One-Minute Mentor - 02-16-2017 :
Tips to Improve Your Presentation Skills
By: Deborah Lochli
From time to time I am called upon to make a presentation. In the past, my fear of speaking would get the best of me and I became somewhat paralyzed. I ran across an article written by Eva Ash, a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. I am thankful for her words of wisdom as they have helped me become a better speaker and lessened my fears. Here is a condensed version of her article.
Do you make these common mistakes when giving a presentation?
Often people with subject matter expertise have great difficulty in presenting to a group, even though with friends they may be upbeat and entertaining. The most common mistakes include:
- Can't manage anxiety
- Don't relate to the audience
- It's all one-way
- It's boring
Develop these skills so that you avoid these mistakes.
- Create a positive mindset — Prepare yourself psychologically with a strong structure and interesting content. Be early to the location and ensure the room is set as you need for it to be. Give yourself possible scripts:
I will give a good quality presentation
I can manage my nerves with breathing
- Learn about your audience — Use some quick questions and answers or a show of hands. For example, ask, "How many of you here know . . . ?"
- Give an overview of the presentation — Give the audience an idea of what the key areas or the goal you hope to achieve in your presentation as this gives your audience the direction and keeps everyone on track.
- Make it interesting and relevant — aim to be someone who is a pleasure to listen to by using interesting visuals, a short video clip, relevant slides or handouts.
- Involve the audience and stimulate discussion — Audience attention and retention drops off after a few minutes with no involvement. Grab their attention and energize them! Try role playing and ask for volunteers to try something out in your presentation.
- Manage questions and answers professionally — Show interest in questions asked and answers provided. Make eye contact, face the person, use appropriate facial gestures, and body language to be accepting.
- Control the discussion — Managing group dynamics is often challenging. The degree of control you exercise will depend on the group and the topic.
- Read the group — Be observant of the group's body language and do not ignore it.
- Deliver an action ending — A powerful closing is very motivating and memorable.
Always seek feedback and encourage honest criticism from the attendees. This will help you grow and improve your presentation skills.
Before each presentation, I run through this list in my mind. Give it a try!
Deb Lochli is Senior Director of Product Management at Marchon Eyewear. You can reach her at
"Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement."