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Presentation Skills: Vital for both the Employed and the Seeking

Many people fear public speaking; it’s harrowing to have the spotlight on you in a room of your colleagues or fellow industry professionals, especially for long periods of time. Even more nerve-wracking, many employers are now starting to implement presentations in the interviewing process. But with the right skills and preparation, anyone can master the art of the engaging presentation, and at least come across confident while doing so. Should you find yourself up against a daunting presentation in the near future—or simply know that your presentation skills can use some polishing—read on! We’ve compiled a list of some important things to keep in mind when preparing and giving your next presentation:

  1. Make eye contact with everyone. Don’t just focus on your boss or the person you’re selling your idea to; make sure to sweep the room as you talk. This is important not only to make sure you give equal attention to your audience, but to ensure that you don’t keep your head down in your notes or your gaze glued to your slides.
  2. Tell stories. It can get tiring listening to and viewing data and statistics slide after slide. Take time to interject with stories and relatable examples to keep your audience interested and engaged. Where appropriate, even adding a touch of humor can keep your presentation fresh. Many professors often take this approach in college lectures to keep the class attentive, and it’s a great tactic in the workplace or other professional settings, as well.
  3. Keep your visual presentations simple and stimulating. It’s best to avoid patterned backgrounds and harsh, bright text. Try to keep your visual presentations, whether tangible or on PowerPoint, as easy on the eyes as possible. This includes keeping text down to a minimum; your audience will be distracted from what you’re saying if they have to read entire paragraphs or work their way through numerous graphs every time you switch slides.
  4. Involve your audience. Ask questions, not only after the presentation, but before and during it. Invite interruptions and commentary at regular intervals. Doing so will keep your audience interactive, and therefore, at attention. Likewise…
  5. Speak to your audience—don’t read or lecture to them. As mentioned above, it’s important to keep your eyes as focused on your audience as possible, not searching your notes for your next point. This might take some practice and preparation in advance to ensure you know your material inside and out and can facilitate smooth transitions, but it’s worth it. The best presentations are the ones that seem effortless and conversational.
  6. Take your time. It’s easy to unintentionally speed through your points, especially when you’re nervous. But if you want to make a great impression and make your presentation count, you have to learn to pace yourself. This is where inviting your audience to comment or ask questions can come in handy, as long as you fit these interjections seamlessly into your presentation.

No presentations in sight? If you’re still searching for a job, these skills can greatly improve your interview performance, as well. Think about how much better an interviewer you could be if you just slowed down, breathed, and turned your time with the hiring manager into a conversation. Learning how to tell your story rather than lecture or recite memorized facts can make a huge difference in your next interview.

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