Career Tips

Five Time-Tested Tricks for Presentations

Businesswoman presenting to her coworkers or clients.

There’s something about commanding the attention of a group of people that can set your nerves on edge. Yet presenting is an essential skill to succeed in the workplace. Instead of fearing your presentation, consider it a valuable opportunity to be seen and heard.

These time-tested tricks will help keep your audience engaged and your message on track for all types of presentations — from elevator pitch to keynote speech.

  1. Memorize Your Story

    Confidence comes from feeling like you’re a master of your material. Know your content. It can help to build a narrative into your presentation — after all, no one knows your story better than you. Then, memorize your overall outline, key data, introduction, and scripted conclusion, even if you don't plan on reciting it exactly. That way, any mistakes or interruptions won't throw you off, and you'll end with an impact.

  2. Know Your Audience

    One hazard of being the expert in the room is that you might lose engagement if you confuse your listeners. Get to know your audience before writing your presentation, and adapt your language, humor, and depth of content to them. It can even help to look at the guest list to see who might be present.

    You can also engage your audience by interacting directly with them — taking polls, inviting questions and feedback, and encouraging participation. (But don’t plan anything that puts any single member on the spot without warning!)

  3. Be a Virtual Virtuoso

    Will you be presenting virtually? Although there is some overlap in speaking techniques, many tricks that work in person don’t translate to video. Keep these tips in mind when giving a remote presentation:

    • Stand up while delivering your speech. This will help you to maintain your poise, speak more clearly, and look professional.

    • Look into the camera while speaking. One benefit of virtual communication is that you can give the impression of one-on-one attention, even if you are in a room of many.

    • Reduce distracting background noises. Close the door to the room in which you are presenting. Keep pets, children, and others in a different location.

    • Understand that your screen doesn't match others'. If you call on attendees in order of their appearance on your computer, it will look random to your audience.

    • Adapt to the limitations of the technology. Asking people to chime in with questions or comments could lead to chaos; instead, you can invite attendees to type their responses into a chat box.

  4. Be Clear and Concise

    Respect your audience’s time and attention. When preparing your speech, use some essay-writing best practices:

    • Know your purpose for speaking. Return to the main idea throughout your presentation; audiences remember repetition.

    • Keep sentences short and to the point.

    • Use strong verbs and precise language.

    • Plan out synonyms for any complex words or jargon that could leave you tongue-tied.

  5. Be Authentic

    Be yourself! If you pretend to understand topics you don’t, your audience will know. Be clear on what falls in your area of expertise, but don't be afraid of the question-and-answer period. Every “I don't know” is an opportunity to take someone's business card and say, “I’ll follow up with you on that.”

  6. Practice, Practice, Practice

    Just because it looks good on paper doesn't mean it will deliver well in speech. Practice your presentation out loud in front of a mirror to identify any language that makes you stumble. A supportive friend can help you workshop the content of your speech — especially parts that are confusing or unengaging.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you need to deliver a presentation. You are sure to impress your colleagues with your confidence and skill.

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