It’s a New Year…Time to Dust Off Your Presentation Skills

It’s that time of year again.  Everyone makes New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions but, too often, people tend to let those resolutions slide. We all do it. We’re all human.

The problem with letting your presentation skills slide, however, is that other people’s expectations of you, both for the content of your message and how you deliver it, never slide.

Those expectations only increase with time!

Which is why NOW, at the start of a new year, is the best time to refresh your content planning and delivery skills.
Vacations are wonderful. Unplugging from work for a period is never a bad idea. That said, it’s easy for presentation skills to get a bit rusty over the long holiday break.

Soon enough, you’ll be expected to present your ideas in person, or perhaps virtually, and many of those presentations will be high-stakes.

So, here’s a quick refresher to help you brush up on your presentation skills.  
The way most people “practice” their presentations is by sitting in front of their computer screens mentally reviewing slides and dialogue.  In other words, they “walk” through their presentations in their heads.

While you can walk through it in your head, it’s no substitute for actual stand-up or “out-loud” rehearsal. And, if you’re going to be standing up for your presentation, stand up when you practice. And, do it in a similarly sized room to the one you’ll be in, so you can practice moving around.

Likewise, if you’ll be presenting in a meeting while sitting down, find a room similar to the one in which you’ll be presenting and practice out loud while sitting.

Finally, if you’re going to be presenting virtually, focus on projecting clearly and maintaining a higher level of energy throughout your presentation than you would if you were delivering it in person.

Deliver with Energy
Many presentations, both in-person and virtual, suffer from a lack of energy. Here are three quick tips to help you amp up the energy and make your presentation more engaging.

First, if you’re delivering a stand-up presentation, move while you talk. Take some steps, but don’t pace. Make eye contact with your audience members and connect it to your movement. Don’t overdo it, though. Avoid moving around more than 50% of the time.

Second, gesture naturally and conversationally. When not gesturing, don’t nervously fidget with your hands. Instead, practice relaxing them at your sides between gestures.

Finally, make sure your voice is clear, strong, and conveys a sense of passion for your topic.

Manage Anxiety
Most people feel some degree of anxiety before giving any type of presentation. Below are a few tricks you can use to help you relax, stay focused, and connect more easily with your audience.

Before a presentation, consider doing any or all of the following:

  • Take a walk to calm your nerves.
  • Find a quiet place to sit, close your eyes, and visualize yourself giving a great presentation.
  • Do some relaxation and breathing exercises.

Focusing on your own worries and nervous thoughts will only make you more nervous.  Set aside thoughts about yourself and try to focus 100% on your audience and their needs both before the presentation and during it.

In 2016, don’t let how you communicate prevent you from meeting your goals.
Refresh your basic skills and consider taking them to the next level.

In my next blog post, I’ll share some additional tips for putting together your slides, projecting executive presence, and making virtual presentations more powerful.

Until next time, keep honing your skills. Practice. Deliver with enthusiasm. Make it all about your audience. And, most importantly, have fun while you’re doing it.

And, Happy New Year…May it be your best yet!


Steve Mandel

Steve Mandel

Steve founded Mandel Communications in 1983. He is a renowned presentation skills trainer and coach and the author of the highly successful book Effective Presentation Skills. In addition to serving as a key Mandel company executive, Steve thrives on working directly with clients in one-on-one coaching and group workshop settings. He has a deep understanding of the communication challenges faced by professionals and executives in high-stakes settings and works with clients to pinpoint and address mission-critical communication needs. Steve's business success and his avocation as an accomplished amateur astrophotographer have earned him special recognition in Forbes magazine.