7 factors for perfecting your presentation skills



If you ever thought that carrying out presentations was daunting, gave you butterflies in the stomach or that you just couldn’t get that response from the crowd – you are not alone. You are like approximately 80% of the working force.  An estimated of only 10% truly love it and likewise, an estimated 10% have Glossophobia – or fear of public speaking.

Although the chance that you become a charming and orator like J.F. Kennedy or inspiring one like Churchill are close to nill (not to break illusions here), there techniques to at least counter many typical challenges.  A recent training I had the chance of jumping onto,”Presentations Skills” given by John May, structured these techniques nicely into 7 factors for perfecting your presentation skills.

mark twain quote on public speaking

The Message:  The first place to start is the message you will deliver itself.  Make sure you follow these 5 golden rules for an effective presentation when presenting: Attention 20/20, Interest, Conviction, Desire, and Conclusion

Confidence & Enthusiasm:  Confidence exhibits that you know and are comfortable with your subject.  People will trust more if you ‘seem’ like you believe in what you say.  Notice that seem is a key word – you can have butterflies waiting to pop from your stomach, yet still fake the illusion of confidence.  Appearances are important here.  Enthusiasm, likewise with believing, being enthusiastic or communicating the emotion will liven up your speech and communicate a positive feeling about what you are talking about.

exhibit confidence when presenting

Voice:  People only remember 7% of the message itself but 38% of your tone of voice.  The tone of voice and speed at which you speak are important in:  Conveying emotion, Highlighting what is important, and allowing people the time listen, process what is said, and let the important elements sink in.  Allow for enthusiasm and for pauses between sentences.

Gestures:  Crossing your arms, hands in pockets or hands moving every second will be distracting.   Envision that you are stable on your feet and hands visible in front of you with palms slightly facing your audience.  As with tone of voice, use your hands to express visually the important elements.  In this fashion you will combine, message, audio, and visual in expressing the important elements of your message.use hand gestures to express visually your message

Body: Being rigidly stiff or flailing about will both be counter-productive.  As tone of voice impact is greater than the message itself, it is estimated that body language accounts for 55% of the importance of your message.  Be stable on your feet, seem confident, stand upright (not like a stick though), and move naturally with your message.  Also, not to forget facing different parts of the crowd so that they feel included as your audience.


how much to do people remember from your message


Eye contact:  Eye-contact is critical in connecting with you audience and making an effort to try and cover the entire room and not just one area.  From research done on the power of eye-contact:  The research of Dr. Porges and Dr. Bensing reinforces another major tenet of Speaking Circles practice, which is that extended soft-focused eye contact is one of the quickest and most powerful ways for a speaker to build rapport and trust with an audience. (Source)

If you are in a room, just make sure to swipe left to right and connect with some in a soft-focused eye contact (in contrast to just blatantly staring at them).  If in a large audience room, split the audience into 4 regions and sweep your gaze at each quadrant throughout your presentation.

Practice & Practice:  This is probably the most important factor to reduce the anxiety.  Practice till you know your subject by heart.  This will increase your confidence, your appearance as confident, and most importantly if your slides or notes get lost – you wont be standing there speechless and succumb to the worst nightmare everyone always envisions!

importance of eye contact


5 golden rules for effective presentations


For some, Powerpoint is synonymous to presentations.  If this sounds like you, then you might just be like me – that is headed for trouble.  Don’t get me wrong, this is what I used to believe.  It’s one of the methods of dealing with the nervousness of public speaking, “The slides give me structure and help me stay on cue”…. is what I used to think.

Just recently I had the peculiar experience of seeing myself present through someone else eyes – so to speak.  And through these ‘fresh eyes’ , I learned that I needed to radically rethink how I used Powerpoint. And with this I wanted to share 5 golden rules for effective presentations that John shared with us.

Presentations that are slide driven or slaves to the slides, are just some of the many ways I recently discovered will diminish the value of the presenter, that is –  You.  Not only will it reduce the impact of what you are trying to say, it will also confuse or distract the audience.  Having to read a slide AND listen,  only has for effect of reducing the quality of information being absorbed.

Consider the following stats. In communicating a message, how much does your audience remember?  A study by psychologist Mehrabian at UCLA on non-verbal communication, showed that after 6 months:

  • 55% remembered your behavior
  • 38% the tone of you voice
  • 7% what the actual message was

Albeit that I feel quite comfortable speaking in public, I still wanted to go the extra mile.  I attended a highly regarded training, given by John B. May (http://www.mayintl.com/) –“Presentation Skills”.  Initally I thought it would focus on PowerPoint slides and how to make them more effective.  I couldn’t have been any more wrong.

The first day was focused only on us, presenters. What our body language conveyed and our tone of voice.  In front of a group of peers, we each had the chance to practice 10 presentations over 2 days and gather immediate feedback from everyone. A 360 degree feedback review.  One of the most rewarding learning experiences I’ve experienced.  More actionable feedback was provided than ever by any customer or manager.

Without divulging too much (you would have to take the course to get that), I did want to share one of my key take-aways that provided me a clear framework for conducting presentations – with or without Powerpoint.  For many that deal in the circle of presenations, be it beginner, moderate, or veteran, there are some basics I wanted to share… or re-share for some.

5 Golden Rules

  1. Attention 20/20:  Whether in presentation or in impactful writing, you have to get the attention of the audience immediately.  When attending a presentation, many expect to be bored. Hence why they come ‘prepared’, with phones, laptops, notepads etc… Its not for you silly. Its to distract themselves if indeed they are right, and get bored.    The goal to aim for – secure the attention with the first 20 words in the first 20 seconds
  2. Interest:  Once you have the attention, you know have to anchor that.  Why should the audience keep focused on you?  Two dimensions should be considered: your Legitimacy (i.e. credibility) and how Genuine you are (i.e. connected to the subject and audience).  You need to establish you credibility on the topic (e.g. years of experience) and that you understand the problem and or audience at an individual level.
  3. Conviction: You now have their attention, you have to continue keeping it.  2 words: Relevancy & Clear.  Relevant, make sure that you know your audience and make the key points relevant to them.  Clear, not everyone has the same pro-efficiency level in a language. Using too long sentences, complex words, or phrases will alientate a portion of the audience.
  4. Desire: What makes them to take action after your presentation?  Knowing your audience is critical.  Demonstrating the benefits through a story is key here I beleive.  Storytelling is one of the greatest ways of getting your audience to connect emotionally with your presentation.  It helps them envision themselves with your key points in their own world. Emotionally anchored!
  5. Conclusion:  People tend to remember almost exclusively the beginning & end of anything, be it presentations, books, or conversations.  Its to do with the concept of Novelty & Recency.  Novelty, introduction of the topic gets their attention “Whats all this about?!”.  Recency, because, well, its literally the last thing that entered their minds.  So a good conclusion, clear with an action (what you recommend they should be doing or thinking) and a concise summary of key benefits, will ensure that at least they get the critical stuff.  Even if they caught some Z’s in the middle….