4 ways to hone your presentation skills

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV)- The ability to give a great presentation is worth more than gold to business leaders or anyone who wants to progress in their career. In the Inc. article “7 Traits of Highly Effective Leaders,” three of the traits were closely linked with being a good speaker – communication, confidence, and the ability to inspire. Those same three traits were also listed in Forbes “Top 10 Qualities of a Great Leader.”

Whether you’re presenting to employees, colleagues, clients, or the general public, you want to be seen as a competent, successful professional. And, giving a presentation that fully communicates what you’re trying to get across, shows your confidence, and inspires others, is indicative of a quality speaker and effective leader. So here are four ways to hone your presentation skills so you’re ready for your next speaking opportunity.

Learn From the Best
In your quest to become a better speaker, the best place to start is with others who are already great presenters. If you can, go listen to quality, professional speakers in your area. Thousands of terrific presentations from many different sources, such as TED.com, are also available to watch online for free at your convenience. As you watch and listen, your goal is to find out what a great presentation looks like. Ask yourself, “What made this a great presentation?” then create a list of the most common qualities you’ve identified.

Find Your Enthusiasm
One of the top qualities of excellent speakers is passion for what they’re presenting. Unfortunately, when you’re presenting in the workplace, you don’t always have the luxury of speaking about topics you’re passionate about. And that’s why you must learn to find enthusiasm in every subject, and, with a little effort, make any topic personal. Jim Stovall, an author, columnist, and motivational speaker, once asked the principle actor in the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof how, after 1,900 performances, he was able to still keep it fresh. The actor’s answer was this – “If I only think about myself, it gets really repetitive and boring, but when I realize it’s not about me, but instead, it’s about several thousand people who come to the show each night, it’s easy to stay energized.” He made it personal by focusing on the audience’s experience. You might focus on how your topic affects the bigger picture of the company’s profitability, betters the lives of your customers, or impacts employee morale.

Practice Makes Perfect
If you have a presentation coming up, you definitely need to practice giving it over and over again. But, you also need to practice presenting in general. The more often you’re in front of an audience, the more comfortable you’ll become with being the center of attention and communicating with a group. Take advantage of every opportunity to speak, from giving announcements at the next company meeting to volunteering to speak at a local professional association meeting. All the reading and studying in the world won’t improve your presentation skills if you don’t practice.

Ask for Feedback
When you do have the opportunity to speak, or even if you’re just practicing without an audience, ask others to critique you. You need them to be completely honest with you, so you’ll need to put your emotions aside and not get offended by their feedback. Also, when you’re choosing who to ask for feedback, don’t pick people who are known for being nice or telling you what you want to hear. You want individuals who are blunt, have a critical eye, and are familiar with your audience. As you grow more comfortable with presenting, you may be able to identify specific aspects of the presentation you need feedback on, but in the beginning you’ll need input on everything.

Presenting is a soft skill that’s valuable no matter your position or industry. By taking the time to hone your presentation skills, you’ll increase your ability to communicate effectively, your confidence, and your ability to inspire others. And that, in turn, will make you a better leader.

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