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Polish your presentation skills

Whether you like it or not, for the vast majority of professions, there’s no way to escape public speaking.

Whether it be presenting a report, chairing a meeting, speaking at a large industry event (gulp), or just delivering the toast at a friend’s wedding, we will all have to do it at some stage.

Seasoned presenters make it look easy – confident, no notes, pacing comfortably up and down the stage, engaging the audience with ease and throwing in a witty joke here and there. But there are a couple of things all competent presenters have in common – and no, they weren’t born with it.

They tell a good story

Speeches and presentations are about stories. Great speakers know how to use a story to create an emotional connection between ideas for the audience. They should also be entertaining as well as informative. Use short stories, case studies and anecdotes to articulate your key messages. Finding a way to connect with your audience will be the key to engaging your listeners and taking them along the journey with you.

They keep the slides to a minimum

We would never wish death-by-PowerPoint on anyone – it’s slow and painful and is sure to harm more than just the audience. When prepping for your next presentation, consider using the Pecha Kucha rule – 20 visual slides, 20 seconds per slide – or a variant. Pecha Kucha has captured a global audience for its innovative approach to presentations. The 20:20 rule forces presenters to share their ideas in a concise and compelling manner, where sticking to their key messages is paramount.

They rehearse

There’s no such thing as ‘winging it’ in a good presentation. Confidence takes practise, so don’t underestimate this crucial step.

It’s not enough to quickly read over your speech 10 minutes before you present. Give yourself plenty of time to practise; a few initial rehearsals in front of the mirror at home are a good place to start. Pace the room, familiarise yourself with your key messages and try to avoid using your notes.

Practising in front of a group you trust is a good way to prepare for those inevitable butterflies on the day. Ask your audience to give you constructive feedback about your presentation – the content, structure, your body language and eye contact.