You don’t have to go on a management training course to improve you presentation skills.  Here are 10 simple steps which if followed will improve the presentations you give.

Step 1.  Research you audience.  What is it they need to know?  What do they know already?  Make sure that you match your content to them and structure your presentation clearly by starting with the introduction, followed by the main content (facts, arguments, supporting data), and finally conclusions and a summary.

Step 2.  Think about how you will be perceived by your audience.  Giving a presentation is a like giving a performance, and so dress appropriately for the occasion, and present the desired image to your audience.

Step 3.  Body language is important.  You will be more believable if your body language is congruent with what you say.  So practice in front of a mirror, use a video or get feedback from a trusted friend/colleague.  Try not to be seated when giving a presentation, you body movements will be restricted, your voice will not be as powerful and overall the presentation will have less impact.

Step 4.  Speak with conviction.  Believe in what you are saying (which is why you should write you presentation yourself).  Stand up and speak slowly, clearly and loudly.  Pretend you are speaking to the person at the back of the room.  Never ask if anyone cannot hear you arguments – you should know that they can.

Step 5.  Do not read from notes.  While it is quite acceptable to refer to your notes from time to time, do not read from them for extended periods.  If you miss something, do not worry as your audience will not know.  If it is important then come back to it, if not simply move on.

Step 6.  Maintain eye contact with the audience.  Eye contact is important because it gives the impression that you are talking to people and not at them.  Make direct eye contact with a number of people in the audience and every now and then glance at the whole audience.  In this way the audience will feel involved.

Step 7.  Respond to your audience.  Watch your audience, how are they responding to what you say?  Are they interested or have they become bored?  Change your strategy if you need to.  Speak more quickly (or slowly!), vary your tone, and be prepared to add additional material to regain their attention.  The key to this is being prepared, so that you know what can be left out or added if needed.

Step 8.  Make sure that any audio visual aids you use ‘add’ to your presentation and are not the reason for it.  Avoid gaudy colours, too much animation or unnecessary sound effects.  No one wants to sit through 100 PowerPoint slides!  Check that all audio visual aids work in plenty of time before the presentation, and have a back up plan in case anything fails.

Step 9.  If you are giving hand outs tell your audience ahead of time so that they don’t waste time writing unnecessary notes.  If you wish to give them out at the start be prepared for the audience to flick through them while you are talking.

Step 10.  Finish on time.  Time your presentation to perfection by practicing it and knowing what you can add in or leave out.  It is important that you know when to stop talking!  To end your presentation, summarize your main points and leave your listeners with a positive impression and a sense of completion.

As stated earlier, you don’t have to go on a management training course to improve you presentation skills.  By following the 10 simple steps laid out above, combined with plenty of practice you will soon be able to deliver the perfect presentation.