Do you fear standing up in front of a group of people to present about yourself and your business?

Would you like to improve your presentation skills to achieve higher success in your business?

I am a rare breed and some might say a little crazy – I love public speaking! I have also been a singer and performer for a number of years. But it has not always been this way. When I first started singing 15 years ago, I was so tense my legs would ache after 30 minutes!

It is a fairly well known fact that public speaking is the number one fear in the world, over and above death and terminal illness! It is however a skill and a skill that can be developed and improved by using the right approach and techniques.

Below, I cover 10 of these techniques that I feel will dramatically improve the way you present

1. Create a captivating title. You can put together the most fantastic presentation but if nobody turns up or the wrong people are there it will not be a success. Your title needs to grab people’s attention and clearly indicate what the presentation will be about. It is also good to link it to your audience. For this article for example, I used the title “10 killer presentation techniques to significantly improve your business results”. This hopefully grabbed your attention, it specifically states what will be covered and it is explicit that the focus is on helping people in business rather than public speaking in a broader sense.

2. Confirm the aims and outcomes upfront. People have not come to see you; they have come to hear about the subject of your presentation and what this can do for them. You need to make your aims really clear and confirm that they fit with their expectations. It is important to revisit these at the end of your presentation, to confirm you have met the expectations of your audience. As with the title, you can carry out the greatest presentation, but if your aims are not consistent with the aims of the audience it will not be a success.

3. Design your presentation before even opening PowerPoint. For many business people the first move is to open PowerPoint, but you need to think about the design of your presentation first. Think about those results and outcomes you want to achieve. Think widely about all the topic areas you feel are relevant to your presentation. Then write down all the different areas you want to cover (on cards, post it notes or possibly using a mind map tool). Then look for main themes (major topics) and sub themes (detailed areas) under them and use your cards, post its or mind map to group the areas together based on this structure. This is a very dynamic way of building your presentation, so you can move topics around to get the right flow to your presentation. You can also more easily prune your presentation based on the time you have to present.

4. Memorise your presentation using visual memory techniques. Many of you will have come across the use of visual imagery to aid memory and this is certainly applicable for presentations too. Create a visual image for each part of your presentation and then tie them together by using visual links too. The more outlandish the images and links the better you will remember them. For example, if you want to talk about the financial aspects of your business and then the performance of the retail division, you could visualise a huge inflatable pound sign walking down the road and then smashing through a shop window. Once you polish this technique you can do away with having to read cue cards or notes completely and it will bring a much higher level of professionalism to your presentation and allow you to engage with your audience.

5. Get the interaction going early on. As I am a singer, one technique I use when performing or presenting is to walk out amongst the audience at the start to break down the barriers. Then you can ask people a simple question. Maybe something to confirm that they are in the right room (tie it back to the outcomes maybe). If you don’t get a strong response push until you do. Ensure you get everyone putting their hands up and connect with them up front.

6. Ensure your presentation is much more than a set of PowerPoint slides. To many people the concept of presentations has become synonymous with PowerPoint. The overuse of slides should be avoided at all costs, as it stops the presenter from engaging with the audience. Even worse are slides that have too many bullet points, too much detail or a dazzling range of build techniques! Think about the public speakers who impress you and what they do to engage their audience. They don’t typically use PowerPoint. Use audio, flip charts, video and a variety of other approaches to make it more interesting.

7. Use stories and language effectively. Many will tell you that your communication is only 7% based on the language you use. What they wont tell you that this is based on 2 very basic experiments from over 40 years ago. This in my view is a myth and as well as your body language and your tonality, the language you use is extremely effective. It is good to have a bank of stories to use when you present in general, examples of successful client work, your own experiences, anything that will bring the presentation to life.

If anyone has seen comedians like Billie Connolly or Eddie Izzard perform, they use a technique where they start one story, go off at a tangent on another story and then may even go off at another tangent returning further down the line to complete the stories. They are using linked stories. It is extremely engaging and can hold your audience’s attention during a performance or presentation. What you do is to start one related story at the beginning of your presentation and take it to near completion. Then link to another related story and again take this to near completion. You then deliver the body of your presentation, but then return at the end to close down all stories you started, but in reverse order. This is a superb technique but it will take some practice and some good stories.

8. Cover all the bases for your audience. People respond to information in different ways and it is important to be mindful of this when preparing your presentation. Some people respond to information in a visual way, some focus more on the auditory aspect of the information and others are more concerned with feelings and practicalities. This is important in how you deliver the material and also in the language that you use. You need to make your presentation as inclusive as possible. Some people will focus more on why they are there listening to you, some on the facts or technical information, some enjoy the practicals and exercises more. It is vital that all these bases are covered within your presentation.

9. Use the room effectively. Some people will advise you to stand behind the lectern and deliver your presentation from a fixed position. This is not the most engaging way of working with your audience and building a relationship. Although it is not advisable to erratically move around, some structured movement enhances your presentation. I previously mentioned walking out amongst your audience, but you can also use certain places in the room to focus on certain themes or feelings. Maybe deliver your stories from a certain place.Have a place where you go to talk about more confidential or secretive areas. All of this will bring an element of performance to your presentations.

10. Handle questions consistently. My first piece of advice here would be to prepare well and build your knowledge beyond the scope of your presentation. It is also important to answer honestly. If you do not know, don’t try and fudge an answer but agree to take it off line and get back to the person. When addressing each question first thank the person for the question and then repeat the question to ensure you are clear and everyone has heard it. Then answer the question to the best of your ability. Finally go back to the questioner to ensure you have answered their question. Then it’s time to move onto the next question. Remember to encourage as many questions as you can and you have the time for.


To find out more about our presentation skills programmes with the Chamber of Commerce please click here.