People don’t like to speak publicly. One in five employees would rather call in sick than give a presentation to their colleagues, according to a survey conducted by Prezi, a presentation software company.
If you’re one of those people, there’s good news and bad news.
Let’s start with the bad news – you’re going to have to give a presentation at some point in your career, and the skill with which you deliver information may be a huge indicator of future success, depending on your job.
Sure, teachers and lawyers need great public speaking skills. But what about your job?
Most jobs these days demand some sort of presentation acumen. According to data from O*NET OnLine, occupations like clinical psychologists, social workers, chief executives, public relations managers, and training and development managers all consider the importance of speaking to be critical to success at work.
The good news is you can deliver a killer presentation today without significant experience. It’s all about following these four easy steps.
- Think about your message. What, exactly, are you trying to say? Figuring that out is the most important part about preparing for a presentation. Once you know what you want to talk about – sales figures, culture, policies, or what you did over summer vacation – you can start thinking about how to make it interesting. Don’t drone on about numbers and figures for too long. Make it into a story that shows why your message is important to the people in the room.
- Figure out how best to deliver your presentation. Do. Not. Read. To. Your. Audience. Memorizing the words to your presentation is the best thing you can do, but not everyone has the time to rehearse, rehearse and rehearse to make it sound organic. Instead, short bullet points work just fine. Do your best to sound like you’re having a conversation with another person, and it’ll make your message easier for the audience to process.
- Practice your stage presence. If you haven’t given a lot of presentations, you’ll probably worry about things like how to stand or what to do with your hands. Here’s your go-to plan from now on: stand still, maintain eye contact, don’t say “um,” and use your hands like you would during a conversation. Follow those keys and you’ll be OK. You’ll still be nervous, but nervousness is good. It elevates performance.
- Use visuals wisely. Here’s a rule of thumb: try to eliminate all words for every PowerPoint slide. It won’t always be possible, but never forget you are the distiller of information, not the screen behind you. Visuals should only enhance your presentation; they should never replace your words. Instead, many great speakers use imagery, instead of text, to support whatever message they’re trying to convey, and many more great speakers don’t use visuals at all.
We’re in the age of communication. Public speaking is more important now than it has ever been. That might be scary, but think about it this way – someone values you so much that they want to hear what you have to say. So, speak clearly, speak confidently and embrace the opportunity.