Presentation Skills 101: Actionable tips to boost your pitch power

Presentation Skills

Ho do you power up your presentation skills ?. In this post, we will look at some presentation techniques to improve our communication skills .

Presentation skills use a fine blend of communication techniques.

It takes a whole lot of collaboration, motivation, persuasion, conflict resolution, assertiveness to put together a persuasive presentation.

After reading this post completely, you will be be able to

  • Understand why presentation skills are essential for your career growth.
  • Appreciate various tools and techniques to craft a compelling presentation. 
  • Identify top mistakes that even pros make and understand how to correct them.
  • Apply content to the context.
  • Create persuasive presentations for any occasion using a structured and time-tested approach.

“There are always three speeches for everyone you gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”

Dale Carnegie

There are widespread notions and criticisms about the utility of presentation tools particularly, PowerPoint. No matter what anyone feels, the need to present an idea is strongly embedded. Misconceptions prevailed as unskilled people misused the tool and blamed the outcome on the application. 

More than 30 million PowerPoint presentations are made each day. Communication and presentation skills are deemed to be the top make or break skills across the globe.

Most people think that creating a presentation is all about opening PowerPoint and copying all their old documents into it. Some people enhance the presentation using their super imagination. They use dazzling colours, insert animations and reduce an entire document into a single slide. Others go a bit too far. They animate each letter adding a typewriter sound effect.

Trust me. No one is interested in your talent show. People who have imbalanced PowerPoint skill and sense may be eager to demonstrate their animation skills subjecting audiences to a boring and uninspiring experience.

In the whole presentation crafting experience, PowerPoint plays only a five percent role. The concentration should be on the design. Design elements include content, context, and clarity.  Building effective presentation skills require adequate time investment on planning.

At this juncture, you may ask, if we divert 85 percent of our efforts into designing what about the rest?

Components of presentation skills

Presentation Skills - effort
Presentation Development Effort

Presentation development: Thanks to online marketplaces and content-sharing platforms, there is no shortage of designer slides available online. Thanks to the growing gig economy and freelancing, you also need not worry about PowerPoint skills. If you know what needs to be done, there are hundreds of professionals whose help you can enlist. What is difficult is injecting the sense into it. We will review various online platforms during the latter part of this session.

Presentation delivery: You are designing an experience. We will exclusively focus on the design aspects in this section. A thoughtfully and tastefully crafted presentation is easy on the brain and appealing to the heart. It is a pleasant experience for the presenter and the audience.

Usually, managers worry about presenting something to their audience. They experience fear and anxiety or even have nightmares. However, studies indicate that it’s the audience that worries even more.

Most people in the corporate world have a tendency to repurpose and recycle presentations.

For example, they may revise an induction presentation to a show a business prospect.

Invariably, they end up presenting something irrelevant to the audience. What do we call this?

Committing a severe corporate crime by taking the audience close to death!  

The punishment term could extend from an hour to a whole day. I am discounting the aftershock the audience suffers after the session.

What do we call this? Presentation Skills or Presentations kill?

Depending on the situation, it can prove to be very costly to the organisation.

How do we know if you have committed such corporate crimes in the past?

Test for your Presentation Skills

Well, take a look at your last presentation deck and ask yourself the following questions. Rate each aspect of your presentation on a scale of 1 to 10. Give one for the worst and give ten for the best.

  • The content presented is entirely relevant to the intended subject or solution. (Weightage: 2 ) 
  • For example, you showed an induction presentation at a business meet. (Weightage:1 )
  • The content thoroughly holds the listeners’ interest and is contextual. They are interested in only one point: What is in it for me? (Weightage:1)
  • The claims you have made and items you have listed were fully measurable and verifiable. (Weightage:1 ) 
  • For example, did you make abstract statements like “We have a huge clientele list;” “We have a mass following;” We are the largest…” or “Our customers love us?” (Weightage:1)
  • Each slide has a purpose and a prime takeaway.   (The primary objective of the presentation and the underlying message is loud and clear.)  (Weightage:1)
  • For example, stating the benefits rather than extolling the features. Mentioning the fine-print, resource utilisation in terms of money, people and time. (Weightage:1)
  • The overall presentation is easy on the eye and brain. (Weightage:3 )

Reduce a point each for non-compliance of the last item (The overall presentation is easy on the eye and brain)

  • Use of jargons 
  • Excessive use of similar phrases, adjectives and repetitions
  • Ambiguous expressions 
  • Font size lesser than 14 
  • Rainbow colours 
  • Excessive animations (cut ten marks for each animation)
  • Sound effects for animations 
  • Unformatted numbers
  • Large paragraphs or more than 10 bullet points 
  • Other innovative ideas that may be confusing to the audience

This is a. litmus test for your presentation skills. Have multiple iterations till your presentation skills shine.

Summing up:

Simple checklist
Simple checklist
  • The content stays within the purview of the subject
  • It holds the interests of the audience
  • Each statement,  fact or claim made is completely measurable
  • Suggestions given in slides were practical and objective
  • All messages packed in bullets are loud and clear
  • The overall presentation is eye catching and easy to assimilate

Finally, is your presentation simple enough? You will know in a minute.

Multiply your ratings with the weightage points for each question. Total your score.

Request a member of the audience who sat through your presentation (it could be your friend, client, boss, peer or subordinate) for feedback.

How did they rank you? If you could not get a score from them for whatever reason, no problem. How do you think they will rate you? We are not going to publish the results on your Facebook wall, so be honest and mention the correct score.  

• Subtract your score from theirs. This is your Gap.

Your Presentation Skills Gap :

  • Revenue or monetary Impact. Keep the gap <5
  • Relationship building. Keep the gap <5
  • Matters concerning the interests of the organisation,  customer, family or nation.   <5
  • New concept or idea.  <10
  • Any other presentation <10

What has caused this gap, and how do I bridge this presentation skills gap?

bridge the Gap
Bridge the skill gap

The gap could have occurred due to lack of ideas or your incapacity to express them. Whatever be the issue, this condition is called ‘thought-constipation.’Everyone experiences it to some degree and it is entirely curable. A mild constipation could cause a minor bottleneck. Severe constipation emits toxins and can become a hindrance to your success. We will address the issue of thought-constipation. In this section, we will check your current thought-constipation level. Remember, every person suffers from it to a certain extent. It could be because of lousy consumption habits or poor intake of dietary fibre which translates to absence of good content and poor judgement of the context.

Given below is a list of questions. You need to respond with a yes or no. Give yourself a mark for each yes.

  • I find it difficult to express my ideas. 
  • I realise that I often assume others understand what I mean.
  • People seem to understand my viewpoint after they have experienced it themselves and not when I explain it to them.
  • People often tell me, “You did not come across that way.”
  • Most of our prospective clients don’t respond to my calls after I finish my presentations.
  • I know that my presentation looks outdated, but I don’t know how to improve it.
  • I always want to explain things better but I fail miserably.
  • I envy people with excellent communication and presentation skills.
  • I could have done better in my career if I were a bit more proficient in presentation skills.
  • I always struggle to explain my ideas to my friends and colleagues. My boss trashes most of them.
  • I want to try a new initiative that can transform my workplace, but I don’t know how to initiate a discussion on it.
  • The application I use at the office sucks. I have a few ideas on improving the user interface but I do not know how to explain it to the IT team.
  • We have created a great product but none of our prospective clients seem interested.
  • We have built great products and services but our customers and prospects always undervalue them.
  • We waste a lot of time making changes to our business applications. The amount of work after each review is killing productivity and costing time, money and enthusiasm.
  • Enhancing my presentation skills will help me achieve higher productivity and effectiveness.
  • I need to pick up some essential persuasion skills before I get promoted or give way to my peers and juniors who have better presentation skills.
  • I keep looking for help frantically in all directions but God does not seem to give me a hand in this area alone.
  • I need to polish my presentation skills

If you have scored above 95, congratulations! You are passionate about your work, and you are clear about your objectives. You have great presentation skills. If you have scored between 70 and 95 percent.

You are almost there but your approach may need a little bit of tweaking. This chapter is all about fine-tuning your innate talents. Scored less than 70 percent? Do not worry. By the end of this chapter, you will master the presentation skills you need.

Remember, it pays to sharpen the saw.  It pays to master your presentation skills .

Polishing our presentation skills using the buying buttons inside our brains

Let’s look at the buying buttons in our brains. There are three main parts to our minds. The right brain controls thinking, logic and rationality. The left-brain controls feelings and emotions.

The middle brain, which is also called the reptilian brain is responsible for making  decisions subconsciously. As this is the part that we have inherited from the reptiles and other early creatures, this part of the brain knows only three things: fight, flight, and freeze.

It fights when it senses the enemy approaching and runs away or freezes when it senses danger. Therefore, the natural reaction of the brain is to supply blood to the legs and hands. This seriously deprives the brain of the blood and oxygen to think. If you are left with only a few drops of blood in your brain, you will only end up making funny gestures and silly sounds.  

The subconscious mind makes 95 percent of our decisions. The subconscious mind controls essential aspects such as 

  • Beliefs
  • Emotions
  • Habits
  • Imagination
  • Intuition 

So, if we appeal to our subconscious brain, a large chunk of our work is done. This brain does not like too much fodder. If you overload it with too many things, it will deliver nothing. 

You have to package the information as if you are feeding an infant. Remember the following characteristics of the brains:

  • They do not come with hunger sensors
  • They are always on diet mode
  • They can remember and register only four items at once
  • They wander 30 percent of the time
  • They can only learn in 20 minute chunks or less
  • Memory takes up a lot of mental resources

Presentation Skills Booster tip: Trigger the URGE

Communication skills
Communication skills

Whether it is a large project or small product, you need to create an urge in the customer’s mind to accept it. Most of the gadgets we own today are results of such an irrational urge.

The same is true even for a movie, stage show or a presentation. You need to create the urge for them to ask for more

  • Understand the situation
  • Offer remedies
  • Demonstrate the gain (in accepting your solution) and the pain (in rejecting it)
  • Build excitement

Does your presentation create the URGE? Practice the urge model. Your presentation skills will shine!

Do you have a complete understanding of the environment, possible remedies, gains of your solution, and pains if the client rejects or postpones?

Polishing your presentation skills : Preparation 

The will to win is important.  But the will to prepare is vital.

Joe Paterno

Brush up or rush in? Outstanding presentations require extraordinary preparation.

The presentation development stage is the right time to strategise and think about the best possible way to market your product, idea or solution.

Opting for shortcuts in this area can seriously undermine the quality of your product offerings. If you have built something with passion, you need to present it with passion. 

Let’s assume that you are launching a new company or a product. You are confident that the product you are going to sell indeed offers extraordinary value to your customers.

Your product is ready.

You hire a creative agency, and they come up with a brilliant video, and some audio and billboard advertisements.

Your entire team worked hard and exhibited all-round brilliance.

Now, the first customer walks into your office for a 30-minute presentation before he decides to sign up for a large order.

What do most people do in this situation?

  • Some show product brochures.
  • Some show them TV commercials.
  • Some read out radio advertisements. 
  • Some go a step forward by making a fat presentation on the company’s history, product evolution detailing how they failed at every stage before finally becoming successful.

This is not what your prospect expected to see. What will be the price of this last-minute botch up? 

Yes, serious presentations require equally serious commitment.  Look at these mountains and massive rock formations.

Presentation Skills - Editing
Presentation Skills – Editing

Now, look at these carvings:

Presentation Skills - Editing
Stone Carvings

These are precious monolithic carvings found in Indian temples. Before they were transformed into such beautiful carvings, they were massive rocks.

Such intricate and mesmerising carvings were accomplished by a pair of hands and a set of tools. Remember, there was no machinery involved. There were probably no blueprints and most importantly, no ‘undo’ and ‘redo’ options.

It takes enormous imagination, passion, perseverance, and talent to create such carvings. We need just nanobytes of these to create our slides. But there is one more critical aspect behind these great works. The process. What was the process adopted by them? They took a large block of stone and removed the unnecessary portions. The part thus left behind is what we admire.

Can we not adopt this process of elimination or editing to create an exciting slide or presentation? Yes, we can, if we have our ABCDs in place.

Please read my post on how to develop the ABCD mindset

Personality Development
Personality Development

Aspiration 

• To deliver a successful presentation

• Win the mandate

Belief

  • We can deliver an excellent presentation 
  • We don’t know much about the participants and their expectations 
  • We have to correct the wrong notions they may have about our products or services 
  • What we have so far may not take us there. We need to do substantial homework.

Clarity

  • We need to create a questionnaire to get structured inputs 
  • We need to validate our content development and presentation delivery methods

Discipline

  • We need to carry out dress rehearsals 
  • We need to continue to practice until we are perfect
  • We are prepared to sacrifice a few things for a much higher gratification rewarded by victory

Read the next post on Presentation skills 101

Read my book on presentation skills development : Slidespin

Take my course on presentation skills development at our learning portal

To Sum up

In this information age and connected world, presentation skills play a vital role in career/business success. A great presentation could make or break a product, an idea…a career!

Despite being widely accepted, we see lot of gaps in our presentation skills in this area even today.

Over 90% of professionals feel limited by the tools, thoughts and techniques to express their ideas. ‘Thought constipation’ can play havoc and limit various opportunities.

My books and courses help you unfold and unlock your full potential by explaining why it is vital to be able to present your ideas as best as possible, and more importantly, how to leverage your presentational skills like the world’s most successful leaders and entrepreneurs.

We approach the topic in an incredibly easy and relatable way: you don’t need to be a design guru or a technology expert in order to understand the insights featured within this book or course

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