your next presentation, remember that presenting is not an innate talent. Delivering a powerful and effective presentation requires learning and practice.
About the Author
Karen Rodriguez joined Exec|Comm in 1999, and entered the partnership in 2009. As the manager of the Exec|Comm brand, marketing and design efforts, Karen oversees the firm’s identity, touching all aspects of the brand (online presence and web site, web-based learning center, advertising, PR, classroom materials, and live special events). She recently introduced the firm’s blog, The Chat, and launched their quarterly lunch and learn series, The Learning Exchange. Additionally, she manages their open-enrollment seminars in New York and San Francisco. Karen holds a B.F.A. from Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. She lives in Aberdeen, NJ, with her husband and three sons.