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Presentation Skills

Presentation Skills

Throughout academic and professional life, people have to give presentations. There are endless reasons to present, from presenting the results of research to proposing a new invention. Learning presentation skills helps presenters know what to practice when preparing a presentation and makes them more confident and capable when presenting.

Presentation Skills Definition

A presentation is a form of communication in which a speaker delivers information to an audience. For instance, researchers often present their research to scholars in their field, while businessmen often present their company progress to colleagues.

Presentation skills are the skills required to deliver engaging, effective presentations.

Developing strong presentation skills is important because presentations are vital to professional communication. Effective presentations can enhance a speaker's academic and professional credibility.

Presentation Skills, Presenter, StudySmarterFig. 1 - Presentation skills are essential in academic and professional life.

The 5 Ps of Presentation Skills

Remembering the "5 Ps of Presentation Skills" can help presenters plan an organized, compelling presentation.

Purpose

First, it's crucial to identify the purpose of a presentation, which is its goal. For instance, the purpose might be convincing the audience to agree with your perspective on a debate, trying to secure a scholarship, or defending a thesis for a grade. To determine the purpose of a presentation, presenters can ask themselves questions like the following:

  • Why am I giving this presentation?

  • Who am I giving this presentation to?

  • What do I want the audience to learn from this presentation?

  • What do I want to get out of delivering this presentation?

Identifying the overall objective of giving the presentation is important because all parts of the presentation should support that purpose. Once you've identified the purpose, keep it in mind as you develop all aspects of the presentation.

Plan

Next, you should organize your presentation. Reflect on how you can achieve the goal you determined in the previous step. Often there are guidelines for presentations, like in school when teachers specify a required time limit or format. Make sure to follow those guidelines and plan out how you will meet your goal in following them. When planning a presentation, presenters can ask themselves the following questions:

  • What format should this presentation be delivered in?

  • How long should this presentation be?

  • How can the information be broken down into succinct sections?

  • Is it possible to include creative or comedic elements while staying organized and professional?

Presenters should also consider the context they are giving the presentation in when planning a presentation. How many people will be in the room? How will the room be set up? Will the presentation be over a video conferencing platform or face-to-face? All of these things can impact how the presenter should set up the presentation to keep the audience engaged and ensure they understand the material.

For example, in a face-to-face presentation to a small audience, a presenter can schedule a time for the audience to ask questions. However, in a recorded presentation emailed to the audience, the presenter should include an email or other form of contact for audience members to reach out with questions.

Preparation

After planning the presentation out, you can then prepare the details. Follow the plan you made in the previous step and bring all of your materials together. This step includes writing an outline or a script of what you will say and what details to include, such as texts or visual and auditory materials. Presenters can ask themselves the following questions when preparing their presentation:

  • Does this presentation accomplish the main goal?

  • Does this presentation address all of the important points of this topic?

  • Is this presentation organized, neat, and easy to follow?

  • Are there any distracting visual materials, or are they used sparingly?

It is often challenging to write a word-for-word script of what to say in a presentation. Contextual factors such as time constraints and questions from the audience can disrupt such a script and throw the presenter off. Instead, crafting a detailed outline of what topics to discuss is typically an easier approach to a presentation.

Presentation Skills, Post-it Presenter, StudySmarterFig. 2 - After planning, prepare all materials for your presentation.

Practice

Once you have finished preparing the presentation, you must practice it. Giving yourself time to practice will allow you to note any parts of the presentation that should be tweaked or taken out. Practicing presentations also help you understand how much time it takes and whether you need to shorten or lengthen them.

When practicing a presentation, the presenter should have a clear voice, appropriate tone, and a confident attitude. Practicing these elements will help make them easier to come by on the day of the presentation, even if you are nervous.

Present

Finally, you can deliver your presentation. If things do not go according to plan, the best approach is always to go with the flow. If you have sufficiently practiced your presentation, you should have an in-depth understanding of the material you are presenting. Distractions or challenges will not decrease your knowledge of the topic, so even when things go off-plan, speak confidently from the heart about what you know and your presentation will remain strong.

Presentation Skills Tips

The following tips and tricks can help presenters ensure effective, engaging presentations.

7 Presentation Skills

Practicing these seven presentation skills can help people polish their presentations.

Know Your Audience

When planning and delivering a presentation, remember who your audience is. For instance, are they experts in the field of study or beginners? This knowledge will determine what kind of vocabulary you can use and the level of detail with which you can discuss the topic. Knowing your audience is also connected to understanding the purpose of your presentation. For example, if the purpose of a presentation is to get a good grade in English class, then you should present with your English teacher's knowledge and expectations in mind.

Choose Your Tone of Voice

The tone of voice directly impacts the audience's levels of engagement in a presentation and can thus make or break a presentation. Presenters should speak confidently and persuasively when appropriate but always maintain a professional, respectable tone. They should avoid slang words and words with judgmental connotations, such as "duh" or "obviously." Instead, they should make their point through strong, well-explained evidence.

Presentation Skills, Microphone, StudySmarterFig. 3 - Choose an appropriate, professional tone when presenting.

Pace Yourself

Alongside using an appropriate tone, presenters must also speak in a steady, even manner. Talking too fast or too slow will make it difficult for the audience to stay engaged. Instead, speak at a medium pace, just as you would if you were having a normal conversation.

People often start babbling when they get nervous. Speaking too fast during a presentation can confuse the audience and reduce the strength of the presentation. Practicing ahead of time will help you avoid this.

Watch Your Body Language

Engaging presenters appear strong and confident. To achieve this, you should check for the following body language before presenting:

  • Stand/sit up straight

  • Make eye contact with the audience

  • Use hand gestures when appropriate

  • Use various facial expressions

Proper body language can also mask nervousness when public speaking. Smile and stand up straight even if you're nervous and you will appear confident to your audience!

Be Succinct

To keep the audience's attention during a presentation, you should strive to get straight to the point. Visual aids should use short bullet points whenever possible and summarize the most important points of your ideas. You can go into more detail when speaking out loud, but still, try to stick to the most vital information.

Stay on Subject

A good way to keep your presentation to the point is by staying on topic. It can be tempting to go on tangents when public speaking by telling extra stories or going into too much detail about a topic. However, going down rabbit holes like that can distract your audience and cause them to lose focus. Instead, outline the most essential points you want to present and practice presenting just those ideas.

Practice

There's a reason practicing is mentioned more than once in this article. Practice entering the space you will present in, practice setting up your presentation if there are visual aids, and practice presenting the information all the way through. You should strive to reach a point where you can deliver the presentation without looking at many notes. Also, try to anticipate questions the audience will have and how you will address them.

Improving Presentation Skills

People can always improve their presentation skills, even if they think they have mastered them. To improve presentation skills, you can follow the following steps.

Be Interested

It is easier to give a compelling conversation when you are passionate about your presentation. If you have any input into what you present, try to select a topic you are genuinely interested in researching, writing, and talking about.

Know Your Topic

Do not try to present beyond your scope of understanding. Present information that you understand entirely and can thoroughly explain. This will increase your confidence and help ensure questions do not catch you off guard.

Take Deep Breaths

Giving a presentation can be overwhelming. Take a few deep breaths while you practice and before you present. This will calm any nerves and help ensure you speak calmly and steadily.

Taking care of your health can also improve your presentation! Drink water to stay hydrated and eat before you present!

Oftentimes, especially in school, people have to present in groups. Presenting with others can be challenging because each group member might have a different presentation style. It is extra important to practice a presentation several times with a group so everyone is on the same page about the purpose, what tone to use, how to pace the speech, and how to keep the audience engaged. Coordinating schedules with other group members to plan and practice the presentation can be tricky, so be sure to get started on the project long before the presentation date. Hence, everyone has time to contribute to and run through the presentation.

Presentation Skills, Group project, StudySmarterFig. 4 - When developing a presentation in a group, start far in advance so you have time to work together.

Benefits of Presentation Skills

Developing strong presentation skills can help in many areas of life. People have to give presentations in all kinds of scenarios, including when they are:

  • Completing assignments for school classes

  • Defending academic research

  • Applying for college scholarships

  • Explaining the results of a project at work

  • Trying to earn a promotion

Developing presentation skills can help people fearlessly approach the above situations and more. When strengthening presentation skills, people also strengthen their public speaking, professional communication, and writing and design skills. Mastering all of these makes people strong candidates for a variety of jobs and can make them more confident, capable people overall.

Presentation Skills Examples

Strong presentation skills can make or break a presentation. They can define the difference between letter grades, earning scholarships, and securing jobs. The following example demonstrates how presenters can apply the above skills in delivering an effective presentation.

Tony and Abigail are assigned to present the themes of Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre (1847). They have to give a five-minute presentation to their English teacher and the other students in their English class. What are the first steps they should take?

First, they must coordinate their schedules to ensure they have sufficient time to work on the presentation. They have a month before the due date, so they decide to meet once a week to plan independent tasks and coordinate their work.

Presentation Skills, Schedule, StudySmarterFig. 5 - First, they coordinate schedules.

At the first meeting, they should decide the purpose of their presentation and plan how to address it. Their goal is to inform the class and their teacher about Jane Eyre's themes and demonstrate their understanding of the novel. They decide that they can do this through a PowerPoint presentation, in which they devote one slide to each theme. They select four themes and decide to discuss two each.

Next, they begin preparing the presentation. They use a shared PowerPoint to work independently but contribute to the same project. They use concise bullet points on the slides about the themes and write a more detailed outline for what to discuss when projecting those slides. They also include some images to help their audience visualize their points. Since they are presenting in school, they select formal vocabulary and use a calm, steady, professional tone.

Presentation Skills, Man Presenting, StudySmarterFig. 6 - They decide to use a mix of bullet points and images.

In the week leading up to the deadline, Tony and Abigail meet up a few times to practice the presentation. They pretend they are walking into the classroom they will present in, and they make sure they can pull up the display on their computers without any problems. Once they have run through the presentation several times, they feel ready to present. On presentation day, they eat a filling breakfast, drink lots of water, and take some deep breaths. They make a few jokes while presenting but stay professional and on topic. They successfully deliver an engaging presentation!

Presentation Skills - Key takeaways

  • Presentation skills are the skills required to deliver engaging, effective presentations.
  • To develop a presentation, identify the purpose, plan how to address it, prepare the materials, and practice presenting it.
  • Presenters should know their audience, use a professional, steady tone of voice, and make eye contact with listeners.
  • Presents should be succinct and stay o topic to keep the audience focused.
  • When delivering a group presentation, start far in advance to coordinate schedules and presentation styles.

Frequently Asked Questions about Presentation Skills

Know your audience, choose your tone of voice, pace yourself, watch your body language, be succinct, stay on subject, and practice. 

Purpose, Plan, Preparation, Practice, Present 

A good presentation is organized, succinct, and thoroughly practiced. The presenter should be enthusiastic and confident and speak with a professional tone at a steady pace. They should use some creative features and make eye contact with the audience. 

To give a good presentation you should be knowledgeable about the topic and practice your presentation several times. You should know your audience and make consistent eye contact with them. You should also stand up straight, smile, and vary your facial expressions. 

Developing strong presentation skills is important because presentations are a vital part of professional communication. Effective presentations can enhance a speaker’s academic and professional credibility. 

Final Presentation Skills Quiz

Question

John is preparing a presentation about the Krebs cycle. He identified his purpose, planned how he will address it, prepared a detailed presentation, and presented it to his entire science class. What did he do wrong?


Show answer

Answer

He should have practiced his presentation before delivering it. 


Show question

Question

Which of the following presentation skills impacts the audience’s engagement the most?


Show answer

Answer

Choosing tone of voice 


Show question

Question

Which of the following should presenters not do?


Show answer

Answer

Frequently look down at their notes 


Show question

Question

What is the best speed to speak when delivering a presentation?


Show answer

Answer

Fast


Show question

Question

What is the first step when developing a presentation?


Show answer

Answer

Identifying the goal of the presentation 


Show question

Question

Sam is reflecting on his presentation and asking himself how long it should be and if it can be broken down into succinct sections. Which of the 5Ps of presentations is he addressing?


Show answer

Answer

Plan


Show question

Question

Jake is extremely nervous to present in front of his classmates. Which of the following skills can help him calm his nerves and feel more confident?


Show answer

Answer

Presenting quickly to get the presentation over with 


Show question

Question

What type of tone should presenters use when speaking?


Show answer

Answer

Professional and respectable 


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Question

What does it mean for a presentation to be succinct?


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Answer

The presenter explains the most important information and avoids going on unrelated tangents. 


Show question

Question

Why is it important to give an engaging, effective presentation?


Show answer

Answer

Effective presentations can enhance a speaker’s academic and professional credibility. 


Show question

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