May 4, 2016

Dreading a presentation? Here are 6 quick tips to make it better

Daily Briefing

Editor's note: This story was updated on June 12, 2017.

Presentations don't have to be excruciating for the presenter or the audience, Kathryn Dill writes for Forbes.

"We don't take presentations as seriously as we should," says Dan Roam, author of Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations. "It's like a martial art. When someone is really good at it, it looks effortless, and you don't see the practice that goes into making it look effortless."

What to do with your hands during a presentation

People give long, dry presentations because "that’s the way they think they’re supposed to do it, that’s the way their boss does it," says Speechworks President Joey Asher.

But a few tricks can mix up the standard and ensure your presentation is a success, Dill writes.

1. Eye contact

Hold eye contact to show attention and energy, Asher suggests.

"The kind of eye contact I'm talking about is the eye contact you make when you’re having dinner with a close friend and talking about something you care about," he says.

2. Make it shorter

Limit the length to maintain your audience's attention all the way to the end.

3. Practice makes perfect

Calm your nerves by practicing, but don't learn your lines as you would for a play.

"Memorizing is a mistake," Roam says, "but familiarizing is essential."

4. Keep slides simple

Limit PowerPoint slides to one headline idea, one image, and at most one text blurb.

5. Lean on images

Keep the audience's attention with pictures and graphs.

"If I'm continually providing your eye with something interesting to look at, and if I can keep it moving, I can keep your mind occupied for hours," Roam says.

6. Ask your audience to participate

Don't shelve the Q&A portion to the end of your time. Take questions and comments throughout to keep the audience engaged.

"It should be a conversation back and forth," Asher says (Dill, Forbes, 4/27). 

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