How to become a better presenter: Part 1

Send your audience away with a positive impression, not a sense of survival.

Many of us have struggled through a presentation where our audience has essentially “checked out” and was no longer engaged. On the flipside, we have most likely had to sit through a long and boring presentation ourselves.

Over the course of my career as a Michigan State University Extension educator, I have given and attended hundreds of presentations of various forms. Based on my experience, much of this article is dedicated to helping others avoid some of the pitfalls I have encountered along the way. The key point to take away from this two-part article is to stay humble and continuously learn and improve upon your presentation techniques.

With the vast number of great technological tools available to us to aid in an interesting and memorable presentation, it is often the very crutch that many presenters lean upon for comfort, much like that of standing behind a podium. This can be very detrimental in accomplishing a good and memorable presentation.

Here are a few tips to better use technology (Power Point, Prezi, etc.) in presentations:

  • Know your presentation well enough to allow limited information to be illustrated. Use the presentation as an outline or roadmap as opposed to a detailed summary. It is critical that you know your subject and presentation well enough to be able to expand upon the topics and provide memorable examples and stories to drive home the highlights on the screen.
  • Avoid reading your slides. One can easily lose credibility if a presenter simply reads the slides that are in front of the audience. They have invested their time to hear you speak, so speak and expand on the topics to add value to the presentation and not detract from it. Sometimes there may be points that you want to read only to emphasize the point, but then be sure to add something to it. Otherwise, you risk losing your audience quickly.
  • Don’t include too much. Less is more. Use bullet points, paraphrase, use pictures and animations. If you want to present a large amount of language, consider creating a fact sheet with more details as a take away for your audience. You only have their attention for a limited time, so make it count.

In Part 2 of this article, we will explore a few more tips to becoming a better presenter.

Practice is always the best way to improve your presentation skills. Professional development opportunities can also help such as the facilitative leadership workshops hosted by Michigan State University Extension throughout the year.

Other articles in this series:

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