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  1. Career Advice
  2. Career development
  3. Developing presentation skills
Developing Presentation Skills

Lotte van Rijswijk

Developing presentation skills

Artwork by: Katya Simacheva

  • Practice Public Speaking Outside of the Work Environment
  • Practice Presenting at Work
  • Use these Tips for Creating a Strong PowerPoint Presentation
  • Host a Webinar
  • Reading Resources

“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” — Lee Iacocca

Being able to present your ideas effectively is essential to advancing in your career.  Great leaders are great presenters that can generate excitement and passion for their ideas.  Business people need to be able to present to current customers, potential customers, business partners, management, and company leadership.

Many people have a fear of public speaking.  However, this can be overcome.  If you are prepared, you will be more confident which allows you to relax.  If you are relaxed, the presentation will go more smoothly which provides positive reinforcement for the next time you need to conduct a presentation. 

It is important to keep in mind the following keys to successful presentations:

Prepare!  Know your audience – what are their interests and needs and how can you benefit them?  Know your material – make sure you have a thorough understanding of what you are presenting and are able to answer questions on the topic.  Research and gather information about your main topic and start to formulate a plan of what you want to present.  Know your goals – what is the desired outcome of the presentation?  What topics support that outcome?

Create a Strong Presentation.  Write an opening that will gain the attention of your audience.  You can use questions, interesting facts, or a good story.  Create the body of the presentation keeping the desired outcome in mind.  Cover only 4-6 main points/arguments.  Present both sides of an issue (this increases your credibility); however, explain why your argument is stronger.  Close your presentation by summarizing your points and ending with something the audience will remember, such as a call to action or a good quote.

Create Strong Visual Aids.  Use PowerPoint, graphs, charts, and/or props to keep the attention of your audience.  Visual aids should be eye-catching and should enhance your oral presentation rather than detract from it.  You want people to hear what you are saying rather than focusing on the visual aid.  (See PowerPoint presentation tips below).

Practice, Practice, Practice.  This step is important to feeling more confident during your presentation.  You can practice with your accountability partner, a peer, a manager, a family member, or even to yourself.  You do not want to memorize the presentation – you want it to sound conversational which is more engaging to your audience.

Relax!  Before the actual presentation, use stress-reducing techniques that work for you.  You may want to stretch, take deep breaths, and visualize something that calms you and makes you happy.  Keep in mind that the audience wants you to succeed and is not against you – this helps you to feel more in control, which in turn relaxes you.

Present.  During your presentation, you need to be aware of how you are speaking and your body language.  Speak clearly and loud enough.  Use tone to emphasize your points.  Be brief, ask questions of your audience, and avoid saying “um” or “uh.”  Make sure that your body language is congruent with your message.  Smile, make eye contact, and stand confidently with your shoulders back.

Answer Questions.  At the end of your presentation, you want to make sure the audience understands what you just presented.  Take the time to answer questions.  If you do not know the answer to a question, it is fine to say “I don’t have that information right now.  I will get that information to you after this meeting.”

Evaluate.  It is useful to evaluate how you did with the presentation so you can make changes in the future.  Ask your accountability partner, manager, or peers to provide feedback.

Practice Public Speaking Outside of the Work Environment

Practicing your public speaking skills in an environment outside of work will help build up your confidence.  There are many areas in which you can practice your presentation skills: 

  • Toastmasters International -- this organization helps members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills

  • Professional organizations – organizations that relate to your field may offer opportunities for public speaking

  • Community organizations – if you are involved with the schools in your neighborhood, a church, sports clubs, city council, etc., there may be events in which you can practice speaking before an audience

Practice Presenting at Work

Ask your manager for opportunities to present either within the company or externally to a customer.  Consider setting up a “Lunch and Learn” for your colleagues or others in your department or company.  This will allow you to practice creating a PowerPoint presentation and presenting to your peers.  Follow the keys to successful presentations above and ask for feedback from your accountability partner, manager and peers. 

Use these Tips for Creating a Strong PowerPoint Presentation

These helpful tips regarding PowerPoint presentations can enhance the message you are trying to send. Take a look at the “Career Resources” folder under the Learning Center for sample PowerPoint presentations.

  • Use simple design themes

  • Use a light background with dark text – it is easier to read

  • Choose a simple font

  • Limit the number of different fonts you use – 2 at most

  • Font size should be large enough – 24pt – 30pt

  • Put a title at the top of each slide

  • Put only a few bullet points per slide – use key phrases only

  • Use images (charts, graphs, pictures)

  • Limit the use of punctuation

  • Do not use all caps

  • Limit the use of animation

  • Check that the presentation works on all computers

Host a Webinar

Create a presentation on a topic you are working on either in school or at work and present to an audience via live webinar.  The audience can be coworkers, students in your program, members of your support team, and/or friends.  You can use “go to meeting” or any other online meeting center.  There are several that you can use on a trial basis for free.  You may be able to use a company or school webinar account as well.  If you have other questions about hosting this event, watch the presentation webinar for ideas.

Reading Resources

Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds, by Carmine Gallo

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, by Carmine Gallo

Lotte van Rijswijk

An ambitious Content Team Lead working with since 2022, Lotte collaborates with all members of the team from writers to illustrators to ensure high-quality content across platforms. Always interested in finding new trends and topics to help improve offerings, she also oversees other team members and works to support them wherever possible.

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