Whether you're a university instructor or student, practice is essential for developing into a strong presenter. However, you can also improve by watching others present and taking note of what impresses you and what turns you off.
Here are 52 presentation skills tips that I've collected from both sides of the podium to help you and your English language students give better presentations.
Pre-talk Preparation Tips
- Observe other presenters. Use mannerisms and slide designs that you like. Avoid doing things you don’t like.
- The most successful presentations have a goal and a theme.
- Prepare your talk with a target audience in mind.
- Make sure your vocabulary level and speaking speed matches that audience.
- Establish a halfway point for your talk so you can check how you are managing your time.
- Be prepared to shorten your talk due to circumstances beyond your control.
- Finishing early is better than finishing late. Don’t hold the audience hostage.
- Prezi is awesome, once. Do you need to use tricks to keep the audience’s attention?
- Demo high-stakes presentation in low-stakes environments.
- Arrive early to familiarize yourself with the venue and equipment and greet early arriving audience members.
- Tell the audience if you want them to hold their questions until the end or mute their phones.
- Make sure your speaking volume and font sizes are suitable for audience members in the back of the room.
- Control your breathing and try to slow down your speaking speed at the start of your talk.
- Give a complete introduction (greeting, introduce yourself, announce your topic, and hook the audience).
- You should hook the audience at the beginning. Give them a selfish reason to listen.
- Don’t predict or draw attention to your mistakes.
- You can choose to enjoy public speaking or dread it (like riding a roller coaster).
- Your confidence level rises when you have something valuable to give the audience.
- The audience wants you to succeed. What are you afraid of?
- Find friendly faces in the audience.
- Have a copy of your materials online and on a USB in addition to printed copies.
- Don’t let your handheld microphone drop or turn away from a podium microphone.
- Don’t trust technology. Test the tech but have a Plan B.
- Buy your own PPT remote control.
- Know what the F5 key does.
[Like this? Check out: How to Teach Job Interview Skills: An ESL/EFL Lesson Plan]
Delivering Your Presentation
- Watch the audience watching you. Make sure they understand you and respond to their non-verbal cues.
- Rotate your eye contact around different areas of the audience and try to build a connection with as many of the attendees as possible.
- Try not to turn your back to the audience.
- Energy/enthusiasm can compensate for dry content.
- Use your nervous energy to increase your enthusiasm.
- Pause confidently Utilize “thoughtful pauses”.
- Always move with a purpose. Don’t let your movements distract the audience.
- Don’t stand in the projector light.
- Stay flexible. No one knows what you are planning to say.
Improving Your Presentation Content
- Make sure your cover slide includes your presentation title, your name, and your affiliation. Your job title can also be added if it improves your credibility.
- Slides show and the presenter tells. Utilize your visuals effectively.
- Let your slides guide you through the organization of your content so you can focus on telling your story.
- Use clear signposts. Let the audience know when you are moving to a new section.
- Animate busy slides. The visuals should match your story as you are telling it.
- Slides are free. You don’t have to put too much info on one slide.
- Having too many words on a slide leads to reading the slide.
- One typo can ruin your credibility.
- Avoid writing text over photos/colorful backgrounds.
- Don’t play music or videos and try to talk over them.
- Don’t skip slides, even if you are running low on time. Summarize their key points briefly.
- Handouts are not the same as slides. Handouts should be text-heavy, slides text-light.
- Finish strong with takeaways from your talk and an action step.
- Your final slide should let the audience know how to contact you.
- Keep backup data for Q&A on slides after your contact slide.
- If you don’t have the data requested during Q&A, offer to send the person who asked an email after the presentation.
- Offer to stay after the talk and chat with audience members who have very specific or personal issues to discuss. Don’t waste the general audience’s time.
- Watch out for “hijackers” and audience members seeking the spotlight.
About the Author: Tim Thompson taught at three universities over fifteen years before founding Archer English Consulting in February 2016. He provides communications training and editing services for universities, research institutes, and government agencies around Korea and speaks at professional development events around the world. Read his blog to learn more about his projects. This article was also published here.