8 Ways to Perfect Your Presentation Skills in English

8 Ways to Perfect Your Presentation Skills in English
Melbourne Classical Radio - We are going to talk about how to prepare for a presentation in eight key steps. And I'm gonna tell you my personal eight steps that I've been using for over 20 years. Follow these steps, and you'll be bulletproof. 

So the first five of these are necessary steps that most ordinary speakers learn to do, but I'm also gonna give you three additional steps that will separate you from the crowd the next time you do a presentation, and it'll make you virtually bulletproof. 

And every time I've talked to excellent speakers, they almost always follow some version of these eight steps. And I'll put a summary of them at the end. 

Step one, clarify your goals for the presentation. 

You are more likely to hit your target if you know what that target is. And this usually starts by answering some important questions like who is your audience? What's the spirit of the occasion or the event for this presentation? Are you there to inform your listeners or persuade them? One key question I ask myself is a fill-in-the-blank statement. 

At the end of this presentation, I will count it as a success if, and then I fill in the blank. If I can answer those kinds of questions, I have clarified my goals. And as I prepare, I keep reminding myself of these goals so that everything after this step drives toward a successful presentation. 

Step two, decide what the heart of your message will be. 

This is the key decision that every speaker has to make. What's the foundational point of view that you are taking in this presentation? What's your unique spin or your central theme? In school we call this a thesis. 

What driving message can you feel passionate about? I try to get clear on this very early in the process. It usually changes and improves by the time I present, but this early clarity about the heart of my message usually eliminates a lot of other distractions that could be a waste of time. 

Step three, gather your supporting materials. 

80 or 90% of every presentation consists of stories, examples, statistics, quotes, facts, maybe some humor, images or visual materials. This is what we call supporting materials, and they generally come from three places, your research and reading, your own life experience and the experiences of the people that you know. 

So very early in the process, you have to begin gathering all of these potential materials and sources to see what you're working with. In the end, you want to put the best of what you have come across in your research into your message. 

So three quick notes about the supporting materials, first, be sure to cite your sources and give full credit for any materials that are not your own. Citing your sources builds your credibility. Second, make sure you have a mixture of supporting materials that balances how you appeal to listeners' hearts and their minds. 

Third, make a special note of any of these stories, statistics and quotes that make you say, "Wow, "that's good stuff." We'll talk about the wow factor in a moment. 

Step four, organize your ideas to create clarity. 

You wanna make sure your message is clear and easy to follow. That's why most messages have an introduction, body, conclusion. The most challenging part for me is typically figuring out what my main points in the body of the presentation are gonna be. 

The classic advice is to aim for three or so main points in the body. And that is sometimes difficult, but it's worth struggling to whittle it down to three points. That's a process of figuring out what to include and what to cut and still end up with a well-rounded message. And here's a little pro tip for you on how to start and finish. 

As I'm gathering my research and materials, I usually set aside a story, example or quote that has that wow factor I mentioned a minute ago. As I'm preparing, if something really stands out and catches my attention, I set that aside and I say, "Well, maybe I can turn that "into my attention-grabber or my clincher at the end." If something stood out to me as I prepared, that means it would likely stand out to my listeners. 

Step five, talk it through aloud from an outline. 

I usually stay seated at this stage, and I just talk loud enough so I can hear myself. I make sure I'm at this point in my preparation about three or four days before my actual presentation. I strongly encourage you to keep your presentation in outline form and don't script it out word for word. And I don't attempt to memorize, really, any specific wording. 

If you prepare this way, you'll come across as much more conversational and dynamic when you finally deliver your presentation. And at this step, I don't even try to go through my outline all the way in order yet. 

I'm just getting familiar with how it might flow. I usually just stumble through it like this about three or four times before I'm ready to move on. Now, many people I know do not go past this point in their preparation. 

Usually once they have a rough outline, even just a list of items they wanna talk about, and they've mumbled through it a few times, and they assume that when the time comes, they'll be ready. But I want you to be bulletproof. I want you to 100% crush your presentation. 

So here are some extra steps that I follow that will help you really move beyond the average speaker and virtually guarantee a successful presentation. 

Step six, revise your notes as you talk through it. 

So as you're talking through this aloud, like in the previous step three or four times, you'll notice that certain parts flow pretty smoothly, and other parts don't make sense yet. It will very likely feel choppy. And that's totally normal at this stage. 

But pay attention to what works and what doesn't. I always pause while I'm practicing, make notes, cross things out and revise right as I practice. So as you do this, realize that certain parts will need a little more, like adding another quote or example to really make it stand out. And other parts might need to be cut. 

Step seven, stand up and practice. 

Once I have talked it through from a seated position a few times, and then revised it along the way, I make sure that I stand up and present at least two days before my actual presentation. I practice like this a few times. 

I stand up straight. I start to gesture with my hands when I talk. I go through the whole presentation all the way through, even if I make mistakes. I just recover as best I can, which teaches me how to recover. I even start timing myself to make sure I'm in the rough ballpark of how long I'm planning to speak. 

I usually rewrite my notes so they're simple, clean and easy to see just by glancing down. By this point, I want my notes to just be bullet points, just key words and reminders. 

The only sentences I ever write out fully are important direct quotations because I wanna make sure I get those right. But 99% of my notes are nothing more than just talking points, single words, key phrases. And I do my best as I'm practicing to just glance down at my notes, and then I keep my eyes up as I practice. 

Each time I go through it, I'll word things a little differently to keep it fresh and conversational. My goal is never to memorize exact wording. I don't wanna sound robotic or like I'm reading. 

And step eight, I practice a few more times as if it's a dress rehearsal. 

This is what professional speakers do. The day before, I do this about two to three times, and I will wake up early and do it one last time the day of the presentation. And when I'm doing a dress rehearsal, I pretend and visualize that I'm practicing in front of actual people. 

I pretend to make eye contact with people. And I look at my notes only 1% of the time. By this time I've internalized my content, and I know my stuff. I even physically handle my visual aids to get comfortable using them. 

So if I'm changing my slides, I'll go through those motions, and I'll reach over and tap the button so I remember to do it in the real presentation. I revise my notes one last time into whatever final version I'll be using, either note cards or a clean-looking paper. And I sometimes even put on my presentation clothes to get comfortable in those. I'm also a big advocate of keeping my dress rehearsals realistic. 

I usually add some distractions, like I'll turn on the TV in the background or practice in front of my wife. And if something goes wrong, I just adapt and keep going. You can't control outside distractions in your actual presentation, but you can prepare yourself to handle any chaos with composure. 

I think to myself what if somebody walks in in the middle and distracts me? What if my visual aid doesn't work? What if they tell me right before I speak, I have to cut my presentation down by 15 minutes? What would I cut? I anticipate problems and think through how I might handle those difficulties. 

And I time myself every time while I dress rehearse, just to make sure I'm hitting that target. So if I can finish in the desired timeframe a few rehearsals in a row, I know I'm ready. John Maxwell, a famous professional speaker, says that "Speaking over time is a crime." So practice with a clock. The clock does not lie. 

If you have gone through these eight steps, you are prepared. So which of these do you feel would help you the most? If you added up all of these steps that involve some sort of practice, you'll end up going through your message around eight to 10 times. 

And I always recommend practicing at least 10 times, and then you'll usually see your presentation really come together those last few times through it. 

If you do that, you'll be virtually bulletproof. Until next time, thanks, God bless, and I will see you soon.

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