Five ways to gain confidence and improve your presentation skills

Whilst we all had to give embarrassing GCSE presentations in year 11, presenting ideas and plans to your work colleagues is another kettle of fish altogether.

Walking into the boardroom armed with a PowerPoint presentation for the first time is enough to make the most confident of us pause for thought.

But never fear – we’ve complied ten top tips to help you overcome your fears and give confident, articulate presentations, whether these are small scale boardroom conferences or larger, more formal addresses.

  1. Practice makes perfect – but don’t overdo it

Preparation and practice are crucial if you don’t want to come across as an amateur; draft the presentation, and practice the whole thing out loud. A presentation which is perfect on paper may well encounter some insurmountable hurdles when transferred into speech, and won’t feel familiar until you’ve actually vocalised it. You’ll also then be able to time it, fitting your assertions to the correct period of time. Having made these improvements, think about any questions that you may be asked and bullet point possible answers to these.

Whilst winging a presentation is never a good idea, nor is having a tightly controlled script that you know word for word.  Don’t re-hash a presentation over and again to the extent where it sounds scripted and false; allow yourself a degree of flexibility, and relax into a natural rhythm.

  1. Quality not quantity

Be clear and concise; don’t overload on the amount of information you give your audience, on both  visual and audible levels. Focus aids such as a PowerPoint on the purely visual; images and diagrams will create a more memorable impression on your audience, varying the media through which they digest the information.

It will also complement what you say, whereas excessive text in a presentation can distract from your talk. Hone the spoken element of your presentation into a small number of key points – three or four is ideal – that you can really get your teeth into.

  1. Project confidence

There can be no doubt from various studies that your body language affects your assertiveness, confidence, and the way you actually view your own skills. Positively altering your body language can affect your hormone level within just two minutes, raising your testosterone (the assertiveness hormone) and reducing your level of cortisol (the stress hormone).

Utilise both body language and eye contact to connect with your audience. Hold strong, commanding poses, spread your arms and be direct rather than elusive with your gaze. Try to look at and engage with as many of your audience as you can. Whilst there can be a tendency to zone out and talk either to the floor or the ceiling when nervous, combat this and engage with your audience.

  1. Work the room

Don’t be afraid to play to the room and adjust on the spur of the moment – you don’t have to stick to a staid script. If a certain joke or tone is working particularly well then play to this and use it to ingratiate yourself with your audience as much as possible. More importantly, don’t feel that you have to plough on from a  particular angle if it really isn’t working. Use this opportunity to try out a new tactic; you’ve nothing to lose so don’t stress about trying out something new!

  1. Preparation pays off

Make sure the structure and plan of the talk are clear – this will reassure your audience and make you seem in control. Establish what you’re addressing and when you’re taking questions at the start, and at the end make sure you sum up with a punchy and memorable conclusion. If presenting as part of a series of talks or speakers, make sure that you correctly judge the slot you’ve been given.

If you’re opening, bear in mind that you’ll need to ease the audience in and warm them up.  If you have the graveyard slot (after lunch or last slot of the day), you need to focus on recapturing attention, nudging your audience out of their stupor and differentiating yourself from those that have gone before you.

About the author

Alexandra Jane writes graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate jobs are currently available. Or, if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs. 

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