6 ways to give effective presentations

Presentation coaches Tom Bird and Jeremy Cassell their share tips for public speaking

We work with C-suite leaders and entrepreneurs to help them deliver outstanding, high-stakes business presentations. There are six fundamental habits that underpin the success of exceptional presenters:

Keep the audience in mind

Every presentation must be audience-centric. How do they feel about your proposition? How can you help solve their problems? How might they resist? What do they need in order to buy in to your outcome? Remember that people buy emotionally and then are open to a logical justification so, you must appeal to their emotions.

Less is more – reduce your content

Perhaps the most common mistake we see in presenters is too much content. Content should be defined by thinking about your audience, your objective for the presentation and the time you have. Exceptional presenters pare down their content so that it is all relevant. Remember that slides should be an aid to the audience and not simply a checklist of what you as a presenter need to say – make what you deliver more interesting and engaging.

Mindset trumps knowledge, so be confident

If you are nervous it will be communicated clearly through your body language and voice — people will switch off to your message or feel sorry for you, neither of which you want. So, if you are aware that you are feeling nervous or anxious, there are lots of ways of managing that and building confidence. Focus on breathing from your diaphragm, mentally rehearse and visualise a successful presentation – both of these are techniques are used by the world’s elite athletes and are well proven to help manage your state.

Film yourself on video

Most of your impact is through body language and voice tone – not the words that you sweat over getting right. These two components of your message can communicate credibility and connection. Seeing yourself on video is a great way to raise awareness about how you are perceived by your audience and notice any habits that you may want to change.

Pace your audience

Most presenters try to lead their audience towards their desired outcome too quickly. If you do this, you will lose them or create unnecessary resistance to your message. Always spend some time at the start of the presentation acknowledging what is happening for the audience and how they might feel before you start to sell your message. You are looking to make some simple statements that reflect their current possible reality which they can agree with. If people feel you “get them” they are much more likely to allow you to lead them.

Practise at the edge of discomfort

No-one learns a skill by simply reading a book. To improve your skills as a presenter, you must present more. By putting techniques and approaches into practice you develop the skills quickly even though some of them may feel uncomfortable at first.

Our experience working with leaders and entrepreneurs around the world show it is quite possible to develop these habits so you can become an exceptional presenter. All you need is curiosity, an ability to take feedback and a determination to improve your communication.

Tom Bird and Jeremy Cassell are authors of The Leader’s Guide to Presenting , winners of 2018 The Business Book Awards. The Business Book Awards 2019 is now open for entries.