How would you rate your presentation skills? Excellent, average, or poor? Tick one. Do you wish to improve your present level?

If yes, then pause for a moment and follow my lead.

Imagine you were having a conversation with your friend about career and life. Sounds like a breeze, right? The rhythm, enthusiasm, and flow of your speech all came naturally. You were effortlessly eloquent. You spoke and your friend grasped the message.

Now picture this: her friends, neighbors, and co-workers began joining the conversation. You suddenly felt blood rushing into your head. Isn’t it nerve-racking to speak before a group of people with varied backgrounds?

Doubt slowly set in.  Were your ideas truly worth listening to? Your knees started to shake.

This post is not an exhaustive presentation skills training that would turn you into a brilliant speaker overnight. That would be a lie. Here we will try to explain what it takes to be an engaging presenter.

No, you won’t become one by conforming to rigid rules or aiming for impossible standards.  You need not memorize a long checklist nor look for model speakers to imitate. What you need is real mastery of the effective strategies engaging presenters have been using for a long time.

Engaging Presenter

Study the anatomy of engaging presentations

What makes a great presentation? If we try to dissect the anatomy of successful talks, seminars or workshops, we realize that they have two essential elements:

  1. A thoroughly-researched and well-structured content; and,
  2. An appealing delivery

As the presenter, you should know something that (1) your audience don’t know yet and (2) they perceive valuable.

Thus, it’s your job to:

(a) Hold the attention of your audience by staying lively, clear, and relevant;

(b) Empathize with their concerns or pain points; and

(c) Highlight the solution to their specific problems through timely research and insider’s information.

People attend presentations to gain something of value to them. With that in mind, consider it one of your goals to  make their stay worthwhile.

Practice in a real setting

Speaking to a group of people or a huge crowd requires real-life practice. Nobody learns how to swim without ever getting wet. Look for opportunities to speak to a group of people and take the plunge.

You gain experience by trying to persuade, entertain, or inform real audience. Your first try may not turn out excellent but as you practice, you will learn to shake off stage fright. Presenting in front of many people will still make you nervous but less and less. The next time around, you’ll come up with creative ways to get rid of nervous feelings.  When you learn to concentrate on your message, you will defeat paralysis that makes coherent speech impossible.

Gaining confidence before an audience will require experience – yours and vicarious. As you practice and watch other presenters, you’ll get better at pointing out errors and wrong speech habits (your own and that of others). Then you’ll be able to unlearn or overcome them in the future.

Make time for reflection

As in most areas of life, you can learn how to be a better presenter through self-observation and reflection. You must have heard other presenters before and by now you ought to know why some talks good and others, bad.

Practice alone won’t transform you into a scintillating presenter. You need to review your experiences and that of others to figure out what works and what doesn’t. You may ask for feedback from great presenters after your speaking session. Alternatively, you can record your presentation to objectively assess your strong and weak points.

You can’t improve what you don’t measure that’s why this third element is crucial in your journey to becoming a better presenter.

Over to you: Can you differentiate “engaging” and “boring” presentations? What qualities of a great presenter do you think you lack? What have you done so far to improve your weaknesses? We’d like to know what’s on your mind so feel free to share them at the comment section.

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