According to research by the National Institute of Mental Health, around 75% of people list public speaking as their number one fear, even higher than their fear of death!
At the same time, though, presentation skills are among the most in-demand skills for just about any job out there.
Want to get over your fear of public speaking, improve your presentation skills, and give your career a huge boost?
You’re in the right place! This article is here to tell you everything you need to know about presentation skills from A to Z:
- 9 Types of Presentations and Delivery Methods
- 12 Steps to Giving Better Presentations
- 5 Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills
- How to Add Your Presentation Skills to Your Resume
And more! Let’s dive in.
What Are Presentation Skills?
Presentation skills are soft skills that allow you to present information clearly in front of an audience.
As such, these skills come in handy in all kinds of situations, including:
- Work. For example, giving a presentation in front of your team, pitching a new idea, etc.
- School or university. E.g., giving an oral presentation about a subject or presenting a master's thesis.
- Personal life. E.g. giving a speech at your best friend’s wedding or a toast at a restaurant.
No matter the situation, people with strong presentation skills typically possess the following skills:
- Body language
- Public speaking
- Communication skills
- Emotional intelligence
Why Are Presentation Skills Important?
But, what exactly makes presentation skills so important in basically every life area?
Here are their most noteworthy benefits:
- Increased employability. Presentation skills come in handy for many positions across all industries. 70% of respondents in a Prezi study said that presentation skills are critical for career success. As such, presentation skills are transferable skills that can instantly make you more employable.
- Higher academic performance. In the US, most university classes involve a presentation assignment or two. As such, being good at presenting is essential if you want to succeed academically.
- Effective networking. Having great presentation skills translates into great communication skills, which, in turn, helps you get better at professional networking.
- Improved confidence. Being able to speak in front of an audience can be a serious confidence booster, easily translating to other areas in life.
9 Types of Presentation and Delivery Methods
There are several types of presentations out there.
Some presentations are meant to inspire the audience (such as motivational talks), while others are simply meant to instruct or inform (HR giving a presentation about company policies to new employees).
Here are the five most common types of presentations, explained:
- Persuasive presentations are meant to persuade the audience to make a decision, support a cause, side with a particular argument, and so on. A salesman pitching a product to a potential customer is an example of a persuasive presentation.
- Informative presentations aim to inform the audience about a topic, procedure, product, benefit, etc. An example of an informative presentation is a weatherman reading the weather report on TV.
- Inspirational presentations are meant to inspire the audience and potentially boost their confidence or morale. In a business setting, inspirational presentations are meant to motivate employees to perform better or get through tough times. In day-to-day life, on the other hand, an inspirational presentation could be trying to motivate a friend to do better at school.
- Educational presentations, just like the name implies, aim to educate the audience. Professors giving a lecture or tour guides speaking to museum visitors are examples of educational presentations.
- Instructional presentations are about instructing or guiding the audience on a set of guidelines, a new policy, a certain law, etc. An example of an instructional presentation is a flight attendant instructing passengers on what to do in case of an emergency.
On the same note, there are also 4 common ways presentations are delivered:
- Extemporaneous presentations. These presentations are planned, but you deliver them without preparation.
- Manuscript presentations are presentations you deliver based on a script or notes.
- Impromptu presentations aren’t planned but rather delivered on the spot.
- Memorized presentations are those you learn by heart from start to finish.
11 Tips on How to Give Better Presentations
Looking to improve your presentation skills?
There’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that, with enough practice, you can get really good at delivering presentations.
The bad news, though, is that just like any other soft skill, in order to get good at delivering presentations, you’ll have to practice a lot.
To help get you started, below, we’re going to cover 12 of our best tips on how to improve your presentation skills, starting with:
#1. Prepare your presentation in advance
Impromptu presentations don’t happen that often in real life. Most times, you’ll have enough time to prepare for your presentation.
Needless to say, you should use that time to your advantage. Don’t just make mental notes of what you’ll say during your presentation and call it a day, but actually plan it out from start to finish.
When preparing your presentation in advance, make sure to consider the following points:
- What type of presentation are you making?
- What is your speech delivery method?
- How are you going to grab the audience’s attention from the get-go?
- What are the main points you need to cover?
- What is the best way to make the conclusion memorable?
- How much time do you have at your disposal?
- What visual aids and multimedia can you use?
- What does the audience expect to see/hear?
#2. Practice as much as possible
Just like with any other soft skill, the best way to hone your presentation skills is to practice as much as possible.
Some ways you can practice your presentation skills are:
- In front of a mirror or in front of your friends and family.
- Watch TED talks to get inspired and learn what good presentation skills look like.
- Read books on communication, presentation, and public speaking.
- Take extensive notes of what you need to improve.
- Record and time yourself when doing presentations.
- Hire a public speaking coach on Fiverr or another platform.
- Take a public speaking course at your local community college.
The more you practice, the better your presentation skills are going to get.
Also, when practicing, make sure to pay attention to your tonality, body language, and whether you’re using a lot of crutch words.
Exercise can help improve your presentation skills!
Some ways it does so are:
- It boosts the levels of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, all of which are known to improve your mood and regulate your anxiety.
- It improves your ability to focus and pay attention, benefits which can last for up to two hours after your workout.
- It strengthens and protects your memory, making it easy to recall words.
Now, when it comes to how much you should exercise, that can differ from one person to the next.
We say - find a golden mean that works best for you. If you’re not big on exercising, you can always start small with something casual like biking to work or playing a sport once or twice a week.
#4. Arrive early
By arriving early for your presentation, you can deal with any possible setbacks (e.g. mic not working, USB failure, wardrobe malfunction, etc).
This will give you plenty of time to start your presentation on your terms, instead of running around trying to fix things at the last minute.
Not to mention, in certain situations arriving early can also help you to prepare mentally and emotionally for the upcoming presentation.
Obviously, a casual presentation in front of coworkers won’t require much emotional preparation. But if you have to, say, pitch a marketing idea to your clients or address a room full of strangers, getting to exchange some words with them before the presentation could break the ice and make it easier to engage with them later on.
#5. Know your audience
You should always keep your audience in mind when making (and delivering) a presentation.
At the end of the day, if your message is not tailored to its audience, chances are, it’s going to fall flat.
If your audience is a group of 50-somethings, high-level executives, chances are they won’t get your Rick and Morty references or appreciate any attempts to keep the presentation light, casual, and humorous.
Instead, stick to talking about facts and figures without any joking around, use straightforward language, and avoid over-the-top body language while delivering the presentation.
If on the other hand, you’re delivering a presentation to your class of 20-somethings, then you’re a lot more likely to make an impact if you joke around, make references, and make the presentation more casual.
In short, if you want your presentation to carry as much impact as possible, make sure to think about who you’re presenting to.
#6. Use Relaxation Techniques
Even the most seasoned public speakers experience some level of anxiety before giving a presentation.
To make sure nerves and anxiety don’t throw you off your A-game, you can take advantage of relaxation techniques.
One of the simplest (and most effective) ways to relax before a presentation is to breathe.
When we say breathing, though, we don’t mean the automatic in-and-out we do to stay alive. We mean taking deep, relaxing breaths from your stomach while being mindful of what you’re doing.
Here’s how breathing mindfully before your presentation can help you give a better presentation:
- Calms your nerves
- Reduces stress
- Helps with anxiety
To practice mindful breathing, focus on breathing from your stomach and push your stomach out each time you inhale. When you’re inhaling and exhaling, count to at least three for each breath.
Keep doing this and you’ll soon start feeling more relaxed.
#7. Acknowledge That You’re Nervous
People appreciate honesty.
If you go on stage feeling extremely nervous, use this neat little trick:
Instead of trying to play it cool, simply acknowledge that you’re feeling nervous by straight-up saying it.
Chances are, a very large chunk of your audience feels exactly the same way about public speaking, and you’ll build up some rapport just like that!
This same exact tip even applies to job interviews. You can simply tell the recruiters that you’re feeling nervous and need a minute - that’s totally acceptable!
Unless you’re applying for a job in sales, the job interviewer is not going to be evaluating you on how good you are at passing interviews.
#8. Tell stories
Storytelling is a powerful presentation tool. According to the Guardian, 63% of presentation attendees remember stories, while only 5% remember statistics.
That’s because a good story can take the audience on a journey, intrigue them, inspire them, and motivate them. In turn, they’re much more likely to remember your presentation.
There are several ways you can go about incorporating stories into your presentation.
One is to tie your own stories, along with what you experienced, learned, or observed, to make your argument more impactful and relatable. Alternatively, you can also create a story for the sake of the presentation that can be just as impactful in driving your point across.
Keep in mind, though, that not every presentation requires storytelling. If your presentation is packed with data and stats showing how you managed to improve profits by 20% in the last quarter, for example, then you don’t really need to include a story in there to make it impactful.
#9. Be humorous
This one’s quite self-explanatory; as much as you can, be humorous during your presentation. It helps ease tension, get the attention of everyone in the room, and connect with them more effectively.
Now, some people are born with humor. If you’re one of them, cracking a joke here and there should come very naturally to you.
Otherwise, you can practice your presentation in front of your friends and family and prepare your jokes in advance. If your mock audience laughs at your jokes, chances are, so will your real audience!
#10. Use visual aids and media
Using visuals and other media forms (e.g. music, videos, infographics, etc.), can make your presentation significantly more engaging, memorable, and striking.
Say, for example, that your presentation consists entirely of numbers and data. You can use data visualization (e.g. charts, graphs, and maps), to make the data stick with your audience better.
Or, if you’re a lecturer at a university, you’ll want to use as many pictures, videos, and even music to help your students remember the information you’re transmitting.
Some of the most popular ways to make your presentations as visual as possible involve using:
- Presentation applications
#11. Engage the audience
To give a truly memorable presentation, engage your audience as much as possible.
Instead of speaking to your audience, try to speak with your audience.
What we mean by this is that you should be very proactive in getting your audience involved in your presentation. Ask questions, get them to share stories, and so on.
Some examples of how you can effectively engage an audience are:
- Asking a random audience member to share their experience on a topic.
- Doing a count of hands (e.g. “Has anyone done X? Can I see a count of hands?” or “Which one of you guys likes Y? Raise your hands.”)
- Do an on-the-spot poll (e.g. “How many of you guys do X?” or “how many of you guys think Y?”)
- Making time for a Q&A at the end of your presentation.
6 Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills
Just like any other skill, presentation skills can be learned and improved. So, if you’re looking to improve your presentation skills, follow the tips below:
- Take every public speaking opportunity you get. The best way to learn presentation skills is by doing it. So, take every opportunity you get. E.g. volunteer to present a project, say a toast at your friend's wedding, etc.
- Check these TED talks. Is there anything TED talks haven’t covered? Check out these talks that can teach you how to give awesome presentations: “Giving Presentations Worth Listening To”, “the secret structure of great talks,” and “the science of stage fright (and how to overcome it)”.
- Take public speaking classes. Udemy, Coursera, and LinkedIn all have great public speaking courses. Or, even better, take a class at your local college. This way, you’ll get a lot more practice than by taking an online class.
- Attend other presentations. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. The more presentations you attend, the more you can learn from others’ successes or failures.
- Grow your confidence. Speak in front of friends and family, film yourself, and accept constructive criticism. Soon enough, you’ll be confident enough to give excellent presentations!
- Ask for feedback. How can you improve your presentation skills if you don’t know where you’re lacking? After your presentation, ask one or two members of your audience for personal, one-on-one feedback on how you did.
How to Add Your Presentation Skills to Your Resume
If you want to show a potential employer that you’ve got presentation skills, you’ll need to highlight them on your resume.
And in this section, we’ll teach you just how to do that!
Before you do that, though, make sure to grab one of our free resume templates!
#1. List Your Presentation Skills Under Your Soft Skills
The first and most obvious place to list your presentation skills is under your skills section.
This part is pretty straightforward. Your skills section should be divided into “soft skills” and “hard skills” and look something like this:
Simply add “Presentation Skills” under the “Soft Skills” section, and you’re good to go.
#2. Mention Your Presentation Skills in Your Resume Summary
If presentation skills are super important for the role you’re applying for, you can also include them in your resume summary:
In a nutshell, the resume summary is a short paragraph on top of your resume that typically mentions:
- Your title and years of experience
- Your most noteworthy achievements
- Your top skills and qualifications
Done right, this section should highlight all your strong points right from the get-go and get the hiring manager to go through the rest of your resume in more detail.
Here’s an example of a resume summary that effectively mentions the candidate’s presentation skills:
- Sales professional with 7 years of experience in sales presentations and lead generation. Excellent public speaking skills. Track record of converting prospects into loyal customers.
#3. Prove Presentation Skills Through Your Work Experience
Lastly (and most importantly), you should use your work experience section to prove that you’ve got the presentation skills you mentioned in your skills section.
Here’s exactly how you can do that:
- Keep your work experience section relevant. List recent and relevant positions. Omit outdated and irrelevant ones. For example, if you’re applying for a customer service position, you can mention the time you worked, say, as a receptionist. Your teen job mowing lawns, on the other hand? Not as important.
- Focus on achievements instead of responsibilities. Instead of telling the hiring manager what they already know (your responsibilities), focus on showing them how you made an impact with your achievements. A way to do that is to write down a couple of achievements for every presentation skill that you include under your soft skills.
- Make your achievements quantifiable. Adding numbers to your achievements makes them significantly more impressive. “Delivered a presentation that closed a 6-figure client” is a lot more powerful than “Delivered client presentations,” right?
- Use action verbs and power words. Presentation skills are also about how you present yourself in your resume. Avoid dry and unimaginative language and go for these action verbs and power words instead.
And that’s about all you need to know to improve your presentation skills!
Before you go, though, here’s a quick recap of everything we covered in this article:
- Presentation skills are soft skills that allow you to present information clearly and convey your message effectively.
- Some important presentation skills include public speaking, communication, persuasion, creativity, humor, and emotional intelligence.
- Presentation skills can increase your employability, improve your academic performance, make it easier to network, and help you grow professionally.
- Some steps you can take to give better presentations are to prepare in advance, practice as much as possible, exercise regularly, be humorous, use visual aids and multimedia, engage the audience, and accept that you’re nervous.
- To improve your presentation skills, watch videos that teach you how to give great presentations, attend public speaking classes and other presentations, and grow your confidence.
- List your presentation skills under your skills section, mention them in your resume summary, and prove them with your achievements in the work experience section.