How to Improve Your Presentation Skills: 12 Ways to Give a Speech Worthy of a Standing-Ovation

Whether you’re brand new to public speaking or a seasoned veteran, there’s always room to improve your presentation skills and comfort level in front of a crowd.

Solidifying your presenting skills can even help you in your everyday communications, personal and professional. They will help you learn to feel comfortable and confident speaking with anyone.

If you are new to public speaking and interested in learning more or are ready to take your presentation skills to the next level, I’m excited to share my top tips on how to sharpen your skills to become the best public speaker. I have personally used these techniques to improve my own presentation skills throughout my career as a public speaker.

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12 Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills

To put yourself on track to becoming the best public speaker you can, follow these 12 tips to improve your presentation skills, all the way from having more beneficial conversations at work to getting the standing ovations at your next public speaking engagement.

Practice

Here’s a cliché we’ve all heard a dozen times before: Practice makes perfect.

This is especially true when it comes to public speaking.

Practicing allows you to strengthen your presenting skills and perfect the message you want to get across to your audience. It allows you to determine the appropriate tone, body language, pauses, and anecdotes you can use to deliver a memorable presentation.

While it may seem time-consuming and annoying at first, practice helps prevent you from needing to feel like you have to, “just wing it,” during your speech. In other words, the more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel presenting.

To help practice, consider doing the following: 

  • Write a script of your key points to reference.
  • Ask a friend to act as your audience while you practice and give you honest feedback
  • Record yourself presenting and take notes on what you could focus on in order to improve.  

Though it can be very nerve-wracking to deliver a speech, practicing will also help ease your nerves and strengthen your presenting skills. You will feel much more comfortable delivering your message if your key points are engrained within your mind.

Use Engaging Visual Aids

Our world is full of distractions. Our attention spans are short and easily swayed. This is why adding visual aids to your speech can help keep your audiences’ attention.  

Visual aids like charts, graphs, infographics, images, and videos could help engage your audience as you are delivering your points. Considering that over 65% of the population are visual learners, visual content could help reinforce your message.

Visual aids could range from funny memes to serious images. These visual aids are meant to evoke emotions and strengthen your key points.

Focus on What You Know

Whatever you decide your subject is, become the expert in it. Study and research the current trends in that area and prepare to answer questions about the topic.

Understanding and being passionate about what you’re speaking about will help you build confidence and convey your points in a natural way.

The audience will absorb more of your material if they believe you know what you’re talking about.

Incorporate Your Personality

If your goal is to give a truly memorable and engaging presentation, let your personality shine through!

Your credibility can actually increase if the audience feels connected to you. This is your opportunity to connect with your audience through funny anecdotes, quotes that have inspired you, and emotions that have hit home for you.

You’re not just a talking head, so loosen up your body language and show the audience who you are. You will create a memorable experience for your audience if they get a glimpse of your personality. You will find that you appear more interesting if the audience feels like they can relate to you.  

Speak Slowly

People tend to speak faster when they’re nervous. While practicing can help ease your nerves, remember to always speak slowly when you’re delivering your speech, and don’t forget to breathe.

Make sure to articulate your words. Use deliberate pauses to emphasize important key points in your presentation and to keep your audience engaged. Working in well-timed pauses will also help you keep your pace and cadence.

Keep Water Handy

If you’ve ever seen someone speak publicly, you’ve likely also seen a glass of water at their arm’s reach. This is sometimes because nerves may cause your mouth to feel dry mid-speech, as a dry mouth is a common result of anxiety. It is also because as you talk and project your voice, your throat may start feeling sore or dry. 

Keeping water close by will help keep your speech and stage presence on track and as perfect as possible.

Taking a sip of water during your speech can also give you a moment to catch your breath and refocus on your topic if you’re feeling nervous or stressed.

Plus, staying hydrated throughout the day before your presentation can help you avoid feeling dizzy or lightheaded during your speech.

Relax

Relaxing is an important presenting skill. Your body and mind must be calm in order for you to come across as calm, collected and professional.

Breathe in, breathe out, trust yourself, and relax. Stretch and shake out your body. Let go of any stiffness you’re holding on to.

You want to feel relaxed and fluid as you step out to present. Your body language should convey the feeling of comfort and confidence.

A great way to boost endorphins and ease your anxiety before a big presentation is through working out. Take a long walk, go to a boxing class, or try some yoga at home. Whatever you to, getting your blood flowing will help you relax for your speaking engagement.

Ensuring that you know your subject by heart can help ease the tension you feel. That’s why practicing is such an important piece of a successful presentation. This will help you trust your ability to deliver an incredible presentation.

Ask Questions

People love to make their voices heard and feel like they’re part of the conversation. Presentations can often feel one-sided, but they don’t have to be. To keep your audience engaged and your speech a memorable experience for your audience, you can include them in the conversation.

Ask the audience what they think, take a poll, invite meaningful questions – these are all ways you can boost engagement.

Engaging with your audience will allow you to establish and deeper connection with them and be seen as much more relatable. This will also allow you to get first-hand information on what your audience is looking to gain from your presentation, and adjust accordingly to give them what they want.

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Check and Adjust to Your Surroundings

Wherever you’re presenting — in a hotel, conference center, or on Zoom – make a point to show up early to scope out your surroundings. This will help you feel more comfortable when it’s time for you to present.

Here are some important elements to consider about the location.

  • What is the temperature in the room? Too hot? Too cold?
  • Will you have direct lighting? Does it need to be adjusted so it’s not shining in your eyes?
  • Is all the equipment working properly?
  • Is there a backdrop on stage?
  • Is there external noise that may distract from your presentation?
  • Is there a teleprompter and can you see it from the stage?
  • Is the projector/screen optimized to share your visual aids?

If your presentation is virtual, check out these five tips that will help your virtual presenting skills.  If you are giving it via a slide deck, be sure to read my article on powerpoint presentation ideas to get some tips.

Stay Personable

While you may be the subject matter expert on the topic to which you’re presenting, it’s important to still stay relatable and personable with your audience.

Keep the conversation simple. Use words that everyone can understand. Explain complex theories in simpler terms. Use anecdotes to make comparisons that everyone can relate to. Be open to providing further clarification whenever needed.

You want to ensure that your audience feels understood and respected when you’re communicating with them, so stay on topic and always sound approachable.

Start and End with a Bang

There are many ways to start and end a speech, but only some are truly impactful. Your first and last impressions can be the most memorable markers in your speech.

Your first impression, if done right, can engage the audience right away. A shocking statement or a fascinating story can get the audience to the edge of their seats from the very beginning.

Your last remarks can leave a lasting impression on your audience. You can summarize what you discussed and end with a call to action. You can finish the speech with the conclusion of the story you began the speech with, as a way to create a narrative throughout your presentation.

Starting strong and finishing with a bang will make your speech a total knock-out. 

Have a Backup Plan

As much as we want to, we cannot control everything. Sometimes, things don’t go our way – there can be technical difficulties, venue issues, audience mishaps — whatever it is, make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected and create a backup plan for moments like this.

If you’ve ever seen a presentation go awry, you’ll notice that a good presenter will keep their cool and find the humor in the situation. Their body language will stay relaxed, they won’t lose their temper, and they’ll find an opportunity to engage with their audience.

This type of confidence is gained through practice. You can enhance your presenting skills by practicing your reaction in moments where things aren’t going according to plan. Knowing how to handle a critical situation will help you feel more relaxed and confident throughout your entire presentation.

The show must go on, right?

It’s easy to say “don’t be nervous,” but it’s much more difficult to act on it.

Even the best public speakers get nervous. Though giving speeches and presentations can be nerve-wracking, let your fear motivate you. Harness your nervous energy and transform it into enthusiasm and charisma.

So if you’re wondering how to improve presentation skills, use these tips for any of your public speaking needs and watch as your presenting skills improve ten-hold.

Even if you’re just preparing for a speech to your team at work, these tips can act as a great tool to help you feel more confident and prepared for any public engagement. They can even just help you communicate more successfully in your everyday life and help you enhance your career.

If you’re looking to take your public speaking to the big leagues and be a 6-figure speaker, check out my Ultimate Blueprint to Building a Career as a Successful Public Speaker.

This comprehensive guide is packed with the best tools and training for public speaking that I’ve learned in my 30+ years of being a public speaker.

Utilize this guide to become a professional speaker, build your own business, earn the respect and esteem of leaders in the industry, and use your message to motivate and inspire people all over the world.

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About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.

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