Whether you are giving your first, your tenth or your 100th presentation, there will always room for improvement. But sometimes we can get lazy, complacent, or too close to our presentations, which can make it difficult to see where those improvements can be made. Here are some suggestions.
Improve Your Presentations by Tailoring to Each Audience
Not all audiences are the same. They may want the same general information, but the specifics — the nuances, if you will — will be different. The key to effective presentations is meeting the needs of the audience before you. Therefore, you need to tailor your presentation — the stories and examples you use, the language you communicate with, the quantity of information you provide, etc. — to each audience. So, ask yourself these questions:
- What does this audience need or want to hear about your topic?
- What results are they hoping to get from your presentation?
- What jargon or language does this audience use regularly?
Improve Presentations by Soliciting Feedback
Feedback is a powerful tool for any presenter. Whether it is in the form of a survey completed after at the end of a workshop or delivered via email within the following day or two, the information that audience feedback contains can be invaluable to making the next presentation even better. Everyone could use some constructive criticism from time to time. It keeps us on our toes.
Improve Presentations with Further Training
There is always something new to learn and each speaker trainer has an expertise that can help you improve your speaking skills. Take speaking skills classes. Go to speaking technique workshops. Attend speaker training. Read books about speaking skills and the business of speaking. Hire a speaker mentor or coach. At this point in time, I’m enrolled in one online public speaking training program and belong to two speaking membership programs that give me access to speaker trainers that I respect. I also have a small library of books on a variety of speaking related topics. By participating in continuing education, I not only learn new skills but learn new perspectives on established skills, as well.
Improve Presentations with the KISS System
Your presentations don’t need to include everything about a topic your audience wants to know but were afraid to ask. In fact, if you try to cram too much information into your presentation, you’ll lose your audience. So Keep It Simple Silly!
- Present no more than three to five major concepts with your presentation. The human mind understands things best when presented in threes.
- Keep visuals simple and free of clutter. Use large fonts. Present no more than three ideas on a slide, one is better. Use images instead of words whenever possible.
- Organize your information in a logical order that is easy to follow. Don’t bounce around.
Improve Your Presentations by Activating All the Senses
The longer your presentation, the more you need a way of engaging your audience. Keep in mind that the people in the seats before you are individuals, with individual learning styles. So use all five senses to engage them.
- Sight: Use visual words — such as colors, word pictures, etc. — and actual imagery to engage the visual learners in your audience.
- Sound: In addition to your voice, use words to invoke sound for your audio learners. Create mental sound with words such as bang, chirp, rumble, etc.
- Touch: Kinesthetic learners prefer hands-on activities. If you can’t physically give your audience something to touch, evoke the sensation with your words by including descriptions of texture — smooth, rough, bumpy, etc.
- Smell: You could literally burn aromatic candles or incense during your presentation, but that is not always practical or wise (some people are allergic to certain scents). But you can evoke the sensation of smell with words that describe the aromas of what you are talking about. Even the mention of aromatic things — coffee, pine trees, apple pie — can activate the sense of smell for your audience.
- Taste: Like smell, you will need to get creative with this one. Can you describe the flavor of something in your stories and examples? Or perhaps you can simply use words that evoke the sensation of taste, such as flavor, zest, pungent, spicy, sour, sweet, etc.
Improve Presentations with Engaging Facts and Figures
First, make sure the information you are providing is accurate. After that, be creative and engaging in how you present facts, statistics, figures and other “dry” information.
- Present them visually with pie charts, bar graphs, or other illustrative representations.
- Tell a story about the information — bring the fact alive with examples of how it shows up in real life.
- Use analogies, similes, and metaphors to communicate the information. An analogy compares two things, such as comparing a heart to a pump. A simile is the comparison of two seemingly different things in an interesting way, such as comparing someone’s personality to that of an animal (brave as a lion, strong as an ox). And a metaphor is when you apply a word or phrase to an object or action that is not literally applicable, such as “going down the rabbit hole of a browser search.”
I hope this post gave you some applicable inspiration for ways that you can improve your speaking skills and presentations. Do you have any further ideas? Share your wisdom with us in a comment below.
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