Skills List:

Presentation & Public Speaking

What this looks like:

  • Structures the presentation (including the agenda, goals and objectives) in a clear, concise and organized manner to optimize audience engagement and understanding of the presentation material 

  • Tailors each presentation to the target audience, and anticipates and addresses their needs and concerns with ease

  • Shows confident, poise, and expertise when speaking in front of a group of people through the effective use of body language and voice i.e., eye contact, hand gestures, word choice, tone of voice, etc.

  • Uses a dynamic variety of resources to complement the presentation i.e., slides, visual aids, questions to the audience, etc.  

On-the-job practice

  • Start small and look for mini opportunities to present. The more you present, the more comfortable you get. 

    • Try this: Start with bite-size pieces by speaking up in less intimating environments like in a sit-down group discussion or small team meeting, then work your way up to stand-up presentations that require a presentation deck.

    • Try this: Ask your manager if you can give project updates during your next team meeting. Identify the problem, the solution, and next steps.

  • Tailor your message to the audience. When people agree to sit in a presentation, they naturally think ‘what’s in it for me?’ Understand that everyone has a different motive; therefore, presentations should not be cookie-cutter. You’ll lose a lot of people’s interests if the message does not meet their needs.

    • Try this: Before presenting, think about the key stakeholders you’re presenting to and consider the following questions: What’s their job title? What do they know about the topic? What’s most important to them about this topic? Do they like stories/details/data or would they prefer me to get straight to the point?

    • Try this: Think of all the potential questions or concerns the audience may have about the topic and have an answer ready. You can proactively provide those answers by incorporating it in your presentation (if time permits) to show you’ve thoroughly thought about the problems and solutions. Aim to answer the least questions possible from the audience.

  • Be aware of your presentation quirks. Record yourself or ask someone to observe you while you present and give you feedback. 

    • Try this: If you tend to sway your feet, grab a sheet of newspaper and place it on the floor. Stand on top of it and practice presenting. You’ll start to hear a lot of paper crinkling if you’re a swayer. Adjust accordingly.

    • Try this: If you talk too fast, have a bottle of water beside you and take sips every once in a while. This will allow people time to process what you’ve said and give you a break to think about what your’e going to say next. Or, ask a colleague in the audience to give you a secret signal if you’re talking too fast.

    • Try this: If you say lots of um’s, uh’s, and like’s, replace those filler words with a silent pause.

  • Minimize anxiety-inducers. Our mind can take over when we’re in a very uncomfortable situation and sometimes we feel that our anxiety is uncontrollable. However, the more we can anticipate, the more prepared we’ll be to overcome these stressful situations.

    • Try this: If your anxiety is because top leaders are in the room and you feel intimidated, try removing their title and think of them as another human being. They’re just another person/a peer who is rooting for your success. Just like everyone else, they also have flaws and fears, and spoiler —they are also afraid of public speaking even if they appear to be confident.

    • Try this: Arrive to the presentation early and greet people as they walk in the room. Shake hands, walk around the room, chit chat about things that make you feel comfortable. Movement helps release your jitters.

    • Try this: Aim for engagement, not for perfection. Sometimes caring too much about making something perfect can give you more anxiety. If you’re the type of person who has super high-standards on yourself (and the type of person where your 50% is most people’s 100%), then try to care less about this situation. Also, no one knows what to expect in your presentation — they won’t know you mess up unless you tell them.

    • Try this: Meditate and practice mindfulness to help you pinpoint what triggers your anxiety. You can’t fix it unless you know the root cause. 

    • Try this: Take the “public” out of “public speaking” and pretend you’re just speaking to the group. Of make it conversational like your’e talking to the group. 

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