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How Preparation Improves Your Presentation Skills

Mar 16, 2008
Some people feel that giving a presentation is a daunting experience, regardless of the setting. The thought of standing up in front of a large group of people and getting the words out in the right way is the most nerve-racking experience they could imagine. At work, staff may be asked to deliver a presentation at a meeting; this requires plenty of preparation and rehearsal to achieve success.

However, even after taking the time to work on perfecting your presentation, it may not be enough. You need help with your presentation skills on the actual day. Giving presentations involves interacting with and engaging your audience in a way that reflects your personality. This means communicating with people and delivering your key messages without losing their attention.

There are few basic principles to improving your preparation and presentation skills. Each of which needs plenty of consideration and time spent on preparation. Before any presentation, you must be clear about the purpose of your presentation, research and understand your audience, sort your material into a logical structure, add 'flavour' to the facts and prepare visual aids.

The first step to improving your presentation skills is preparation. Imagine you have just been given the task to prepare a presentation based on your work, studies, research etc. However, you have been a set time limit to prepare and speak. The moment you are given the task is when you should start planning. Ask yourself what is the main objective of the presentation and what are the main points you would like to make?

Jot down key points in bullet format. Never use a script in a presentation, because you are likely to appear unnatural or even uncertain when delivering. Use cue cards or postcards instead, making sure to number each card. Some people do not use notes at all and rely on their slides as a prompt. Be careful with this, as there is a great temptation to fill your slides with facts.

It is actually counterproductive. Your audience cannot listen to you and read at the same time and you may find you struggle to sift the key points from packed slides as you speak. Once you have gathered the points you want to make organise them into a logical flow. Add examples and anecdotes to make each key point memorable. Prepare for the question and answer session too.

The second step is to practise - this may come under preparation but often people forget that when preparing their speech and organising visual aids they leave very little room to practise with other people around. Ask your friends, colleagues and family to listen to your presentation and encourage them to give you feedback. Choose your rehearsal audience carefully - they need to be honest without knocking your confidence.

Consider the way you speak, how you pronounce your words and how clearly you can be heard. Projecting your voice is not about shouting - it is about good breathing, clarity of pronunciation and eye contact. If you speak quietly, you may come across as timid or uncertain of your facts. If you speak too quickly, they will find it hard to take everything in. Remember that you communicate through body language, therefore stand up straight and use a few gestures to emphasise key points.

Finally, the delivery of your presentation, in theory if you have put effort into good preparation and have rehearsed you should be fine on the day. One thing you should be aware of is that many people feel nervous because they care about getting it right. If you have prepared well it will reduce your nerves considerably. If you think about all the things that can go wrong, you create a negative picture in your mind. Imagine a positive outcome and visualise success - top sports personalities do not use this technique for nothing!

On the day, make sure you arrive early. The only part of your speech you need to memorise is your opening line - this will help you get off to a good start. Make sure you make eye contact with everyone in the room, take your time - own the space - then proceed with the presentation.
About the Author
Anna Stenning has developed on her presentation skills having provided many presentations in her previous employment. For more on personal development training visit http://www.speakfirst.co.uk/
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