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Which presentation skill ensures that your audience will be able to understand the words you are saying?A. purposeful gesturesB. eye contact C. enunciationD. conventions of language

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Grade 9 · 2021-07-21

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Presentation skills and techniques.

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Presentations skills and public speaking skills are very useful in many aspects of work and life. Effective presentations and public speaking skills are important in business, sales and selling, training, teaching, lecturing, and generally feeling comfortable speaking to a group of people.

Developing the confidence and capability to give good presentations, and to stand up in front of an audience and speak well, are also extremely helpful competencies for self-development and social situations.

Presentation skills and public speaking abilities are not limited to certain special people - anyone can give a good presentation, or perform public speaking to a professional and impressive standard. Like most specialisms, this requires  preparation  and  practice .

The formats and purposes of presentations can be very different, for example: oral (spoken), multimedia (using various media - visuals, audio, etc), PowerPoint presentations, short impromptu presentations, long-planned presentations, educational or training sessions, lectures, and simply giving a talk on a subject to a group on a voluntary basis for pleasure. Even speeches at weddings and eulogies at funerals are types of presentations.

Yet every successful presentation uses broadly the essential techniques and structures explained here.

This article provides:

Fear of Public Speaking and Presentations

You are not alone if the thought of speaking in public scares you. On the contrary.

Everyone feels fearful of presenting and public speaking to one degree or another.

Giving a presentation is very worrying for many people. Presenting or speaking to an audience regularly tops the list in surveys of people's top fears - more than heights, flying or dying.

Here is a popular saying (which features in many presentations) about giving presentations and public speaking:

" Most people would prefer to be lying in the casket rather than giving the eulogy. "

I first heard a speaker called Michelle Ray use this quote in the early 1990s. The quote is often credited to Jerry Seinfeld, although the basic message is much older. For example (thanks Dr N Ashraf) the ancient Tamil work Thirukkural (also called Tirrukural) includes the following words in its aptly titled chapter,  Fearlessness in an Assembly :

" Many are ready to even die in battle, but few can face an assembly without nerves. " 

Couplet 723, from Thirukkural/Tirrukural, also called the Kural - a seminal guide to life and ethics attributed to the Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar, said to have lived between about 200-10BC.

I am grateful also to R Ersapah for an alternative translation of couplet 723, and below, a more modern literal interpretation:

" Many encountering death in face of foe will hold their ground; who speak undaunted in the council hall are rarely found. "

In more modern language this means:

" Many indeed may (fearlessly) die in the presence of (their) foes; (but) few are those who are fearless in the assembly (of the learned). "

In a French translation, this is:

" Nombreux sont ceux qui peuvent affronter la mort face à leurs ennemis; rares sont ceux qui peuvent sans crainte se tenir devant une assemblée. "

The title of Tirrukural's chapter 73 is: Not to dread the Council (French: Ne pas craindre les assemblees).

Couplet 727 says, amusingly and incisively:

" The learning of him who is diffident before an assembly is like the shining sword of an hermaphrodite in the presence of his foes... " (French: " Les connaissances de celui qui a peur des auditoires sont comme l'epee tranchante que tient l'eunuque en presence de son ennemi... " )

I am informed (thanks again R Ersapah) that all of chapter 73 fits the theme of  public speech  being  one of the greatest challenges many people face in their lives .

This is further evidence that speaking in public is not just a modern fear - this fear has been in humankind for at least 2,000 years.

Incidentally the English translation of Tirrukural comprises various chapters such as: Domestic Virtues, Ascetic Virtue, Royalty, Ministers of State, The Essentials of a State. The English Translations are by Rev Dr G U Pope and Rev W H Drew. The French translation is by a Mauritian author M Sangeelee.

I'm always keen to receive and share old examples of public-speaking-and-fear analogies - if you know any  please send them .

Understanding and Overcoming Fear

The key to managing and controlling anything is first to understand it, especially its causes.

The cause of fear is (a feeling of) insecurity and/or an unfamiliar or uncontrollable threat.

In the context of presentations and public speaking, this is usually due to:

The effects of these are heightened according to the  size of the audience , and potentially also the  nature of the audience/situation  - which combine to represent a perceived uncontrollable threat to us at a very basic and instinctive level (which we imagine in the form or critical judgement, embarrassment, humiliation, etc).

This 'audience' aspect is illustrated by the following:

" Most of us would not feel very fearful if required to give a presentation to a class of 30 five-year-old children, but we would feel somewhat more fearful if required to give a presentation to an interview panel of three high court judges. So audience size is not everything - it's the nature of the situation and audience too. "

As such audience size and situation are circumstantial factors which can influence the degree of anxiety, but they are not causal factors in themselves. The causes exist because of the pressure to command, control, impress, etc.

Confidence and Control

The two big causal factors (low  confidence  and  control ) stem typically from:

If we have a bad memory which is triggering a fear response, then it is likely that the original situation we recall, which prompts our feelings of anxiety, resulted from one or both of the above factors.

Preparation and rehearsal  are usually very manageable elements. It's a matter of making the effort to prepare and rehearse before the task is upon us. Presentations which do not work well usually do so because they have not been properly prepared and rehearsed.

Experience  can be gained simply by seeking opportunities for public speaking and presenting to people and groups, wherever you feel most comfortable (and then try speaking to groups where you feel less comfortable). Given that humankind and society everywhere are arranged in all sorts of groups - schools and colleges, evening classes, voluntary groups, open-mic nights, debating societies, public meetings, conferences, the local pub, sports and hobby clubs, hospitals, old people's homes, etc, etc - there are countless groups everywhere of people and potential audiences by which you can gain speaking and presenting experience - this is not so difficult to achieve.

So  experience , is actually just another manageable element before the task, although more time and imagination are required than in preparing and rehearsing a particular presentation.

Besides these preparatory points, it's useful to consider that  fear  relates to  stress .

Stress can be managed in various ways.  Understanding stress and stress management methods  can be very helpful in reducing the anxiety we feel before and while giving presentations and public speaking.

Physiology, Chemistry, Stress

Fear of public speaking is strongly related to stress - see the  causes of stress and stress management .

A common physical reaction in people when having to speak in public is a release of adrenaline and cortisol into our systems, which is sometimes likened to drinking several cups of coffee. Even experienced speakers feel their hearts thumping very excitedly indeed.

This sensational reaction to speaking in public is certainly not only felt by novices, and even some of the great professional actors and entertainers suffer from real physical sickness before taking the stage or podium.

So you are not alone. Speaking in public is genuinely scary for most people, including many who outwardly seem very calm.

Our primitive brain shuts down normal functions as the 'fight or flight' impulse takes over - see FEAR under the  acronyms  section (note: there is some adult content among these acronyms for training and presentations).

But don't worry - every person in your audience wants you to succeed. The audience is on your side (if only because they are very pleased that it's you up there in the spotlight speaking and not them).

All you need to do is follow the guidelines contained on this page, and everything will be fine. As the saying goes, don't try to get rid of the butterflies - just get them flying in formation.

Incidentally, the origins of this famous public-speaking/performing butterflies metaphor are typically given as "There is nothing wrong with stomach butterflies! You just have to get them to fly in formation!" - see the attribution information for the  butterflies metaphor  on the inspirational quotes page.

So, how do you calm the butterflies and get them flying in formation?

The answer (where  butterflies  equate to  fear ) is clear and simple in the following maxim:

To  calm the butterflies  you must  be relaxed . To  be relaxed  you must  be confident . To  be confident  you must  be prepared and rehearsed .

Good preparation  is the key to  confidence , which is the key to  being relaxed , and this calms the butterflies,(i.e., overcomes the fear).

Put another way, according to logical ' cause and effect':

Good preparation and rehearsal will reduce your nerves by 75%, and increase the likelihood of avoiding errors to 95%. (Source: Fred Pryor Organisation, a significant provider of seminars and open presentation events.)

And so this is the most important rule for effective presentations and public speaking:

Prepare , which means  plan it , and  practise/rehearse it .

Then you'll be in control, and confident.

Your audience will see this and respond accordingly, which in turn will help build your confidence, and you even start to enjoy yourself too.

And remember that there is a cumulative effect:

Every successful presentation that you create and deliver generates more experience and confidence for you, which makes every future presentation easier and more successful for you, and so it goes, until every last butterfly is calmed.

Tips for Effective Presentations

Edgar Dale's Cone of Experience

Tips for Using Visual Aids

Preparation and Creating Your Presentation

This is a sequential step-by-step process - a list of the main action points - for creating and preparing a successful and effective presentation - large or small. The process includes preparing, creating, checking, rehearsing, refining and finalising the presentation.

Delivering Presentations Successfully

Creating presentations: Step-by-Step

This is the basic sequence of actions for creating and preparing a presentation up to the point of actually delivering the presentation to an audience:

And in a little more detail..

Prepare the Presentation

Consider the more detailed nature of:

Create and Design the Presentation

Deliver your Presentation

Related Materials

20 Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills

Larry Kim

I’ve been doing a lot of presenting recently, and I have no problem admitting that it’s tough. For those not born with natural eloquence, public speaking can be remarkably nerve-racking. But I’m getting a lot better!

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the last few years is that to be a great public speaker , it’s key to develop a personal speaking style. Since I know I’m not the most eloquent speaker in the world, I make up for it by packing my presentations with enthusiasm, unique/proprietary data, and tons of useful content as well as plenty of dumb jokes.

how to improve presentation skills

We can’t all deliver the next Gettysburg Address, but there are lots of small things you can do prior to your presentation that will help calm your nerves and set you up for a better presentation . Here are my 20 best tips to improve your presentation skills .

1. Practice!

Naturally, you’ll want to rehearse your presentation multiple times. While it can be difficult for those with packed schedules to spare time to practice, it’s essential if you want to deliver a rousing presentation. I’m famous around the office for staying up late the night before a big presentation, practicing over and over. If you really want to sound great, write out your speech rather than taking chances winging it – if you get nervous about speaking, a script is your best friend.

Try to practice where you’ll be delivering your talk. Some acting strategists suggest rehearsing lines in various positions – standing up, sitting down, with arms open wide, on one leg, while sitting on the toilet, etc. (OK, that last one may be optional.) The more you mix up your position and setting, the more comfortable you’ll feel with your speech. Do a practice run for a friend or colleague, or try recording your presentation and playing it back to evaluate which areas need work. Listening to recordings of your past talks can clue you in to bad habits you may be unaware of, as well as inspiring the age-old question: “Is that what I really sound like?”

2. Transform Nervous Energy Into Enthusiasm.

It may sound strange, but I’ll often down an energy drink and blast hip-hop music in my earphones before presenting. Why? It pumps me up and helps me turn jitters into focused enthusiasm. Studies have shown that an enthusiastic speech can win out over an eloquent one, and since I’m not exactly the Winston Churchill of presenters, I make sure that I’m as enthusiastic and energetic as possible before going on stage. Of course, individuals respond differently to caffeine overload, so know your own body before guzzling those monster energy drinks.

presentation tips

3. Attend Other Presentations.

If you’re giving a talk as part of a conference, try to attend some of the earlier talks by other presenters to scope out their presentation skills and get some context. This shows respect for your fellow presenters while also giving you a chance to feel out the audience. What’s the mood of the crowd? Are folks in the mood to laugh or are they a bit more stiff? Are the presentations more strategic or tactical in nature? Another speaker may also say something that you can play off of later in your own presentation.

4. Arrive Early.

It’s always best to allow yourself plenty of time to settle in before your talk. Extra time ensures you won’t be late (even if Google Maps shuts down) and gives you plenty of time to get adapted to your presentation space.

5. Adjust to Your Surroundings.

The more adjusted to your environment you are, the more comfortable you’ll feel. Make sure to spend some in the room where you will be delivering your presentation. If possible, practice with the microphone and lighting, make sure you understand the seating and be aware of any distractions potentially posed by the venue (e.g., a noisy road outside).

larry kim presentation tips

5 minutes before my Inbound presentation … gulp

6. Meet and Greet.

Do your best to chat with people before your presentation. Talking with audiences makes you seem more likeable and approachable. Ask event attendees questions and take in their responses. They may even give you some inspiration to weave into your talk.

7. Use Positive Visualization.

Whether or not you’re a Zen master, know that plenty of studies have proven the effectiveness of positive visualization. When we imagine a positive outcome to a scenario in our mind, it’s more likely to play out the way we envision.

Instead of thinking “I’m going to be terrible out there” and visualizing yourself throwing up mid-presentation, imagine yourself getting tons of laughs while presenting with the enthusiasm of Jimmy Fallon and the poise of Audrey Hepburn (the charm of George Clooney wouldn’t hurt either). Positive thoughts can be incredibly effective – give them a shot.

presentation skills

8. Remember That Most Audiences Are Sympathetic.

One of the hardest fears to shake when speaking in public is that the audience is secretly waiting to laugh at your missteps or mistakes. Fortunately, this isn’t the case in the vast majority of presentations.

The audience wants to see you succeed. In fact, many people have a fear of public speaking, so even if the audience seems indifferent, the chances are pretty good that most people listening to your presentation can relate to how nerve-racking it can be. If you start to feel nervous, remind yourself that the audience gets it, and actually wants to see you nail it.

9. Take Deep Breaths.

The go-to advice for jitters has truth to it. When we’re nervous, our muscles tighten–you may even catch yourself holding your breath. Instead, go ahead and take those deep breaths to get oxygen to your brain and relax your body.

10. Smile. 

Smiling increases endorphins, replacing anxiety with calm and making you feel good about your presentation. Smiling also exhibits confidence and enthusiasm to the crowd. And this tip works even if you’re doing a webinar and people can’t see you.

Just don’t overdo it – no one enjoys the maniacal clown look.

11. Exercise .

Exercise earlier in the day prior to your presentation to boost endorphins, which will help alleviate anxiety. Better pre-register for that Zumba class!

12. Work on Your Pauses.

When you’re nervous, it’s easy to speed up your presentation and end up talking too fast, which in turn causes you to run out of breath, get more nervous, and panic! Ahh!

Don’t be afraid to slow down and use pauses in your speech. Pausing can be used to emphasize certain points and to help your talk feel more conversational. If you feel yourself losing control of your pacing, just take a nice pause and keep cool.

13. Don’t Try to Cover Too Much Material.

Yes, your presentations should be full of useful, insightful, and actionable information, but that doesn’t mean you should try to condense a vast and complex topic into a 10-minute presentation.

90 slides in 30 minutes? Only from @larrykim #stateofsearch http://t.co/uttijruots — Kate Gwozdz (@KateGwozdz) November 17, 2014

Knowing what to include, and what to leave out, is crucial to the success of a good presentation. I’m not suggesting you skimp when it comes to data or including useful slides (some of my webinars have featured 80+ slides), but I am advocating for a rigorous editing process. If it feels too off-topic, or is only marginally relevant to your main points, leave it out. You can always use the excess material in another presentation.

14. Actively Engage the Audience.

People love to talk and make their opinions heard, but the nature of presentations can often seem like a one-sided proposition. It doesn’t have to be, though.

Asking the audience what they think, inviting questions, and other means of welcoming audience participation can boost engagement and make attendees feel like a part of a conversation. It also makes you, the presenter, seem much more relatable. Consider starting with a poll or survey . Don’t be put off by unexpected questions – instead, see them as an opportunity to give your audience what they want.

how do I improve my presentation skills

Hopefully this man has a question and doesn’t just need to go to the bathroom.

15. Be Entertaining.

Even if your presentation is packed with useful information, if your delivery bombs, so will your session.

I find that including some jokes and light-hearted slides is a great way to help the audience (and myself) feel more comfortable, especially when presenting them with a great deal of information. However, it’s important to maintain a balance – after all, you’re not performing a stand-up routine, and people didn’t come to your presentation with the sole intention of being entertained. That said, don’t be afraid to inject a little humor into your talk. If you’re not sure about whether a presentation is “too much,” run through it for a couple of friends and ask them to tell it to you straight.

16. Admit You Don’t Have All the Answers.

Very few presenters are willing to publicly concede that they don’t actually know everything because they feel it undermines their authority. However, since we all know that nobody can ever know everything about a given topic, admitting so in a presentation can actually improve your credibility.

I don't know

If someone asks a question that stumps you, it’s okay to admit it. This can also increase your credibility with the audience, as it demonstrates that, no matter how knowledgeable a person might be, we’re all learning, all the time. Nobody expects you to be an omniscient oracle of forbidden knowledge – they just want to learn from you.

17. Use a Power Stance.

Practicing confident body language is another way to boost your pre-presentation jitters. When your body is physically demonstrating confidence, your mind will follow suit. While you don’t want to be jutting out your chest in an alpha gorilla pose all afternoon (somebody enjoyed  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes  a bit too much), studies have shown that using power stances a few minutes before giving a talk (or heading to a big interview) creates a lasting sense of confidence and assurance. Whatever you do, don’t sit–sitting is passive. Standing or walking a bit will help you harness those stomach bats (isn’t that more appropriate than butterflies?). Before you go on stage, strike your best Power Ranger stance and hold your head high!

presentation power stance

18. Drink Water.

Dry mouth is a common result of anxiety. Prevent cottonmouth blues by staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water before your talk (just don’t forget to hit the bathroom before starting). Keep a bottle of water at arm’s reach while presenting in case you get dry mouth while chatting up a storm. It also provides a solid object to hurl at potential hecklers. (That’ll show ’em.)

19. Join Toastmasters. 

Toastmaster clubs  are groups across the country (and the world) dedicated to helping members improve their presentation skills. Groups get together during lunch or after work to take turns delivering short talks on a chosen topic. The more you present, the better you’ll be, so consider joining a Toastmaster club to become a top-notch orator. Just don’t forget, it’s BYOB (Bring Your Own Bread).

20. Don’t Fight the Fear.

Accept your fear rather than trying to fight it. Getting yourself worked up by wondering if people will notice your nervousness will only intensify your anxiety. Remember, those jitters aren’t all bad – harness that nervous energy and transform it into positive enthusiasm and you’ll be golden. We salute you, O Captain! My Captain!

Meet The Author

Larry Kim is the founder of WordStream and CEO of MobileMonkey, a chatbot building platform.

See other posts by Larry Kim

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