Seven tips for making better presentations

People often ask me how they can improve their presentation skills. Here are seven quick tips:

  1. Think about why you want to make better presentations. It’s not just about getting rid of your ums and ahs, it’s about making that connection with the audience and helping them act, learn, or understand. When you have a clear purpose, it’s easier for you to find opportunities to improve and to motivate yourself to do better.
  2. Go to lots of presentations, even bad ones. You’ll learn about what people do well and what you can improve. Try imagining how you would give that presentation.
  3. Look for great presentations. TED.com is a good source of inspiration.
  4. Read blogs and books about presentation design and delivery. My favorite blogs are Presentation Zen, Slideology, and Speaking about Presenting.
  5. Give lots of presentations. If you don’t have speaking opportunities coming up, make them. You can practice slide design and information organization by putting slides together for sites like Slideshare. You can practice delivery by organizing meetings or creating a podcast/vidcast. You can help people find out about what you’re interested in talking about, and you can volunteer.
  6. Record your presentations and review them. Having them transcribed helps, too. If possible, record both audience and speaker.
  7. Practice relentless improvement. Every time you give a talk, reflect on what you did well and what you can do better.
  • JaTara

    I love this post. Also, don’t forget Toastmasters. If you’re an active member of the organization, you’ll get a lot of practice giving many different kinds of speeches. I highly recommend it.

  • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

    I greatly enjoyed my time at Toastmasters, although I find that I’m looking for more than it’s designed to give. =) Reflections on presentation; looking for a coach

    In short: I’m less interested in delivery technique and more interested in content organization and information design, but Toastmaster evaluations at clubs with many beginners tend to focus on surface details like ums and ahs. (Here are some thoughts: Want to grow as a speaker? Look for inspiration!)

    I’m also at the stage where I get more practice speaking in public-public than I would in a Toastmasters club (I speak about once or twice a week during conference season! ;) ), and there’s the Net for experimental presentations.

    Toastmasters is a good place to get started , practice body language, and practice small-meeting control, though. I recommend it – but there’s a lot more to public speaking that’s not covered in the Toastmasters curriculum, or not available in clubs that most people have access to. =)