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Michael Petersen discusses five simple steps to help you deliver a better presentation.

No matter the number of presentations you give, to the smallest or the largest of audiences, the nerves that you experience before you say those first words will always be there.

The feeling of anxiety and need for composure before any presentation will always endure. And whilst you can never rid yourself of your presentation demons, you can learn to control and exorcise them. Improving your delivery skills, allowing you to deliver a better presentation.

Presentation Article and Advice about Delivery Skills

Five simple steps to help you deliver a better presentation.

Michael Petersen, Director of Business & Partner Development,
Though there are many trains of thought and differing opinions on how to improve a presenter's delivery skills, these five simple steps will help make your presentations clearer, and communicate your thoughts, opinions, and arguments more precisely.

  • Breathe
  • One of the most obvious telltale signs of a nervous speaker is the natural tone of their voice. If the speaker is nervous, what signal does that give their audience? Though several might find it endearing and feel empathetic, the vast majority of the audience will undoubtedly view the speaker as amateurish, perhaps even unprofessional. Either way this is a risk as a presenter you should and need never take.

    Before you speak, spend time taking some deep breaths to get rid of tension in your voice.

    Visualize yourself speaking before your audience standing there relaxed and confident. Confidence in your voice gains confidence in your presentation.

  • Know your content
  • It might sound obvious, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people just try to "wing" their presentations.

    Audacity and over confidence in yourself as a presenter and your need to rehearse and know your content, is a sure fire method to switch off your audience.

    Many presenters make the effort to compile graphs and illustrations and present them without clear points or really having thought through the key message or point of the slide.

    Planning what you are going to say is a preparation exercise that illustrates knowledge and authority, boosting confidence that is felt immediately by your audience. Most speakers today use notes, of one form or another. Be it cue cards, post-it notes, or PowerPoint presentations that helps guide their thinking during the presentation. Use whatever method you feel most comfortable with, but remember always to keep eye contact with your audience.

    Prepare a good opening that makes your audience sit up and take notice, be provocative if you must, inform and make each point or key argument clear and well articulated, before summarizing and closing your presentation with a serious of statements that force your audience to recall and think about what you said.

  • Pronounce names correctly
  • When referencing audience members, previous speakers, or any individual, ensure that you are able to clearly pronounce their name correctly. If you are unable to pronounce a name, or the name itself is difficult for you to say, then try to write the name phonetically and practice the name until you are able and feel confident to say it as you should.

  • Use humor wisely
  • Humor possesses that endearing quality that when used correctly is enjoyable and entertaining to everyone. However when used poorly, or in the wrong context, no greater sound is louder than the echoes of uneasy silence in a room following a misplaced joke or humorous tale.

    We often cling to the misconception that if we are funny, people will like us. But humor, like singing is not something that everyone is able to do successfully, or with great effect.

    Of course if we were all like Joey and Chandler from Friends, or Jerry Seinfield for example, our presentations would no doubt benefit greatly from humor. But imagine a presentation by the reporters and journalists of 60 Minutes, though Andy Rooney may well pull off a presentation with his dry sense of humor, it's hard to imagine Steve Kroft, or Morley Safer entertaining their audiences with "stand up" routines. And humor that does not come off well has a tendency more often than not to fall flat, and fall hard.

    Never use humor that is demeaning or offensive to other people or groups. In short, it's generally not funny and serves only to create tension in your audience.

    As a general rule of thumb, its wise to consider, that If you have a natural sense of humor, then this should naturally be a part of and come through in your presentations. But again its use and type should be relevant. An entertaining and relevant story can often be a highlight of a presentation, but only if used to underline a key point. However, ask anyone if they would rather listen to a presenter with a poor or failed sense of humor, as opposed to one without, and most audiences would prefer and respect the latter to a much greater degree.

    Remember what you wish to achieve with your presentation and why your audience is listening, entertainment they will gain from a sitcom. Information, knowledge, opinion, and experience they can gain from you.

  • Use audio and visual tools to aid your presentation and reach people with different learning abilities and styles
  • I don't think its possible to ever recommend using audio and visual tools such as overheads, PowerPoint presentations, video, music, or other multimedia experiences to simply add pizzazz to a presentation. Without meaning they are at best a novelty, at worst a distraction or annoyance.

    The use of any media should be to further support or add depth to your argument and key points, and are used to help different people of different abilities and learning styles understand and grasp your message.

    For example, remember at school, your teacher would explain a trigonometry problem to the class? There was always one student who understood the problem straight away and knew the answer more or less as soon as your teacher finished saying the problem. Then there was the student who needed to write it down line for line and look at it to understand what the teacher was asking. Then there was the student who needed to draw out line A, and B, and see where C intersected. You see? Three very different students with learning abilities all solving the same problem.

    The use of additional and multimedia merely helps visualize, illustrate, show, walk through, or makes clear through sound your points to your students, your audience.

    With practice you will find it easier to relax and flow more naturally with your presentation, and deliver as a result, a much-improved performance as a speaker to your audience.
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