CPD tips - How to improve your presentation skills

CPD tips - How to improve your presentation skills

09 Jun 2023

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Presenting to a group of people in a professional environment can be quite daunting for many of us, but it is possible to improve our presentation skills with an effective professional development approach. In this CPD article, we will explore what makes for an impactful presentation, and provide some helpful ways for developing your presentation skills.

What are presentation skills?

Presentation skills are the skills used to deliver engaging, informative, sometimes instructional, presentations to convey information to an audience. Public speaking, body language, our tone, vocal delivery and creativity all contribute to this. In a social context, most of us know how to communicate, to get our ideas and opinions across to others. Improving your presenting abilities means taking these skills and bringing them to a professional setting.

Why is it important to improve your presentation skills?

Whether you’re in a team of five or a team of five hundred, many of us will have to present to a group at some stage in our work lives. Depending on your industry, you may even need to do a presentation at the recruitment stage. Developing your presentation skills will help you communicate more easily to audiences and make a positive impression. You want your listeners to remember you for all the right reasons and for the great information you’ve shared.

Working to improve your presentation skills in your professional life is important, not just for your current role, but also for your future career. A great presentation can have a big impact on your audience and help you to persuade them of your ideas. You may be an expert in your field, but if you cannot be confident and convey your expertise and knowledge to colleagues or management, your ideas may not be valued and go unnoticed.

When working towards improving our presentation skills, it’s important to incorporate the complimentary skills associated with good presenting too, such as improving body language, communication skills and public speaking. Feeling more confident in yourself and your own ability will be recognised by audiences when you have to give that presentation.

What makes an effective presentation?

If you have been tasked with giving a presentation, it is important to ensure you are presenting information in a clear and organised way. Everything needs to make sense and everyone in the room needs to be able to understand it. Here are a few simple ideas and points to consider for delivering a successful presentation.

• It is vital that you know your content well and that you brainstorm ideas before delving headlong into the topic. It’s easy to go off on a tangent, so it’s essential that you keep the information as concise but informative as possible. Stick to your key points and objectives.

How to deliver a successful presentation

• Don’t write an essay on your topic. You can’t read an essay on your slide, so don’t write one. Between slides, visual aids and cue cards, you can deliver your presentation flawlessly. Slides should be big enough to be seen from the back of the room, so use information sparingly. Slides and visual aids are support for your spoken words, not what you read from. When you know your topics, and how you want your presentation to progress, bullet points will be enough to prompt you.

• We all want our audience to listen to what we say, so your presentation needs to be engaging. Make sure your content is structured and you know how you are going to deliver it. Make sure it is well structured with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Personalise your presentation, tell a story of why “X” is so important. Having a visual aid can enhance your presentation, but don’t allow it to become a distraction and detract from your delivery.

• Be confident in your abilities and in your knowledge of the subject. Displaying positive body language will portray an air of authority on the subject. Verbally engage with your audience, ask questions, give them the time to respond. Ensure eye contact and your audience will trust you and listen to what you have to say.

The 5 Ps of Presentation

Whether you are making a solo presentation or will be presenting as part of a team, there are a number of factors to consider when preparing for a presentation to engage the audience and help listeners retain the highest possible amount of information. The 5 Ps of Presentation can set you on the correct path to ensure nothing is forgotten.

1. Planning:

Once you know where and when you need to deliver your presentation, you need to start planning. If you’re not fully planned, delivering an effective presentation becomes infinitely more difficult. Making a checklist beforehand is a great way to ensure nothing is forgotten.

  • Objectives: What do you want to achieve with your presentation? Once you define what your objectives are, it will also be easier to decide what your call to action at the end of your presentation also needs to be.
  • Topics: What knowledge or information do you want to share with your audience? What are the main points that you want to convey?
  • Audience: Who are your audience? Are they a local community group, a group of business professionals, or a team of scientists? This is important so you can deliver your presentation using language and relevant information that everyone in the room will understand.
  • Time: How much time do you have for each topic? Don’t forget your introduction and ending. Does each topic bear the same weight? Make sure to prioritise key points to ensure you don’t run out of time.
  • Materials needed: Do you need to do provide anything in particular? Handouts, samples of your work or product? Is your computer compatible with the system used at the venue? Do you need to book a room at the venue? Double check everything is in place. One small thing can distract you from delivering a fantastic presentation, so eliminate these beforehand.

2. Preparation

When preparing for a big presentation, you need to have a clear idea of how the content should be presented on your presentation deck. Using presentation software, make sure that you do not put too much information on your slide. You want your audience to focus on you, and to listen to what you say and not be distracted by trying to read a lot of words on screen. If you are using visual or other aids, ensure you know how to use them and if something goes wrong, that you know how to fix them.

It should go without saying, but you should know your topic inside out. You could be questioned on what you say, or on what you don’t say. The more you understand the topic, the greater chance you will be able to convey this effectively to your audience.

3. Practice

Once you have your preparation done, you need to practice the presentation, in front of colleagues or at home. Does the presentation flow, are the topics in the correct order? Can X be said in a more concise way? Too many ‘ums or ahs’ or fiddling with a pen can distract from the crucial information you are delivering. After all, you want a positive outcome in line with your objectives.

4. Performance

It’s crucial not to let stage fright get the better of you. Turn this into positive energy. Your vocal tone, body language and knowledge on the subject need to engage your audience. Make sure everyone can hear and see you. Simple things can make a meaningful difference, for instance, if there’s a lectern, use it to put notes on, but do not touch or lean on it. Don’t keep looking at your notes or at the floor. Ensure you have eye contact with your audience. Show them that you are confident in your knowledge.

Developing your presenting skills

5. Passion

If you are passionate about the subject you are delivering, your audience will clearly be able to see this and resonate. Passion is infectious. Your audience will get excited about your project or the topic if you are.

Best ways and tips for developing your presentation skills

There are several ways that we can all use to develop our presentation skills, which can lead to being more confident when standing in front of an audience. The following ways and tips can be useful to helping you get the most from your next presentation.

Be comfortable in your own skin: Positive body language invites your audience to listen to what you say. Keep your body open, don’t fold your arms to make a barrier between you and the audience. Keeping your palms facing towards the audience shows openness, indicating that you have nothing to hide.

Get comfortable on stage: Whether it’s an actual stage or a meeting room, getting comfortable in this form of environment will make it feel natural and allow more of you to shine. Practice will help you to act more unconsciously in your delivery without feeling the need to plan as much ahead of time.

Record your practice sessions: Consider recording your practice run so you can see if there are parts where you seem to struggle. This is also a good way to see how the language you are using works; can it be more positive? It will also make you more confident. Very few of us like looking at ourselves on screen, but by recording your practice sessions, you will be able to see if you portray positive body language. Playback will also show you if there are certain ‘crutches’ that you have.

Know your hardware and software: If you plan on using a certain type of computer or software programme, ensure you know how to use it and that you know how to fix it if something goes wrong. Being unable to remedy a problem during your presentation can be very frustrating and stressful. You want your audience to remember the information you deliver, not the incidents that happened during the presentation.

Community Groups: This may not seem like an obvious way to improve your presentation skills, but getting involved in local community or sporting groups outside the workplace can help you in your career. Training the local football team or even getting involved in amateur dramatics will allow you to interact with a wider circle of people. These experiences can build on your confidence and will inevitably translate into the workplace.

Where to find CPD presentation skills training

Solidifying your presenting skills can help you in your every day communications either personally and professionally. Knowing your skills are up to date will give you the confidence to deliver effective presentations to audiences. There are a wide range of presentation skills courses which may be beneficial for you to undertake.

By taking a CPD training course, you will benefit from the experience of experts in the field, who will be able to help you on your journey towards improving your communication and presentation skills. You will find both active and passive presentation skills training in our CPD Courses Catalogue, as well as educational events, eLearning programs, conferences, workshops and seminars, which have all been formally CPD certified.

How to become a CPD accredited provider

We hope this article was helpful. The CPD Certification Service is the world’s leading and largest CPD accreditation organisation working across all industry sectors. If you are considering becoming a CPD accredited provider, please contact our team to discuss in more detail. Alternatively, if you want to record your Continuing Professional Development, please go the myCPD Portal where you can manage, track and log your learning in one simple place.

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