Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.

 

The Easiest Way To Improve Your Presentation Skills

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In my line of work, I end up doing a lot of presentations.  I've also studied a lot of information on how to become a better presenter.  A long time ago, I took a class from Distinction Communication, a company that helps people develop more effective presentations (and presentation skills).  Since then, I've taken "refresher" courses from the same folks.  You can find a lot of free, helpful presentation tips and videos on the Distinction site, by the way.

Seeing what you don't see

One of the most effective techniques I learned was to videotape yourself presenting so you can see how you appear in front of an audience.

I must say, the feeling is both discomforting and extremely powerful.  Not only do you get to hear how clearly (or unclearly) you communicate, you also get to see the nervous habits you don't notice from inside your own body.

For example, you may notice you use a lot of filler words, like "Um" or "Uh."  You may find that you rock back & forth a lot, or don't make eye contact with your audience.  You may also find that you make strange gestures that distract from your content.

All of these sorts of things are normal but very hard to notice when you're actively presenting.

DIY presentation skills improvement

For a long time, the only time I ever had my presentations recorded was during these training / coaching sessions.  Last year, I realized I could do this kind of "presentation audit" myself pretty easily using tools that were readily available to me.

If you want to record your presentation, you can easily do it using your smartphone, tablet (iPad, Nexus 7, etc.), or the webcam on your computer.  Lately, I've been practicing my presentations the night before in my hotel room and using my recorded session to identify problems with my presentation.  I find it very helpful.

The key is to be in full "show mode" -- from a personal perspective, not just a PowerPoint perspective.  In other words, pretend you have a full audience and present as though it were the real deal, as this will provide the most useful data from which to improve your skills.

It's also kind of fun to keep some of these presentation audits so you can look back and see how your skills are evolving.

Colossal Public Speaking

I've just finished reading James Greenward's ebook, "Colossal Public Speaking: A Public Speaking Guide for Shy People," and I enjoyed it so I wanted to tell you a bit about it.

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This book is not really about how to create a presentation (though there are some pointers for how to structure your story); instead, it focuses more on how to prepare yourself -- both mentally and physically -- to maximize your chances of delivering a compelling message, while overcoming fear, anxiety, and doubt.

Advice from someone who's been there

Greenward's guide is a "from the trenches" perspective on how to overcome some of the challenges of public speaking and presenting, particularly the aspects in which we tend to become our own worst enemies.

In this ebook, you'll find practical advice for how to become more comfortable in front of crowds, and tips and tricks to get some practice in before you actually stand up in front of the crowd.  I use a few of the techniques he describes (for example, "presenting" to myself during my commute), but I also learned a few new techniques from the book that I'm going to try.

One of the sections discusses how to get rid of stage fright (there's no silver bullet, but the tips he shares will help), and how to leverage your own personality and create a higher-impact presentation.  He also talks about how to get rid of things might be distracting, both in your voice and in your appearance - there is some good advice here, for sure.

More than just the presentation

One thing in this book was a bit different from other presentation books I've read:   Greenward's treatment of the Q&A session and how to prepare for success.  In particular, he discusses how to deal with adversarial audience members and how to deal with uncomfortable (and even unfair) questions.

If you consider yourself to be a shy or inexperienced public speaker, have a look at Greenward's site, where you'll find out more about this ebook as well as an ordering page.