How to Improve Your Business Presentation Skills | The Pickering Group

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How to Improve Your Business Presentation Skills

Maybe you’ve asked yourself, what exactly is a Business Presenter? Then, as your phone sends you a cheerful alert about tomorrow’s report meeting, you realise. Oh no. It’s me, isn’t it?

There may be many reasons you love your job. Great colleagues, amenable clients, the coffee machine that makes an espresso so good you once proposed to it after Friday night drinks. But very few of us entered our careers hoping to do a lot more public speaking. People who lean that way tend to become comedians, preachers or politicians, which is fine for them and has the added bonus of keeping them out of your workplace. But the ability to present well is expected of us. It’s part of corporate culture and when it works, it’s a very efficient way of communicating and persuading. When it works.

Effective Speakers Are Made, Not Born

The thing is, neither you nor your team have to be great orators to be successful presenters. Which is lucky, because natural orators are rare, and business presentations are, if anything, too abundant.

Consider the meetings you’ve attended in the last month: pitches, reports, inductions, executive summaries, you’ve seen them all and got the handouts to prove it. There were slides. So many slides. And, although your recall may be fuzzy, someone probably stood at the front and said something.

So that’s a business presenter. But what’s a good business presenter?

The Qualities of an Effective Presenter

When we watch any presentation we look for certain touchpoints: is the speaker confident; are they engaging with us directly; do they seem authentic, truthful and trustworthy; do they understand and believe in their material? Is it relevant to the audience? Is there a clear purpose, clarity around the message and the Big Idea, and is there a call to action? Or can’t we answer any of these questions because they spoke to the screen the whole time and we zoned out wondering if any of Gwen’s birthday cake would be left in the break room by the time it was over?

These touchpoints determine whether we’ll allow ourselves to be influenced by the speaker, whether we’ll find the arguments persuasive or, in the worst case, allow us to dismiss every idea along with an unconvincing speaker. They’ll allow us to blame the speaker, quite unreasonably, if the cake is all gone before we get there.

Don’t Be a Cake Thief

None of these touchpoints is impossible to reach, whatever your starting level. This goes for you and your support team, because no matter how low or high the stakes, the principles are the same. At the heart of every successful presentation is successful preparation, and the key to successful preparation is a reliable and effective process.

5 Practical Steps for Better Presentations

  1. Understand your audience

    For every presentation, ask yourself: who are you speaking to? What’s their level of knowledge on your subject? Make sure you’re presenting the right version of your message to the right audience.
  2. Have a Clear Objective

    Be certain about what you’re trying to achieve with each specific presentation. Make sure all your content supports this objective and takes your audience where you want them to go.
  3. Use Stories

    People are irresistibly influenced by stories. Stories help to create human pictures out of data, encourage empathy and provoke an emotional response. Even the driest material can be structured so that it forms a kind of narrative flow, which helps your audience understand and follow your message.
  4. Simple Slides

    Small fonts, too many words, complex graphs – they can all alienate your audience. Refine your visual aids so that they support and reinforce your message, rather than overload your audience with data they can’t absorb.
  5. Practice

    On your feet, as loud as you intend to be. Get your voice and body as familiar with the presentation as your mind is.

If you can implement these five steps, you’re creating a solid foundation that will support you in your hour of need. When you’ve done this work there’s so much less uncertainty and risk to factor in, so your confidence naturally improves. Which is just as well, because…

Then Of Course, There’s You

You, the presenter. Nervy or laconic, fidgety or rigid, relaxed or a bundle of nerves. It’s on you, much as you might not love it, to bring a sense of calm, to demonstrate confidence that you may not actually feel. Fortunately, there are proven ways to create a sense of competent assurance, help you remain present and focused when speaking in front of an audience, and use your voice and body language to add clarity and meaning to your message.

Master the Art

Even the most enthusiastic soldier is sent to boot camp before the battlefield, the most graceful dancer to ballet school before Broadway. Either passion or necessity draws us into the art; learning the principles is fundamental to becoming proficient, and after that, perseverance and practice predict success far more than talent or luck. Which is itself lucky, because we can control those elements far more.

Find Your Spotlight

What’s a good business presenter? It’s you, or it can be. It’s everyone on your team, or it could be. It benefits everyone to improve their public speaking skills, and there are effective, pragmatic ways to do it. The Pickering Group’s Presentation Skills courses and private coaching can help you find your spotlight. You’ll unlock your natural authenticity, understand and deploy your innate talents and advantages, and become a more convincing, persuasive speaker. We provide a concrete system you can apply to any presentation or public speaking opportunity, an evidence-based process that works. Join us for inspiring content on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, or learn more about our courses here.

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