Top 3 presentation skills that make your audience sit up and listen
Giving a presentation is a nerve-wracking experience for many people. But it doesn’t have to be! With some simple presentation skills, you can grab your audience’s attention and keep them engaged. The key is knowing what makes an engaging talk that will make your audience sit up and listen.
To help you out, we’ve put together our top 3 presentation skills that will make any speaker sound more confident and professional, whether presenting in-person or virtually.
1. Be passionate about the topic you are presenting
The chances are that you may not always love the topic of your presentation. Sometimes we just want to give up and go home! But there is hope!
One way to incorporate passion into your presentation is to tell a story. Stories are powerful because they connect with your audience emotionally as well as logically. They remind us of the personal connection we all share with each other in our humanity. Stories help to make your audience feel a part of what you are saying.
You may have heard the expression “facts tell – stories sell”. I believe it is true and that is why I have a bank of stories that I can refer to when I need to make a particular point. I am constantly adding to my story bank. I get really excited (which can also cause passion!) when I get an opportunity to use a “new” story.
2. Use a variety of vocal tones to keep your audience engaged
You could have the most amazing product, service, or message that you are relaying to the audience, accompanied by fantastic visuals… however, if your voice is one long monotonous sound then you will struggle to engage your audience!
Practice infusing enthusiasm in your voice by using vocal variety like volume, pitch, rate of speech and pause length. Try speaking in different pitches, add pauses or make sounds like “hmmm” and “ahhh”. This will keep the audience more interested because they’ll never know if it’s going to happen again, which makes it unpredictable and interesting!
Vary your tone. Practice saying single words with a range of emotions. For example, play with the word “what”. Say it in a happy, angry, surprised, upset, worried or inquisitive tone. You will notice it is the vowel that carries the emotion, while the consonants merely create the clarity.
Speak clearly, slowly and confidently, making sure to articulate words in order to get the most impact from what you are saying.
Remember to breathe between sentences when possible, and don’t be afraid of silence. It can create suspense for dramatic effect or build anticipation for what you’re about to say next.
3. Use effective body language
It is important to have engaged body language in order to captivate your audience and keep them hooked on your presentation.
When you start your presentation, regardless of whether you’re in a room full of people or presenting to a webcam, remember to smile! Not only is it contagious and will make your audience smile too, but it also helps the audience be more receptive to what you have to say. Remember not to smile continuously – but rather at the beginning, the end and anywhere else it is appropriate.
Use open body language – don’t slouch or cross your arms over your chest as these are signs of insecurity and low self-esteem.
Remember to use gestures to emphasise your points – use them where appropriate and be natural with them. If you struggle with knowing where to put your hands, take notice of what you do with them when you chat to a friend or colleague. This is what comes naturally to you when you’re having a conversation, so try to do the same when you are giving a presentation.
If you are presenting to people in-person, hold eye contact with people for about 3-5 seconds to help build a connection with them… but don’t stare! If you are presenting virtually, make sure to look directly into the camera itself so the audience at the other end will feel you are looking at them.
If you are in doubt about your body language, practice the presentation in front of the mirror.
Don’t forget about your facial expressions though, they are just as important as the words you speak!
Presentation skills don’t come naturally to everyone, but they are just like everything else… the more you practice, the better you become!
If you are nervous at first, try practicing in front of a mirror or record yourself on video so that you can see where improvements need to be made before presenting in front of an audience.