Presentation skills include several key qualities that impact the effectiveness of your message in a speech, business or sales presentation. Although public speaking is one of the most common fears people have, fear is often what drives professionals to develop their skills.
An often overlooked presentation skill is planning. This is the use of research to develop a message that connects with the audience. In selling, for instance, you should research a given prospect to understand his needs and prepare an impacting message. Preparation also involves putting together an organized presentation with an outline and visual aids. All of these planning elements help your presentation come across as knowledge-based, seamless and relevant. Practicing your presentation also helps.
No matter how technically sound you are as a presenter, you won't have a positive impact if you don't display poise and confidence. Poise is usually affected by your natural level of anxiety for public speaking. The two best ways to improve poise are to become extremely competent in your topic and to practice your delivery several times before making your presentation. Poise also helps you control the pace and effectiveness of your delivery. A crisp pace, combined with a clear message that includes emphasis on key points and varied patterns of delivery, keep the audience's attention.
In a presentation, your nonverbal messages can have a big impact on how you connect with the audience. This means you can use gestures and body language to your benefit or let poor mannerisms distract listeners. A smile, eye contact and straight but relaxed posture can boost the level of engagement with your audience and help them to stay focused on key points. You can also improve your presentation by making subtle gestures with your arms and hands.
A skilled public speaker knows how to involve the audience to her benefit. For example, teachers often ask discussion questions of students to keep them involved in learning. In a sales presentation, pausing periodically to ask prospects if they see certain benefits or understand key points helps ensure they are engaged and see value in what you are selling. Audience involvement is a form of hands-on learning, which increases message retention and impact.
Another important skill is learning how to use visual aids to enhance the visibility and retention of core message points. PowerPoint, poster boards, graphs, charts and handouts are common tools used for visual support. The key is to use visual aids to support your message but not dominate it. For example, don't read from slides. Instead, highlight key bullet points or images as you present the slides to enhance the effectiveness of your presentation.