How do I: Improve my presentation skills

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How do I: Improve my presentation skills

A repeatable process to follow.

Presenters often make the same mistakes when preparing and delivering presentations – all of which can be avoided.

Some examples of missing the mark include not understanding the reason for the presentation, not appreciating the audience, or presenting material that is not relevant for the audience. Unfortunately, most presenters do not learn from their mistakes, or the mistakes of others when they come to prepare their next presentation.

An interesting comparison can be made with the IT industry. Some projects consistently run over time, over budget, and fail to deliver the expected outcomes. In recent times, IT departments insist that projects follow repeatable processes, like the Software Development Lifecycle to maximise the chances of success for each project.

You can leverage the learnings of the IT industry and apply them to your next presentation, maximising your chances of success, by following a “speech development lifecycle”.

The speech development lifecycle consists of five phases. By stepping through each phase sequentially you will deliver a successful presentation. The process ensures that you understand why you are delivering a presentation, the material is appropriate for the audience, and the presentation is tested before you deliver it to the intended audience.

Understand the requirements

When you are asked to deliver a presentation you must ensure you understand the requirements. It is crucial to know why you are delivering the presentation, what the expected outcome of the presentation is, and who your audience will be. Only by understanding whom you will be presenting to and what you are expected to achieve can you determine the level of detail you should cover in your presentation.

Design the speech

Once you understand the requirements of the presentation, you can start designing the presentation, and what it is you will cover. At this point of the process you will identify the key message and main points that will meet the requirements of the presentation.

Develop the content

It is in this phase you open PowerPoint or another presentation tool, and start creating the slides you want to display to support your key ideas. This is also the time to consider how you will start your presentation to ensure you capture the attention of the audience, and how you will conclude to ensure you reinforce your message.

Test the presentation

This step requires finding a colleague who can step into the shoes of your audience. You are looking to verify that the detail you cover in your presentation is suitable for the audience. You will need to brief your “tester” on the requirements so they understand who the audience will be, and what their understanding of the subject is.

Deliver the presentation

By following the speech development lifecycle you can be confident that the presentation you are about to deliver will be a success. If you are nervous about delivering the presentation get to the meeting room early. That way you can verify that the room and any equipment is setup appropriately; and as your audience arrives you can greet them. Greeting your audience personally will help calm your nerves.

The key to consistently delivering successful presentations is to follow a repeatable process that ensures you understand all the areas that are critical to succeeding. The results should speak for themselves.

Mark Kyte is a presentation skills coach who works with IT professionals to improve their presentation skills.

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