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Top 10 Skills for Presenters

written by: Mike Sweeney • edited by: Ginny Edwards • updated: 5/28/2011

Presentation skills for project managers is something that can be learned and practiced over time. In the project management arena, too often presenters fall into the trap of mimicking other presentations – too technical, too much information, too methodical, and in the end, too boring.

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    1. Organize for Results

    When you are organized as a presenter, it means a few key things. First, your content is well-structured and organized, and uses an easy-to-follow flow of information. Simply put, it’s concise, hard-hitting and in a logical flow. Second, your choice of words as a presenter also flow just as easily and are in-synch with your content. This makes it very easy for the audience to stay in-tune to what you’re presenting and not become easily distracted.

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    2. Create Interesting Content

    Computer aided design 

    Organize your content so that it is visually appealing and is simple to follow. Your goal is to keep your audience mentally engaged, regardless of the topic you are presenting. If not, you’ll lose their interest rapidly to other distractions. In typical project management presentations, it can be very easy to get caught up using charts and multi-bulleted slides. Though these can be effective when designed well, too often they’re not. For example, when numbers are discussed, it’s pretty common to see a slide or handout full of them, which for most people, are usually pretty hard to read. If you are not sure how much information to include, it is generally best to error on the side of too little information vs. too much information. Try to be a little creative with your content. The use of color, pictures, and single words or numbers on slides can be very effective as long as the presenter has something to say that is equally as vibrant and interesting.

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    3. Captivate Your Audience

    Capture attention with an opening that engages the audience. If you’re dealing with numbers, use them in a way that is thought provoking right from the start. Maybe find an interesting picture or pictures to open with to make a key point for you. As you capture attention with your content, you need to be equally as captivating as a presenter. Use the power of your voice to keep your audience engaged. Strive to look and sound like you’re excited, enthused, appreciative, interested, or whatever the appropriate behavior is for the presentation.

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    4. Add Variety

    You want to add variety to your presentation to keep the audience mentally engaged and interested. Periodically add something unexpected. It will keep your audience on their toes and paying attention. Take a quick survey, or invite your participants to partake in an activity to make a point or to gather some information. If your presentation is filled with numbers, find an interesting visual to break the flow and change the mood. Color, pictures, or startling facts all can add variety. Your only limitation here is your imagination.

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    5. Speak Powerfully

    There are several facets to this skill. Your selection of words is most important, and should not be taken lightly. Select words and phrases that coincide with your content and are easy to understand. The words you choose should be a natural part of your presentation. Learn to emphasize key words through your voice inflection. Another way to put focus on a word or phrase is by pausing right before or right after the word. That brief moment of silence causes the audience to pay close attention to what you’re saying at that specific time.

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    6. Display Visible Confidence

    Confidence needs to be on display right from the beginning. You want the audience to be sold on you as a presenter and the information you are sharing. From the moment you begin the presentation, there should be little doubt that you are confident about the content and delivery of the presentation. Even if you are nervous inside, this will dissipate as you get into the flow and start presenting information you are comfortable with. Presentation skills for project managers are more easily enhanced when you feel comfortable about the content and your delivery style. When both are working well together, it will naturally build your confidence, which is visible to the audience.

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    7. Appear Comfortable

    Audience clapping 

    This can be achieved in several ways. The content you are speaking about should flow smoothly as if you are having a familiar conversation with the audience. You should be well-versed in everything you are presenting and the order it is presented in. Using nonverbal messages and appearing confident are some of the best ways to appear comfortable to the audience. Avoid looking like a statue or moving too quickly or too slowly through the content. And don’t make excuses when something doesn’t go as planned or you make a mistake. Always appear in control, even if you feel sometimes you are not. Nervousness is expected. Incompetence is not.

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    8. Use Nonverbal Messages

    Nonverbal messages can be very powerful and project both a positive or negative image. Since your goal is to send a strong and confident message, focus on using good posture and meaningful gestures at the right times. Include everyone in the room by using eye contact with the audience. Avoid the tendency to look at the screen or handouts when speaking about information. Talk to people, not the screen. Every so often, move away from the front of the room so you don’t get planted in one spot. Appear casual, yet professional in all your nonverbal messages.

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    9. Look to Summarize

    Bring all the pieces together in a simple format that helps review for the audience what you want them to remember. If you use subsections for your presentation, then it’s a good idea to briefly summarize each subsection separately to make sure the audience is following along as you are presenting. It’s a good way to build a case for your upcoming closing statement.

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    10. Close Strongly

    This is a critical piece for any presentation. This is where you ask the audience to do something with the information – remember key points, take action, or make decisions. A strong close follows very naturally a brief summary of the presentation. This is the one item of the presentation that the audience will definitely remember, good or bad. So create a memorable one that achieves your goals for your presentation and the audience.