No matter what career path you’re pursuing, having strong communication skills is a must – and that includes being able to give a solid presentation. Developing strong presentation skills early will benefit you considerably when you’re asked to give a presentation later in your career, whether it’s at a sales meeting, a conference or to internal team members.
The classroom is a great place to learn and apply different speaking techniques. Even skilled public speakers have opportunities to improve because giving a strong presentation is about more than just confidence.
Here’s how you can knock it out of the park next time you’re asked to give a presentation:
Know your audience
A lot of the work that goes into a successful presentation happens before you even get up in front of the room. It’s important to first understand who your audience is and what your primary goals are for the presentation. Is it to inform your audience? Inspire? Create action?
If you’re speaking to a classroom of your peers, for example, your primary goal is likely to educate. If that’s the case, you might want to include some activities or opportunities for interaction so that people have a chance to engage with and reflect on the material you’re presenting.
Focus on key messages
Next, determine what you want your audience to take away from your presentation. If they only remember one thing you said, what would you want that to be? Then, focus on weaving those key messages throughout your presentation and driving them home at the end of your talk.
Show – don’t tell
While statistics and data points can be helpful for supporting your main ideas, they’re not as engaging for your audience. Bring your presentation to life by including different types of multimedia, or breaking up large chunks of information with anecdotes or interactive sessions.
Keep in mind that your presentation doesn’t necessarily have to be a PowerPoint. While slideshows can be a great way to display key information, many people end up putting too much information on their slides – and that makes for a boring presentation.
Consider other ways to incorporate visuals, such as by showing a video at the beginning, or using handouts as a reference sheet for key points. Prezi is another tool that can help you create a more innovative and engaging slideshow experience.
Tell a story
Good speakers know how to elicit an emotional buy-in from their listeners. There are many ways to do this, but the most effective way is to tell a story.
All stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. For example, when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to an audience of investors and international media, he didn’t just jump into talking about the new product. Jobs painted a picture for his audience by retelling the history of communication technology, leading all the way up his revolutionary new product – the iPhone.
The iPhone was the new frontier, the key to making our lives faster and easier. It wasn’t just something we all would want – it was something we all would need. The presentation is still recognized as one of his best. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here.
Of course, practice makes perfect. Running through your presentation a few times will help you feel more comfortable on the big day. Think about memorizing your key points so that you don’t have to rely on notes during your presentation and practice moving around the space so that you can engage different parts of the audience. Check out this blog post for more tips on being a confident public speaker.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2021. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.