Presentation skills basics

Some things about 2020 are very different, and yet some things remain the same – like the need for presentation skills basics. Communication is communication whether it’s done over Zoom, over the phone, or in person. Now is a great time to review the building blocks of a great presentation.

5 tips to remember

  1. Know your audience

Who are they? What characteristics do you need to know and pay attention to? These could be things like age, region, or even job role. Speaking to a local scout troop whose participants are 10 and 11 years old is a lot different than speaking to seasoned accountants in their 50s. Even speaking to people in different departments, such as warehouse versus sales team, might mean you need to make adjustments in the language and examples that you use.

What do you hope to accomplish? We generally think about these three: inform, persuade, and entertain. Each one has its own purpose so it’s good to be clear on this before you start preparing. 

  1. Prepare

You don’t have to write your speech word-for-word, but you do need to know what you’re doing. Think about what you’re trying to accomplish by the end of your talk. What would help you get there? Write an outline or bullets with your main points. Generate ideas about what will help you convey those points – perhaps an anecdote, some data, or a famous quote.

Once you have your presentation together, then practice. Out loud. Did we mention you should practice your presentation out loud? Seriously, this is very important.

  1. Connect

This is one of those presentation skills basics that is easy to forget. The purpose of all communication is to connect with other people! Greet people and make eye contact. Nobody asked Siri or Alexa to give this presentation. They asked you.

Actually be with the other human beings who are there with you. Not only will this help with any anxiety you are feeling, but it will make them want to listen to you. Remember you are all people first before you add on other things like roles, tasks, or timelines.

  1. Deliver

This is the moment you have been working toward. Remember to take a deep breath and manage your energy. Speak clearly and loudly enough to be heard. Use your voice to emphasize your points. In other words, avoid a monotone like that of Ben Stein in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” (If you’re not familiar, here it is on YouTube for a good laugh.) Continue to take full breaths throughout your speech.

  1. Pat yourself on the back

When you finally click “Leave meeting,” then take a minute to acknowledge yourself for what you have accomplished. You did it! You made it through, as well as helping others with new information, or convincing them to take some next steps, or by providing some levity. If you’d like, take a moment and write down what worked well and what you could tweak next time. 

Returning to presentation skills basics from time to time is a great idea. Remember these five tips when you’re working on your next talk. As always, we’d love to hear how it goes. We’re here to help.


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