10 Ways to Boost Your Presentation Skillz 5


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I’ve listened to a lot of presentations, especially in the last 3-4 years. In the military, presentations are in disguise, and they carry names like “briefings” or “Commander’s Call,” but the reality is, every time someone takes the floor to deliver information, it’s a presentation. Even more recently, I’ve started to really enjoy listening to presentations…good presentations.1)Even the bad ones are great so I can check out and write notes about something else or get some overdue doodling done A quick glance at the view counts on Youtube for TED Talks will prove I am not alone.

As an extrovert, I also love giving presentations. I want to say it’s not because us extroverts like being the center of attention, but that’s probably not true. But it’s also because it’s a challenge. A presentation challenges me to become more knowledgeable on a topic. It challenges me to practice the craft of presenting. And it challenges me to find new ways to engage different types of people and audiences.

Not to mention, who doesn’t love feedback? Give a presentation and the faces staring back at you will give you some of the most powerful and immediate feedback there is, good or bad. Above all else, giving a presentation delivers a rare opportunity to set yourself apart. It gives you a chance to get noticed and perhaps open the door to new and exciting challenges in the future.

We’ve all been stuck in a room with a terrible presenter. If you’re anything like me, listening to a terrible presentation makes you super uncomfortable and wildly squeamish. It’s almost like you want to go up there and save them from their own disaster. If I haven’t had coffee, I’m less squeamish and more concerned with saving myself from my own calamity and falling asleep.

That said, everyone WANTS to perform well when it comes to presenting. Based on how poor quality of most presentations, it’s reasonable to question this truth, but no one walks up to the stage excited to bomb in front of their boss, peers, or guests. The Public Speaking course in college might have helped grease the skids, but being ready to give a great presentation means you have to stay fresh, knowledgeable, and prepared. There are some great resources to help get you ready…like this one….or this one.  While you wait for your Amazon Prime package to arrive, here are 10 other tips to make sure you’re ready to give a great presentation by tomorrow: 

1. Practice. Practice. Practice

Did you know 87% of people don’t rehearse their presentation before delivering it? Of course you didn’t because that’s a statistic I made up, but I bet it’s pretty close. Sitting in a chair silently rereading your manuscript and slides until it’s memorized is not practicing. Stand up, work the floor, and film yourself. If available, get some feedback from someone. This is, hands down, the most important tip and likely warrants it’s own blog post at a later date. For now, if you aren’t 100% sure how to practice, here’s a couple articles and books on the topic. 

HBR Article

A book to help you talk like TED

Forbes Article on preparation

2. Actually give a presentation.

Seems obvious, but not all of us are put into positions where the opportunity falls into our lap. Be active in seeking out opportunities to present and put your expertise on display. Sometimes this means literally asking to speak or take the lead on a project presentation. You’ll be surprised how quick and often you’ll hear, “Yes!”

3. Know the end game

Most often, a presentation won’t show up on your resume. Don’t let this distract you from understanding the impact a great presentation can have on your future. People, especially leaders within an organization, remember those who can deliver a powerful message. So, no opportunity to speak is too small. Take the time to prepare and it won’t be forgotten when other opportunities come up.

4. People expect you to bomb

The bar is set pretty low when it comes to hearing their message. Why? Because we continue to be disappointed by presentations that are repetitive, contain useless information, and drone on for two to three times longer than necessary. Unless someone is getting a speaking fee (and even then it’s not a given), people will give a forgettable or painful presentation at just about every opportunity. Simply by heeding to some of the things you hate when watching someone get up and speak on a topic, you’ve already built a foundation for a great presentation.

5. Have fun

If I were to give one of my sons a microphone connected to speakers for everyone to hear, they would grab it and quickly start shouting words like “poop,” “toilet,” and “toot”2)That is their current version of profanity until I snatched it out of their hands. Having the mic is fun. You can say anything and everyone has to listen, which could make you the most influential person in the room. At least for that moment. The floor is yours when you are giving a presentation, whether you have mic in your hand or not. Channel your inner 9-year old and embrace the power, with a little more self-control and less profanity.3)For this reason, the PA announcer at baseball stadiums must have one of the highest turnover rates in the world.

The halfway point seems like a great spot to put General Welsh’s speech to the AFA.

Watch it. Best 45 minutes you’ll have all day.

 6. Deliver the message…then get out!

I said have fun, but not at the expense of your audience. If you have 20 minutes, DO NOT keep talking for 30 minutes. Not 25 minutes. Not 20 minutes and 30 seconds. Respect people’s time. If you can’t fit the information in the time you’ve been allotted, then you haven’t practiced or asked for feedback. When you’re practicing, set a timer. Know the amount of time you need for each segment of the presentation.

7. Redundancy is the key to putting people to sleep

This is one of the things you can quickly identify and get rid of if you practice. Don’t repeat yourself. I say again, don’t repeat yourself. It can be so frustrating to hear a person continue to emphasize a point that has already been made. It comes across as though you are unsure about the information if you say it over and over again. Redundant points are insulting to the audience, a waste of time, and frankly, it’s just lazy. Now, I’m just being a jerk and I’m wasting YOUR time. Imagine this paragraph without the stuff in the Italics. You would have still received the same message, it would have been clear and direct. Less watered down. Practice can help expose redundancy. 

8. Be confident

If you were asked to give a presentation, it was for a good reason. If you sought out the opportunity, your request was granted for a good reason. You’re the right person at the right time to give the right information. Know there is no one better and crush it. When you’ve done the work to be prepared, being confident becomes a whole lot easier.

9. Tell a story

Have a beginning, middle, and end. Use strong transitions. No matter how dry the information feels, make it meaningful and be influential. Here’s a great post on why building a story is important and some tips on how to do it.

 10. STTAMTEE&KIS

I have found the ole acronym STTAMTEE&KIS, Stop Trying To Act Smarter Than Everyone Else & Keep It Simple, very helpful when I am building a presentation. Don’t use unnecessarily big words. Your lexicon should include everyone in the audience. Don’t trail off topic. Don’t deliver more information that absolutely necessary. Stay on point.

This is the bare essentials and hopefully gets you excited about taking on the next presentation opportunity and obliterating it. I’ll leave you with one of my TED Talk faves:

Tips that receive an honorable mention, but didn’t make the cut for this blog: Get rid of the excuses, No presentation is too small, Don’t be self-deprecating, and Dress the part.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Even the bad ones are great so I can check out and write notes about something else or get some overdue doodling done
2. That is their current version of profanity
3. For this reason, the PA announcer at baseball stadiums must have one of the highest turnover rates in the world.

About Brent Nichols

My blogging is, no doubt, all over the map, but hope you'll find something just right for you. Currently living in the D.C.-metro area in Northern Virginia. You know what? I think I kinda like it out here.


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