To improve presentation skills, individuals should focus on the key areas of adequate preparation, self-confidence, connecting with the audience, delivering a clear message, and effectively utilizing visual aids. A speaker will be memorable and engaging when his or her verbal and nonverbal communication supports the material being delivered. Many speakers make the mistake of depending heavily on visual aids for the bulk of a presentation, rather than using visuals simply to emphasize the speaker's key points.
Sufficient preparation is vital to any person who wants to improve presentation skills. Being familiar with the material will allow the speaker to provide a more relaxed delivery and interact more naturally with the audience. It is a good idea to arrive at the venue early to set up any computer equipment or props, to avoid technical glitches and other problems. Being early also provides an opportunity for speakers to introduce themselves to a few audience members before the presentation, which can make it easier for the speaker to establish eye contact later.
A confident delivery is essential to improve presentation skills. The speaker's nonverbal communication, including mannerisms and body language, can either undermine or emphasize the verbal message of the presentation. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or listening to calming music beforehand, can improve the nonverbal communication displayed by the speaker.
Avoid bringing attention to personal anxiety, inadequate preparation, or other issues that the audience would probably otherwise overlook. In the event of an actual mistake, the audience will be reassured by a speaker who apologizes briefly for the gaffe but then moves on. The ability to relax and enjoy one's own presentation experience will convey enthusiasm to the audience, in addition to making the message more memorable.
Taking steps to connect with the audience can improve presentation skills. Experts suggest making frequent eye contact with a variety of audience members. A presenter can also use brief anecdotes and personal stories to illustrate points, which helps build an emotional resonance with the audience.
Speaking slowly and audibly will make a greater connection with listeners. Anxiety often causes speakers to talk too quickly, which could obscure the key message of the presentation. Individuals who want to improve presentation skills can practice replacing the use of filler words, such as "um," with a short pause for intake of breath.
An individual who seeks to improve presentation skills should use effective visual aids, which can include a physical prop like flip charts or whiteboards, as well as computer presentation software such as PowerPoint®. Flip charts are said to be most effective with an audience of fewer than 20 individuals; the presenter should make sure that he or she is facing the audience, not the flip chart, when speaking. For a computer-based visual aid, keep slides simple by using bullet points in a large font size, as well as a supporting image. Keep in mind that visual aids are there to support the presenter, but they are not the entire presentation. Experts urge presenters not to simply read the slides to the audience.