20 Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills

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I've been doing a lot of presenting recently, and I have no problem admitting that it's tough. For those not born with natural eloquence, public speaking can be remarkably nerve-racking. But I’m getting a lot better!

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the last few years is that to be a great public speaker, it’s key to develop a personal speaking style. Since I know I’m not the most eloquent speaker in the world, I make up for it by packing my presentations with enthusiasm, unique/proprietary data, and tons of useful content as well as plenty of dumb jokes.

how to improve presentation skills

We can't all deliver the next Gettysburg Address, but there are lots of small things you can do prior to your presentation that will help calm your nerves and set you up for a better presentation. Here are my 20 best tips to improve your presentation skills.

1. Practice! 

Naturally, you'll want to rehearse your presentation multiple times. While it can be difficult for those with packed schedules to spare time to practice, it's essential if you want to deliver a rousing presentation. I’m famous around the office for staying up late the night before a big presentation, practicing over and over. If you really want to sound great, write out your speech rather than taking chances winging it – if you get nervous about speaking, a script is your best friend.

Try to practice where you'll be delivering your talk. Some acting strategists suggest rehearsing lines in various positions – standing up, sitting down, with arms open wide, on one leg, while sitting on the toilet, etc. (OK, that last one may be optional.) The more you mix up your position and setting, the more comfortable you'll feel with your speech. Do a practice run for a friend or colleague, or try recording your presentation and playing it back to evaluate which areas need work. Listening to recordings of your past talks can clue you in to bad habits you may be unaware of, as well as inspiring the age-old question: "Is that what I really sound like?"

2. Transform Nervous Energy Into Enthusiasm. 

It may sound strange, but I'll often down an energy drink and blast hip-hop music in my earphones before presenting. Why? It pumps me up and helps me turn jitters into focused enthusiasm. Studies have shown that an enthusiastic speech can win out over an eloquent one, and since I'm not exactly the Winston Churchill of presenters, I make sure that I'm as enthusiastic and energetic as possible before going on stage. Of course, individuals respond differently to caffeine overload, so know your own body before guzzling those monster energy drinks.

presentation tips

3. Attend Other Presentations. 

If you're giving a talk as part of a conference, try to attend some of the earlier talks by other presenters to scope out their presentation skills and get some context. This shows respect for your fellow presenters while also giving you a chance to feel out the audience. What's the mood of the crowd? Are folks in the mood to laugh or are they a bit more stiff? Are the presentations more strategic or tactical in nature? Another speaker may also say something that you can play off of later in your own presentation.

4. Arrive Early. 

It's always best to allow yourself plenty of time to settle in before your talk. Extra time ensures you won't be late (even if Google Maps shuts down) and gives you plenty of time to get adapted to your presentation space.

5. Adjust to Your Surroundings. 

The more adjusted to your environment you are, the more comfortable you'll feel. Make sure to spend some in the room where you will be delivering your presentation. If possible, practice with the microphone and lighting, make sure you understand the seating and be aware of any distractions potentially posed by the venue (e.g., a noisy road outside).

larry kim presentation tips

5 minutes before my Inbound presentation … gulp

6. Meet and Greet. 

Do your best to chat with people before your presentation. Talking with audiences makes you seem more likeable and approachable. Ask event attendees questions and take in their responses. They may even give you some inspiration to weave into your talk.

Want more great tips? Check out our Digital Marketer's Road Map!

7. Use Positive Visualization. 

Whether or not you’re a Zen master, know that plenty of studies have proven the effectiveness of positive visualization. When we imagine a positive outcome to a scenario in our mind, it's more likely to play out the way we envision.

Instead of thinking "I'm going to be terrible out there" and visualizing yourself throwing up mid-presentation, imagine yourself getting tons of laughs while presenting with the enthusiasm of Jimmy Fallon and the poise of Audrey Hepburn (the charm of George Clooney wouldn't hurt either). Positive thoughts can be incredibly effective – give them a shot.

presentation skills

8. Remember That Most Audiences Are Sympathetic.

One of the hardest fears to shake when speaking in public is that the audience is secretly waiting to laugh at your missteps or mistakes. Fortunately, this isn’t the case in the vast majority of presentations.

The audience wants to see you succeed. In fact, many people have a fear of public speaking, so even if the audience seems indifferent, the chances are pretty good that most people listening to your presentation can relate to how nerve-racking it can be. If you start to feel nervous, remind yourself that the audience gets it, and actually wants to see you nail it.

9. Take Deep Breaths. 

The go-to advice for jitters has truth to it. When we're nervous, our muscles tighten--you may even catch yourself holding your breath. Instead, go ahead and take those deep breaths to get oxygen to your brain and relax your body.

10. Smile. 

Smiling increases endorphins, replacing anxiety with calm and making you feel good about your presentation. Smiling also exhibits confidence and enthusiasm to the crowd. And this tip works even if you're doing a webinar and people can't see you.

Just don't overdo it – no one enjoys the maniacal clown look.

creepy clown

Don’t be like this guy.

11. Exercise.

Exercise earlier in the day prior to your presentation to boost endorphins, which will help alleviate anxiety. Better pre-register for that Zumba class!

12. Work on Your Pauses. 

When you're nervous, it's easy to speed up your presentation and end up talking too fast, which in turn causes you to run out of breath, get more nervous, and panic! Ahh!

Don't be afraid to slow down and use pauses in your speech. Pausing can be used to emphasize certain points and to help your talk feel more conversational. If you feel yourself losing control of your pacing, just take a nice pause and keep cool.

13. Don’t Try to Cover Too Much Material.

Yes, your presentations should be full of useful, insightful, and actionable information, but that doesn’t mean you should try to condense a vast and complex topic into a 10-minute presentation.

 

Knowing what to include, and what to leave out, is crucial to the success of a good presentation. I’m not suggesting you skimp when it comes to data or including useful slides (some of my webinars have featured 80+ slides), but I am advocating for a rigorous editing process. If it feels too off-topic, or is only marginally relevant to your main points, leave it out. You can always use the excess material in another presentation.

14. Actively Engage the Audience.

People love to talk and make their opinions heard, but the nature of presentations can often seem like a one-sided proposition. It doesn’t have to be, though.

Asking the audience what they think, inviting questions, and other means of welcoming audience participation can boost engagement and make attendees feel like a part of a conversation. It also makes you, the presenter, seem much more relatable. Consider starting with a poll or survey. Don’t be put off by unexpected questions – instead, see them as an opportunity to give your audience what they want.

how do I improve my presentation skills

Hopefully this man has a question, and doesn’t just need to go to the bathroom.

15. Be Entertaining.

Even if your presentation is packed with useful information, if your delivery bombs, so will your session.

I find that including some jokes and light-hearted slides is a great way to help the audience (and myself) feel more comfortable, especially when presenting them with a great deal of information. However, it’s important to maintain a balance – after all, you’re not performing a stand-up routine, and people didn’t come to your presentation with the sole intention of being entertained. That said, don’t be afraid to inject a little humor into your talk. If you’re not sure about whether a presentation is “too much,” run through it for a couple of friends and ask them to tell it to you straight.

16. Admit You Don’t Have All the Answers.

Very few presenters are willing to publicly concede that they don’t actually know everything because they feel it undermines their authority. However, since we all know that nobody can ever know everything about a given topic, admitting so in a presentation can actually improve your credibility.

I don't know

If someone asks a question that stumps you, it’s okay to admit it. This can also increase your credibility with the audience, as it demonstrates that, no matter how knowledgeable a person might be, we’re all learning, all the time. Nobody expects you to be an omniscient oracle of forbidden knowledge – they just want to learn from you.

17. Use a Power Stance. 

Practicing confident body language is another way to boost your pre-presentation jitters. When your body is physically demonstrating confidence, your mind will follow suit. While you don't want to be jutting out your chest in an alpha gorilla pose all afternoon (somebody enjoyed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes a bit too much), studies have shown that using power stances a few minutes before giving a talk (or heading to a big interview) creates a lasting sense of confidence and assurance. Whatever you do, don't sit--sitting is passive. Standing or walking a bit will help you harness those stomach bats (isn't that more appropriate than butterflies?). Before you go on stage, strike your best Power Ranger stance and hold your head high!

presentation power stance

18. Drink Water. 

Dry mouth is a common result of anxiety. Prevent cottonmouth blues by staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water before your talk (just don't forget to hit the bathroom before starting). Keep a bottle of water at arm's reach while presenting in case you get dry mouth while chatting up a storm. It also provides a solid object to hurl at potential hecklers. (That'll show 'em.)

19. Join Toastmasters. 

Toastmaster clubs are groups across the country (and the world) dedicated to helping members improve their presentation skills. Groups get together during lunch or after work to take turns delivering short talks on a chosen topic. The more you present, the better you'll be, so consider joining a Toastmaster club to become a top-notch orator. Just don't forget, it's BYOB (Bring Your Own Bread).

20. Don't Fight the Fear. 

Accept your fear rather than trying to fight it. Getting yourself worked up by wondering if people will notice your nervousness will only intensify your anxiety. Remember, those jitters aren't all bad – harness that nervous energy and transform it into positive enthusiasm and you'll be golden. We salute you, O Captain! My Captain!

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Comments

Julie Coraccio
Nov 19, 2014

Excellent list--I am always looking to improve my public speaking skills. One thing I would add: write a thank you note.  Not an e-mail, a handwritten one.  People will remember that and may hire you again or refer you to someone else to speak.

John Dawson
Nov 20, 2014

I agree with you about practice BUT I think if you do it at the wrong stage you can be practising being scared or even locking in the fearIf you are really scared of public speaking you need to find a place that's safe to practice like a public speaking course or toastmasters as you mention. May I also mention another thing.I teach 40 public speaking courses a year and there seems to be a secret about public speaking that shouldn't be a secret. It is understanding blank faces. As a speaker if we are not careful we carry on using normal conversational skills when we are speaking to a group.When you have a standard conversation - you normally get nods, smiles, agreements back from the listener however when we speak to a group ALL that changes. All you see is blank faces.So we start speaking to blank faces and they don't usually smile (at least not very often) or nod their heads (some people will but again not a lot) so we are left struggling with critical thoughts about our performance. But blank faces are normal in audience - they are just listening faces. So try not to read people's faces when you speak publicly because your brain will interpret any sign as negative. Of course there is more to getting your head around public speaking but when I teach public speaking this is the point that helps a lot of people. 

Liliana
Sep 25, 2017

THIS MATTERS! Cannot tell you how many times i thought i was bombing because i wasn't getting nods of approval.

Tini
Dec 15, 2014

Thanks for this.......

Mike
Dec 19, 2014

Its really a good post. Now-a-days public speaking skills and presentation skills are important facets of work and life. Developing the confidence and incredible ability to offer high quality presentation as well as stand up in front of a good number of audiences with giving a good presentation are the extremely useful tool for self-development of your communication skills. Presentation skills training of Effective Presentations offers effective results-driven trainings to build up your communication skill. http://www.effectivepresentations.com/

Jeff Montecial
Jan 03, 2015

I took a public speaking workshop several years ago and it really helped me with confidence speaking with any group. Definitely Jeff worth the time. Jeff

Thin Thin
Mar 20, 2015

Thanks a lot...I will do like that....

recreant
May 21, 2015

Keep on working, great job!

Krista Malinczak
Apr 12, 2015

Do you offer a webinar on Improving Presentation Skills, that compliments this information above:
20 Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills? If yes, please provide information regarding how to access this.
Thank you!

Delores Lyon
Jun 15, 2015

Thanks for sharing this advice on improving your public speaking skills. It is awesome that there are so many different methods to help you communicate your ideas better. Your advice on seeing other presentations is especially good-- you could notice things that the presenter does that makes him or her a better speaker, and then apply them to your own presentations. That way, you know how you look and sound when you are applying those skills as well!

Christopher Thomas
Nov 19, 2015

Now this is an interestingly unique ways. AND it would be a great hit.

Srinivasan
Jan 06, 2016

Excellent points...Thanks a lot..

muhamad
Feb 11, 2016

I am from iran, thank u for your good notes.

Mikel Iglesias
Mar 02, 2016

Thanks for the post! It really helped me to speak with confidence!

kabita
Apr 02, 2016

Very useful side. & I am from Bangladesh. Can u please advice how i can developed my English skill? Because when i want to say something in English Language i m filling so nervous.

Nir Megnazi
Apr 29, 2016

Hi Kabita,
If you feel uncertain with your English skills you should constantly work to improve them. take online or frontal courses etc.
that will for sure increase your confidence.
There are some more actions you can take when preparing for a presentation and when you actually present:
1. when you are preparing your topic, use the most simplest words. people are not impressed by "high" words. they are impressed by teh value you give them.
2. if you need to use complex words, write them down and rehearse them as much as you need in order to get them right when you are on stage
3. rehearse , rehearse rehearse... there is a saying : "beginners practice until they get it right, experts practice until they can't get it wrong"
4. acknowledge that when you will present, you will get stuck with some words. it happens! when that happens and you struggle to convey the message, just pause.
English gives the benefit of saying the same exact thing in different ways. so just start the sentence in another way and go around the problem. the crowd won't care as long as you are giving value!
hope its been helpful.
good luck!
Nir

Vieng
Mar 14, 2017

The same my issue
Thanks,

aitesam ahmed
May 22, 2016

Dear Nir, You have given very useful suggestions for people like me I also need your support to learn public speaking. I will try your valuable points but the problem is where and how can i
start public speaking.( it is very basic question but it fact )

Nir Megnazi
Oct 15, 2016

Hi Ahmed,
sorry for the late reply, I missed it for some reason.
to speak in public you need a topic that will give value to people. something that will make them want to listen.
the first question they will ask is "what's in it for me?"
once you have one, build a short lecture and offer it for free in public libraries, saloon talks with friends, facebook.
start for free, improve and if you give real value, you will be booked for money very fast.
hope this helps

nabila mughal
May 29, 2016

BEST BEST BEST,,,,, i like your blog.. and ..i like your website...........

Aayush Jain
Jul 11, 2016

Thanks for sharing these informative skill points.

It really works in increasing the confidence.

Great work!

prakash
Jul 20, 2016

i like your web site and useful

Kaley
Aug 27, 2016

Loved this! I realized I talked way too fast during my most recent presentation…. and googled something about talking too fast and came across this…. #12 was what I was “looking for.”

But now... I can’t decide between my favorites: #16, #17 (because of the pictures and absolute validity... I prefer the Superman stance) or maybe #18 (because of the shameless plug) #14 (because I did that well) or #10 (because I know thats from the freakshow horror show) or #8 (because it’s humbling) or #6 (because I failed at that opportunity) or #2 (because I did that, and did it very well: Redbull, knowing my limits).

Thanks for the great article!

Philippa Leguen de Lacroix
Sep 05, 2016

Great list - and always relevant.
I particularly agree with Toastmasters - nothing like plenty of practice to help you cope with nerves. They can indeed be a good thing!

AndrewCharlton
Sep 19, 2016

I have an problem in communications but I probably trying to meet people and improve my social skills. Or I'm trying to meet cool guys. Your article is very useful and helpful for us. Thanks for sharing this information..

Mark Robinson
Oct 28, 2016

Good tips. I recently spoke at a TEDx event on the topic of presentation skills "How to present to keep your audience’s attention" and offered some tips:

https://youtu.be/BmEiZadVNWY

Curtis Jackson
Dec 01, 2016

Hello,

My gratitude to the author for providing a helpful list. There are some common sense points like arriving early before the public discourse and breathing properly to reduce when feeling nervous. I appreciate the lessons of humility that we do not have all the answers to a subject we are speaking about and seeing the audience as understanding listeners. And you can count me in on the application of smiling when necessary; the suggestions are down to earth.

Curtis

Jack
Dec 02, 2016

I have bookmarked this article. I found this very late but later is better than never. Its every point is amazing and briefed lovely . Thanks for this valuable article.

Steven Stasczak
Dec 19, 2016

Whether you are an expert in public speaking or you’ve just started learning the ropes, being confident and accurate in your presentation skills does take time to develop. Here are six ways to improve your presentation skills when public speaking. presentation skills does take time to develop. Here are six ways to improve your presentation skills when public speaking.

#1. Be enthusiastic and passionate about your topic.6 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking Presentation Skills Whether you are an expert in public speaking or you've just started learning the ropes, being confident and accurate in your presentation skills does take time to develop. Here are six ways to improve your presentation skills when public speaking. #1. Be enthusiastic and passionate about your topic. If you don't truly believe in what you are saying or have not completely bought into the idea, how can you expect your audience to do so? You have to be relaxed and seriously passionate about whatever it is you're speaking on. If you're not quite there yet but you know that you still have to present the idea or the project, it's best to get to know the project on a more intimate basis until you feel confident and passionate about the ideas. Find what speaks to you in the presentation and it may also speak to your audience. It will also help connect your audience to the topic, ideas or project. #2. Be observant of your audience. If you notice audience members checking their watches, playing with their smart phones, yawning or gazing off into space, you've obviously lost them. This doesn't mean that you need to just finish out the presentation as quickly as possible; it means that you need to reengage your audience by asking questions, getting down off of the platform or podium, using large gestures, or pointing people out on how well they did on a certain project. If people know that they might get called on, they're more likely to stay alert. #3. Keep your message simple and to the point. If it takes you 10 minutes to get to the meat of your presentation, and people have no idea what you're talking about until you're at least 10 to 15 minutes in, you've already lost them. You don't need to make lengthy introductions or long, drawn out jokes or stories simply to break the ice. Concentrate on your core message and get to the point as quickly as possible. You can reiterate the main points at the end with important information tucked in throughout the middle of the presentation. #4. Smile and make eye contact with your audience. If you're staring at your page or your paperwork the entire time, you're going to lose your audience very quickly. Make sure you know your presentation inside and out. Remember, amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can't get it wrong. If you're nervous about the presentation, this is all the more reason to practice, practice, practice and tell you know it inside and out. If you can walk around the room and still talk about your presentation, engage your audience and get them passionate about the idea, then you've got it. #5. Remember the 10 – 20 – 30 rule for slideshows. Guy Kowasaki from Apple suggests that a slideshow should contain no more than 10 slides; last no more than 20 minutes, and use a font no less than 30 point. If you stick to these simple rules you can engage your audience, get to the core message, and keep them entertained until the end. #6. Remember to be human. If you simply stand up there and present the message as a robot, memorization down perfectly, with no feeling or engagement, and are going to lose your audience very quickly. Not only should you remember the previous five points that also try to be human by telling stories and respond to certain stories personally. Ask questions, talk about an experience, or put the message into practical terms. Public speaking presentations don't have to be difficult but it does take practice. Practice in front of the mirror, consider videotaping yourself, and remember these six points to a successful presentation.

If you don’t truly believe in what you are saying or have not completely bought into the idea, how can you expect your audience to do so? You have to be relaxed and seriously passionate about whatever it is you’re speaking on. If you’re not quite there yet but you know that you still have to present the idea or the project, it’s best to get to know the project on a more intimate basis until you feel confident and passionate about the ideas. Find what speaks to you in the presentation and it may also speak to your audience. It will also help connect your audience to the topic, ideas or project.

#2. Be observant of your audience.

If you notice audience members checking their watches, playing with their smart phones, yawning or gazing off into space, you’ve obviously lost them. This doesn’t mean that you need to just finish out the presentation as quickly as possible; it means that you need to reengage your audience by asking questions, getting down off of the platform or podium, using large gestures, or pointing people out on how well they did on a certain project. If people know that they might get called on, they’re more likely to stay alert.

#3. Keep your message simple and to the point.

If it takes you 10 minutes to get to the meat of your presentation, and people have no idea what you’re talking about until you’re at least 10 to 15 minutes in, you’ve already lost them. You don’t need to make lengthy introductions or long, drawn out jokes or stories simply to break the ice. Concentrate on your core message and get to the point as quickly as possible. You can reiterate the main points at the end with important information tucked in throughout the middle of the presentation.

#4. Smile and make eye contact with your audience.

If you’re staring at your page or your paperwork the entire time, you’re going to lose your audience very quickly. Make sure you know your presentation inside and out. Remember, amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong. If you’re nervous about the presentation, this is all the more reason to practice, practice, practice and tell you know it inside and out. If you can walk around the room and still talk about your presentation, engage your audience and get them passionate about the idea, then you’ve got it.

#5. Remember the 10 – 20 – 30 rule for slideshows.

Guy Kowasaki from Apple suggests that a slideshow should contain no more than 10 slides; last no more than 20 minutes, and use a font no less than 30 point. If you stick to these simple rules you can engage your audience, get to the core message, and keep them entertained until the end.

#6. Remember to be human.

If you simply stand up there and present the message as a robot, memorization down perfectly, with no feeling or engagement, and are going to lose your audience very quickly. Not only should you remember the previous five points that also try to be human by telling stories and respond to certain stories personally. Ask questions, talk about an experience, or put the message into practical terms.

Public speaking presentations don’t have to be difficult but it does take practice. Practice in front of the mirror, consider videotaping yourself, and remember these six points to a successful presentation.


Daniel
Feb 08, 2017

Thanks very much for this. Very helpful indeed.

Professor V
Feb 21, 2017

I am going to utilize this information in my classes before their upcoming presentations. I loved your visuals and examples. Thank you!

Beatrice
Mar 11, 2017

Hello,

First off I want to say thank you for posting an effective list to help others with how to improve their presentation skills. I am currently a creative writing student at Full Sail in my first month of school and find it difficult to give presentations. What bit of advice for someone who not only suffers from Racing Brain Syndrome, but shaking hands as well as increased sweating when doing a presentation?

Akiko Tsukamoto
Mar 21, 2017

thank you for the advice. Now, I can do presentations in my classroom.

Naveen Ranasinghe
Apr 23, 2017

Thanks Alot..this Helps...

laducos
May 19, 2017

thanks, but i need to be guarded more apart from the 20 ways to improve your presentation skill please!

janson
May 25, 2017

It's really awesome article.Thank you

Tahir Hussin Hashmi
May 31, 2017

Dear Nir,
Greetings!

i find your points fruitful for me, i am keen to be a presenter and striving for it. i must say that the best i get from your writing.

Shiji Jose
Jun 14, 2017

Good post. really practicing is the key to public speaking. Some are born confident and they require less preparation; but others definitely can improve by practicing the tips.

Jack Sleigh
Jun 29, 2017

Hi Larry,
I have enjoyed your article very much, as you shared most valuable information which are definitely helpful to improve our presentation skills. I am very glad to go through your wonderful article. Thanks for sharing a nice blog.

Philippa Leguen de Lacroix
Jun 29, 2017

Great list of presentation tips. I particularly agree with #13: Don’t Try to Cover Too Much Material.
Here at Presented we are constantly trying to reduce slide content to produce more engaging and more impactful slides.
Less to read gives more opportunity to listen.

Thank you so much for you tips hope they will help me
Jul 14, 2017

i'm getting nervours infront of peolple especial if am not used of them hope your tips will be helpfull to me

Ashok
Aug 09, 2017

Thank you for the post. It's very useful to eradicate and get alleviated from the jitters. This could also help me from getting out from the nerve-racking situations.

Edwin
Aug 21, 2017

I need a more then more of the presentation skills and speaking skills so you update the speaking skills in on your page it's very usefull

Tony Rae
Aug 29, 2017

Thanks a lot ! Now, I'm prepare for my first time presentation.So, the 20 tips are really helpful for me.

Kat
Sep 19, 2017

Thanks for this, however the clown was really creepy.

LaChom
Oct 25, 2017

Yea, I agree with Kat.Thanks always.

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