The best way to improve your presentation skills - Executips


Friday, May 15, 2015

The best way to improve your presentation skills

Photo by Johnny Delos Santos

The last time you saw a movie that you really liked, you surely told your friends about it. You were enthusiastic. You didn’t make up anything. You didn’t memorize anything.

That’s the best way to make a presentation.

Working for over 30 years now, I have done hundreds, maybe thousands of presentations. I know I was most ineffective when I did not know the subject matter by heart. Or when I did not completely agree with what we’re presenting because corporate teamwork sometimes requires you to co-own an idea you don’t even like.

We get nervous when we have to remember details we have not mastered. When we know the panel may ask questions we cannot answer. When we don’t know how to defend the loophole in our case.

That’s why the great author Mark Twain said “ if you tell the truth, you don’t have to memorize anything.”

To present effectively, know in your heart that you’re presenting what you truthfully think is the best idea. You may be open to the fact that there must be a better idea somewhere. But as far as you’re concerned, you know you did your homework.

It’s so much like telling your friends about an engaging book, a really cool guy, a great vacation, etc. If your presentation comes with similar feelings, the audience will see that you’re truly happy to share a solution. They can see it in your eyes, they will sense it in your voice. They will believe you.

(Caution: don’t overdo the enthusiasm part or you might sound like a snake oil salesman. Just have enough confidence and a calculated amount of humility.)

Yes, it’s easy. But not that too easy.

It requires preparation. It requires doing your best before facing the audience. It requires a team meeting in which everyone will be on the same page.

Even though “you don’t have to memorize anything,” you should actually have a mental outline. It’s also important to plan how to present your case using the most appropriate and only the necessary amount of words. This part reminds me of one of my favorite ad agency mottos: The truth well told. ( By McCann Erickson, an ad company that I didn't get a chance to join. )

Even though you are sure of your idea, recognize the fact that nobody is  superhuman. Your audience may have comments, input and contrary opinions.

You shouldn’t worry if you really prepared well because you can nicely answer all these questions and comments that you have anticipated. And because you studied your subject matter thoroughly, you can tell for yourself which comments really make sense. Accept the comments, valid or not so,  graciously and offer a plan on how to address them. Don’t worry, the audience is always forgiving of a presenter who came for a good exchange of ideas.

Back in my ad agency days, there were some frantic times when we finished the work last minute and only had time to master the presentation part. We wouldn’t have time to anticipate the questions and to rehearse the answers. We didn’t have time to ask ourselves if we truly believed in our proposals. Those are the times that we didn’t win the pitch.

A presentation is not a battle for intellectual supremacy. Think of it as just a conversation about win-win plans then you will feel more relaxed, more confident, less defensive. Don’t look at you and your audience as two teams meeting half court. Instead, imagine it as a huddle, and make it sound like so.

That’s all for now.  I suggest you go out on  a date tonight. If it turns out good, see how you will enthusiastically tell your friends about it.

If you have concerns about your job or if you wish to suggest a topic, you may email me at

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