Top Tips to help you improve your presentation skills

An email from a large corporate pops in your inbox — asking you to give a talk at an upcoming conference. Your stomach flips at the thought of speaking in front of such a large group. I’ve been doing this for years, but I get even more nervous as time goes by.

Public speaking can be a nerve-wracking experience, but it doesn’t have to be. With good preparation, delivering a presentation is empowering. Not only are you sharing knowledge, but you’re also establishing yourself as an expert on your presentation subject.

Whether you’re giving a speech to hundreds or showing a PowerPoint to five co-workers, we’re here to help you deliver a powerful, engaging presentation. We’ll highlight top tips to help you plan, write, and deliver a presentation that is clear, thoughtful and engaging.

Planning your presentation

1. Create a mind map to explore the sub-topics of your topic.

Rekindle your knowledge of the subject by creating a mind map, or diagram, that shows all of the different ideas relating to the topic. Refreshing your understanding will help you feel more confident about delivering the presentation.

2. Avoid covering too much material.

Covering a long list of ideas will overwhelm, rather than educate, your audience. Decide whether you need to narrow the scope of your topic by considering the time you’ve been allotted for your presentation and the complexity of your subject.

3. Watch other presentations.

Observe how other professionals give talks — from their body language to their flow of ideas — to find tactics that you can use in your own presentation. For example, the TED Talks channel on YouTube is an excellent free resource for watching great presentations.

4. Throw in some humor.

Besides being entertaining, a joke here and there reminds the audience that you’re human. The audience is more likely to listen if you seem relatable to them.

5. Create several takeaways.

Great presentations are useful, point out the valuable lessons of your talk for your audience.

6. Be authentic.

Audiences can tell when a speaker looks or sounds insincere.

7. Make eye contact with audience members.

This non-verbal tactic keeps you and the audience engaged. They can see that you’re paying attention to them and you can read their facial expressions to see if you need to adjust your delivery to boost their attention.

8. Articulate and project when you speak.

A great presentation is wasted if you aren’t heard by the audience. Not to mention, you will feel more confident and seem more confident to your audience if your voice is loud and clear. Present your speech with confidence, the audience will see that you’re a subject matter expert who is comfortable expressing their ideas.

9. Limit text.

Fill your slides with images and bullet points, or your audience will be too busy reading to pay attention to what you’re saying. Slides should be engaging with a vibrant background colour.

10. Don’t read your slides.

If you’re constantly turning back to see your PowerPoint, your audience won’t be able to see your face and you’ll seem less knowledgeable. Practice your presentation facing forward with your content memorized, your audience will be able to see your expressions and feel more confident in your expertise.

11. Include videos.

Add movement to your slides with video and your presentation will be more eye-catching and engaging.

12. Coordinate audio-visual (AV) support beforehand.

Whether you’re speaking in your office or at a conference, figure out the technical details of showing slides beforehand.

13. Time yourself.

Most conferences have time limits for each talk. Make sure you’re within these time frames by timing your presentation as you practice.

14. Slow down.

People tend to talk more quickly when feeling nervous during public speaking. However, rushing through your sentences can make your presentation difficult to understand as an audience member. Focus on speaking at a steady pace as you practice your presentation.

15. Have a practice run in front of someone else.

Find someone you trust — a friend, family member, co-worker — who can watch you deliver a practice presentation.

16. Take deep breaths and stay hydrated.

Take a moment before you deliver your presentation to imagine it going extremely well.  Drink water, your mouth may get dry after speaking for such a long time. Bring a bottle of water on stage in case you need to refresh yourself during the presentation.

17. Smile!

Smiling makes you seem approachable and friendly to your audience, so they’re more likely to pay attention.

18. Say Thank You.

A simple, yet essential tip. Your audience took time out of their schedule to see you speak, saying Thank You is a small gesture to showing your gratitude.