Guide to Upgrading Your Presentation Skills [+ Tips You Shouldn't Miss]


If you’ve ever been petrified at the prospect of giving a wedding toast, you might be one of millions of people who doubt their presentation skills and public speaking ability. Presentation skills are important to master and they may be useful across situations, from the professional to the personal. Mastering effective presentation skills will surely help you at work and may also give you the confidence you need to feel comfortable in social settings. 

What Are Presentation Skills?

Presentation skills are a group of qualities and talents that enable you to give a captivating presentation. An effective presentation is one that communicates your ideas and the information you’ve gathered in an organized and compelling way. Presentation skills involve speech and body language, sometimes it can also include visual aids. 

Is presentation skill a soft or a hard skills? The answer could be both. Some presentation skills, like familiarity with slides, can be measured and developed through training. But a major element of effective presentation is soft interpersonal skills. They can include characteristics like confidence, body language, and vocal control. These come with more long-term practice and experience. 

It’s easy to confuse presentation skills and public speaking skills, as they do have some overlap. The softer aspects of presentation skills, synonymous with public speaking, include elements like maintaining eye contact and delivering clear, confident speech. But both skills differ in delivery. Public speakers have some flexibility to change their content, while presentation must be more rigid and structured, following a predetermined time and format. Presentation tends to be more formal and focuses on delivering information, while public speaking emphasizes persuasion or emotion. Another difference between presentation skills and public speaking is the former relies more on visual aids. 

Understand the Basics of Effective Presentation

Why Are Presentation Skills Important?

Presentation skills are important to master for both your professional and personal life. If your job requires you to speak to groups and deliver information, then presentation skills training might be essential for you. Beyond work, effective presentation skills go hand in hand with interpersonal skills, and the ability to communicate efficiently will help you come across as organized, confident, and persuasive. 

On top of that, effective presentation skills are bound to help your career growth. At work, you never know when you might be called on to speak to a group, big or small, and your confidence and ability will be noticed and possibly rewarded. Effective communication, a critical component of executive presentation skill, is essential for leadership positions, and may help you move to a position with more responsibility. 

Knowing Your Audience

An important part of effective presentation skills is understanding the needs of your audience. Every presentation should be customized to fit the group you’re speaking to. Will your audience appreciate some humor, or should you keep your presentation purely professional? Will your points require visual aids that organize your data? Thinking about what your audience will respond well to is an important quality of good presentation skill. 

To understand the needs of your audience, it may help to do some research on the organisation you’re presenting to. This will give you a better idea on their values and beliefs, and further shape your presentation. If time allows, your audience can participate in a short, targeted survey in advance, which will help you tailor your talk. 

Setting Clear Objectives

To deliver an effective presentation, you first need to consider your goal. Part of practicing effective presentation skills is to organize your talk around your objectives. This will guide what information you use, the tone you set, and whether you include visual aids.  

When pinpointing your presentation goal, it might be helpful to ask yourself a few questions. What is this talk meant to achieve? Who is your audience? Do you want your presentation to inspire, to be informative, or to affect change? Once you have your objective in mind, write a goal statement and return to it often as you prepare your presentation, to keep yourself on track.

What Are Some Key Elements of an Effective Presentation?

1. Content development

The content of your talk should never stray too far from your objectives. Think of a few main points for the body of your presentation and look for examples or data to back up each point. Once the body is outlined, use the information you’ve gathered to craft an introduction and conclusion. Another effective presentation skill is to have an introduction with a compelling hook, while using the conclusion as a chance to summarize your earlier points. 

Your content should follow your previously identified goals and be relevant to your audience. Consider the use of personal stories, humor, and visual aids to make your presentation more engaging. 

2. Designing effective slides and visuals

Visual aids are an important aspect of effective presentation skills and can make a presentation more engaging and memorable. Some things to consider when designing your aides is how you present your information. Slides with long paragraphs of technical information won’t be captivating. Instead, focus on a few key points of data, and use short but succinct sentences. Avoid aids that are too ‘busy’, with lots of color and designs or competing graphics. A good rule is to use visual aids that are simple but informative. 

There are many tools available to create effective presentations. Presentation platforms like Google Slides and PowerPoint can be used for slides, while programs like Excel and Numbers can be used to organize data into graphics. Try poster building sites like Adobe Express if you want to use a physical prop. At the end of the day, the best presentation tool is whatever you are most comfortable with.  

3. Delivery and body language

Presentation skills include soft interpersonal skills like body language. These can be learned but they take time and practice. The most important aspect of your skill in presentation is confidence, something best achieved with lots of practice in public speaking. Consider presentation skill workshops to increase your self-confidence and get extra practice. 

The best body language for public speaking is open and relaxed. Avoid slouching and folding your arms in front of you. In contrast, a straight back, with palms open and facing out conveys confidence and authority. When speaking, make eye contact with the audience and try to enunciate and speak slowly. 

4. Rehearsal and practice

People with effective presentation skills practice their talks many times to get it right. Rehearsal will not only help you remember your facts and practice your pacing but will also build confidence in your presentation skills and public speaking ability. There are few ways you can rehearse effectively and improve your presentation skills. Consider practicing in front of a friend or family member who you trust to give honest, gentle feedback. You can film yourself practicing your presentation, to later review what you can change. 

5. Dealing with nervousness and anxiety

Even people with excellent presentation skills can get nervous before their talks. Presenters commonly fear the judgement of their audience, and don’t want to come across nervous or unsure. Ironically, the best way to combat that fear is to embrace it. Consider the worst thing that could happen during your talk, and you might find it’s not quite as bad as it seems. 

Most common presentation fears, like the fear of forgetting content, running out of time, or making a mistake, are easily overcome with practice. Presentation skill comes with practice, and the more you rehearse your talk, the less likely it is that mistakes will happen. 

The best thing you can bring to your presentation is a confident and relaxed attitude. Some ways to relax before your presentation include positive affirmations, power posing, and meditation. Remember that even if you have effective presentation skills, it still won’t be perfect, and that’s totally okay.  

6. Interactive techniques 

One way to advance your presentation skills is to consider audience interaction. When given space to interact, your listeners will be more engaged and will more easily internalize the information you’ve shared. 

One way to increase audience interaction is to ask questions. These should be open ended to inspire more thoughtful answers. Rather than a quiz on your material, treat questions like an opportunity to hear someone’s thoughts or experience related to your points. You can also leave time near the end of your presentation for discussion. Start the discussion off with a question, summarize people’s answers, and build on their ideas. 

7. Storytelling and use of examples

One presentation skill is storytelling. Stories can make complex ideas feel more personal and provide a cohesive narrative to help others understand. To incorporate storytelling as an effective presentation skill, keep your story short and to the point. A long or rambling tale might be confusing and lose some listeners. Whatever story you tell should be directly applicable to your presentation points. 

8. Effective Q&A handling

It’s best practice to leave time at the end of your presentation for questions and answers. One way to prepare is to consider the types of questions your audience might have. If someone does ask a question, first repeat it back or summarize it to give you time to compose an answer. 

An important presentation skill is handling difficult questions. If you aren’t sure of your answer, it’s acceptable to say as much, and commit to finding an appropriate answer for your audience later. Don’t feel pressured into a hasty response if you aren’t confident that it’s accurate. 

Tips to Improve your Presentation Skills

Enhance Your Presentation Skills with These Helpful Tips

Tip 1: Video Recordings

To refine your presentation skills, try recording your presentation for later study. Although it might be uncomfortable at first, taking a video of yourself is a good way to look for areas to improve on. It can also help you build confidence if you treat it as a chance to review the strengths in your presentation. 

Tip 2: Public Speaking Courses

A presentation skill training course can offer essential guidance and education. Not only will their learning be more structured, but a course can give you plenty of chances to practice your presentation skills. You can find presentation skill training courses on popular sites like Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn. 

Tip 3: Real-Life Practice

The best way to improve your presentation skill is practice often. Don’t wait for your next presentation, as there are potential opportunities everywhere. Practice with friends or family, join a toastmasters’ club, or look for an opportunity to speak up in workplace meetings.   

Tip 4: Self-Confidence Building

As mentioned, confidence is one of the most important presentation skills. Thankfully, you don’t need to speak in public every day to build your confidence, and there are many little habits you can nurture to increase your self-assuredness. Try writing some positive affirmations and repeating them to yourself often. Use social settings as opportunities to work on relaxed and confident body language. Make a list of the qualities you most like about yourself. Practice your presentation until it feels effortless. 

Tip 5: Continual Learning

Even for people with excellent presentation skills, learning doesn’t stop. Always be on the lookout for ways to improve your talent in public speaking. These could be in the form of presentation skills workshops, seminars, online training, clubs, even books on presentation skill.  

💡 Pro tip: After applying these tips to master your presentation skills, remember to include this valuable skill set in your resume. Support it with relevant experience to elevate your job application!

Key Takeaways:

  • Presentation skills are built over time, and composed of things like body language, audience interaction, confidence, and familiarity with visual aids. One of the most effective presentation skills is preparedness, as it’s important to consider the goal of your presentation, plan your content, and research your audience. 
  • Working on your presentation skills can advance your career, and it's equally important for personal success, as most presentation skills are interpersonal.
  • It’s never too late to enhance your talent as a presenter. Consider presentation skill workshops and online courses to give you practice and confidence.

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— Originally written by Tiffany Quinn —

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