Due to popular demand I have put together a short (10 minutes) introductory video on presentation skills. It provides a quick introduction to the key ideas and a refresher for those who are experienced presenters. There are numerous links to further learning resources. So here’s the script to An introduction to presentation skills – Easy as ABC.
Hi. I’m Kim Tasso.
Today I’m going to provide a quick overview and some tips on the topic of presentation skills. And I hope it will be useful to those who are just starting out presenting as well as more experienced speakers.
I’ve done lots of work in the past helping people develop their presentation skills – whether it is to improve their performance at work events, build their confidence when public speaking or winning competitive pitches. I’ll also signpost you to some resources so you can dig a bit deeper on the different topics.
Glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is remarkably common. In fact, some experts estimate that as much as 77% of the population has some level of anxiety regarding public speaking. Mind you, I’ve always thought that it is scarier to present to the people you work closest with – your peers – rather than a roomful of strangers.
So here’s my ABC of presentation skills…
A – Audience (Audience sign)
The starting point is to consider your audience. And to develop empathy with the audience. Do some research into your audience before you start preparing your presentation.
Who are they? What do they know? Why should they be interested in your presentation? What are their expectations? What do they want to get out of your presentation?
Using the word audience suggests that they are passive – whereas they really need to be active and participating in your presentation. We will return to this later.
A good presentation focuses on the needs of the audience – not the speaker.
B – Basis and aims (Arrow)
What’s the basis of your presentation? Why are you doing it? What are your aims?
What do you hope to achieve with your presentation? What do you want the audience to learn or agree or feel or do as a result?
What are the key messages you are trying to convey? There should be no more than three key messages (there’s a separate video on the “power of three”)
Make your aims SMART. This will help you decide what to include and how to deliver the material. And then you will be also be able to measure effectiveness and success.
C – Content (Meat in the burger)
You’ll need to plan the content – or the meat (or meat substitute if you’re vegan) of the presentation.
Inevitably you will have more content than you can sensibly cover in the time available – and what the audience can reasonably absorb.
Try preparing a mind map to look at the different material you might include – and how it links together and might best be structured.
Think again about those three key points you want to convey – and also what you want to happen as a result of your presentation. You should include supporting evidence and examples to bring things to life.
Think about the structure of the presentation – as well as the beginning, middle and end consider alternative approaches – then and now, here and there or linking to a topical issue. Some suggest you tell them what you will tell them, tell them and then tell them what you’ve told them. That’s good for reinforcement.
The structure will also help the audience navigate your content – what you’ve covered and what’s coming next.
Think about what visual aids you might use – A picture is worth a 1,000 words! PowerPoint slides, images, tables, charts, props, videos, handouts – there are lots of possibilities so be creative. And don’t try to do too much with each slide – keep to one key point or image.
And think what will be of most value to your audience. The visual aids are for the audience – not for the presenter. People differ in their preference for visual or audio material so ensure that you use a blend of approaches.
Some people worry that their content is too technical – so start simple by linking to things they already know and build up layers of complexity. That is how all TED lectures are designed. Think of your audience as ignorant geniuses. Use metaphors. Explain the basics as if to a six year old.
Others worry that their content is too dry and boring. If you believe this then you will convey it to your audience in your non-verbal communication. Be passionate about the content. Find novel ways to make it come alive and relevant and meaningful to the audience.
Stories are remembered 22 times more than facts and figures alone – there’s a video on storytelling skills to help you.
Think about how you will start – that’s important for making a positive first impression and the primacy effect. And also how you will finish – that’s for the recency effect.
D – Delivery (Theatre sign – Comedy and Tragedy)
You’ll need to think hard about and practice how you deliver your presentation – What style and tone you adopt? Rehearsing will also help you to feel more confident (there’s a video on confidence too). And it will avoid you having to read from a script which can sound a little stilted.
Most of the meaning will taken not from what you say but HOW you say it.
So non-verbal communication (NVC) – there’s an introductory video on the basics – will be really important. Your smile, your posture, your warmth, your personality and your energy will be conveyed with NVC and you need to create a good first impression and connect with the audience as soon as possible.
Your NVC – your facial expression, posture, gestures and voice – will also communicate your energy.
An early hook – or promise of what the audience will get out of the presentation – the benefits – will also help. And try to pique their curiosity – pose a question or tell a story.
Of course, these days not all presentations will be made in person – a lot are done on-line and through digital channels. This makes it much hard to maintain eye contact – you tend to look at the screen rather than the camera. And also it is harder to read the NVC and micro-expressions of your audience and create connection and engagement through digital channels.
And always have a crisis plan – what happens if there’s a power cut or the loss of an Internet connection?
E – Engagement and effectiveness (Thumbs up (digital) and Hand shake)
For your presentation to be effective you will need to engage with your audience. It needs to feel like a conversation rather than a lecture.
In person you can do this by asking questions and promoting discussion. Online it is more challenging although you can use polls and break out groups to help.
If your presentation is designed to help people learn then you will need exercises to help them put things into practice. And it will improve audience satisfaction if your presentation allows people to share ideas and experiences, ask questions and network with each other.
Think too about how you might follow up from a presentation – build it in from the outset. For example, things you might send out afterwards or where participants can go to obtain more information.
If you have set goals before you start then it will be straightforward to measure effectiveness – whether this is in terms of satisfaction ratings, information retained or decisions reached.
So there you have it – presentation skills as easy as ABC
Audience – Basis (Aims/arrow) – Content – Delivery – Engagement/effectiveness
Good luck with your presentations.
Thanks for watching and listening
Presentation skills resources
Here’s a list of other resources to help you look at these topics in more detail.
Perfect pitches – Five key points (Video) Kim Tasso February 2021
selling legal services with storytelling (kimtasso.com) September 2017