Successful Presenting can be learned

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At some point at work, you will probably be asked to speak in public, give a presentation or take the lead in a team meeting. Good public speaking skills are important for a successful career.

In fact, even if you don't frequently give presentations in front of a group, there are plenty of situations in which fluent public speaking can get you ahead and open doors.

Presenting persuasively and inspiringly is one of the most effective ways to get your point across, get your message across and influence others. It can even help you network better and improve your relationships with others.

Many people don't feel quite comfortable when in front of a group. With a few tips, you can improve your skills and feel more confident giving presentations.

Be sure to have a rock-solid structure

Speaking in front of a group works best when you tell a story. To do this, think of the key messages your audience needs to understand and remember when you finish speaking. Ideally, limit yourself to 3 key messages, which you back up with several underlying points. This substantiation is best done with examples, metaphors and storytelling.

Arrange your talking points in a logical order. This structure will bring clarity for your audience but also for you as a speaker, so that you do not lose track during your presentation and that you do not forget important points.

Incorporating storytelling will also help you bring your presentation in a natural and relaxed manner. Because it is easier for you to remember a story than to give a list of facts. Moreover, you will come across as more authentic and persuasive.

Relax your body language

Nerves or stress can make you tense, causing you to stand a little cramped or woodenly in front of the audience. The best speakers adopt a relaxed body posture, make eye contact with the audience and move naturally. How do you make a relaxed and confident impression? Smile! A smile gives your audience the impression that you are enjoying yourself while speaking (Even though you may be dying inside). When you are stressed before public speaking, your face also automatically frowns and gives you an anxious or worried look. Obviously, this does not help you make a good impression on your audience. So consciously remember to put on your happy face and smile regularly.

A second important aspect of body language is eye contact. Look at the audience. Don't stare at the floor, at your notes or at your PowerPoint. As you become more confident, it's best to start making eye contact with individual people so they feel even more engaged in your presentation.

If you're not aware of it, your body language is constantly giving your audience subtle clues about your inner state. If you're nervous, or if you don't believe in what you're saying, the audience quickly finds out.

So pay attention to your body language: stand up straight, take a deep breath, look people in the eye and smile.

Speak slowly and control your breathing

For many people, public speaking can distort their sense of time, causing them to speak faster than they normally would. Rattling off your presentation quickly is really not a good idea. This increases the chances of slips of the tongue or of you stumbling over your words. Keep a leisurely pace. This way you calm your nerves and the audience can better follow what you are saying.

Good breath control can help you do this. Take 10 slow, deep breaths in and out before you begin your presentation. Taking deep breaths will automatically make you speak more slowly as well. Don't be afraid to organize your thoughts. Pauses are an important part of a talk and they make you sound confident, natural and authentic.

So use deliberate pauses to give your audience a chance to process what you're saying. Remember: no one ever complains that a speaker speaks too slowly, but it is a common annoyance for a speaker to fire off a presentation at a fiendish pace so that the audience can barely follow.

Another point of interest: avoid reading your presentation word-for-word from your notes. Instead, make a list of key points on stitch cards. Or try to know your structure by heart so you know perfectly what you're going to say. 

Get interaction with the audience

Before you give a presentation, it's best to take some time to understand your audience so you can tailor the content of your presentation to them. Think about what is important to your audience and how you can incorporate that into your structure and storytelling.

When you speak, try to engage your audience. That way, as a speaker, you make a connection and everyone feels included in your message. The easiest way to create interaction with your audience is to ask the attendees a question. Be sure to keep your question simple. With an open-ended question, you have no control over the answer. An example of a closed-ended question: "Who among you still has a Facebook account?" In doing so, you let people in the audience raise their hands. This is an effective way to get your audience more engaged.

Keep your PowerPoint clean and simple

A visual aid, such as a PowerPoint presentation, can help make your main points clear and better engage the audience. Remember that PowerPoint is a tool to support your presentation. Not a distraction.

So avoid PowerPoints with lots of text and don't go reading off word for word what is on your slides. If you put text on a slide, be sure to stick to a few short key words. 

Preferably use images. Figures can be displayed perfectly in graphs. If you use images, preferably choose pictures and avoid clipart. And if you use pictures, choose quality and original images. 



Presenting can be learned

You simply cannot be a confident, persuasive speaker without practicing.

Start by speaking your presentation out loud. Adjust your words until they flow smoothly and easily from your mouth.

One of the best ways to improve your public speaking skills is to record yourself with a camera while speaking, so you can then watch yourself on video. Perhaps somewhat confrontational but this way you get valuable feedback on your body language, how your voice sounds and how you set your pace. Even the best speakers do this regularly and often find ways to improve their speaking skills as a result.

Then, if necessary, do a test in front of a small audience: this will give you more confidence and control over your story. Your test audience can also provide useful feedback, both on your slides and on your speaking style and body language. If you have practiced your speech several times, you will naturally feel more comfortable the next time you deliver it in front of a larger audience.

If you really want to improve, consider taking a public speaking course. A presentation coach can help boost your speaking and presentation skills.