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Nine Ways to Elevate Your Presentation and Speaking Skills to Black Belt Level

by Mitch Joel  |  
January 24, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • Nine tips for mastering presentation skills
  • How to avoid common speech-giving pitfalls

Let's say you know the standard speaking tips, tricks, and fare. You're good... you can get by. But how can you elevate your speaking to the next level?

Over the past few years, I've spoken at a lot of events. Beyond just speaking (and getting better at it with practice), I share the stage with different types of speakers with different speaking styles. It's the nuances that determine who the masters are.

So if you're just getting started presenting to audiences, or you need to hone your technique, or you'd like to really up your game in the new year, here are some of the more important nuances that will take you from an everyday speaker to a star that people want to see.

And, by the way, these tips apply to marketers whether they're speaking in an auditorium or presenting in a boardroom.

1. Limit the technology

All too often I see people with laptops, PowerPoint, DVDs, cued CDs, props, and more. Kill it. You don't need it.

If you use slides that can augment what you're saying, great—but you don't need it, and you should not rely on it. People are coming to learn from you. Know your content to the point that even if your slides don't load or the video doesn't play, it should not matter.

Expecting the audio/visual to know all of your cues and the intricacies of your presentation is putting way too much reliance on the AV (and the AV guy). On top of that, asking for videos or music to play from the stage kills your story and flow: It's like when an actor calls for a line.

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Mitch Joel is president of Twist Image, an award-winning digital marketing and communications agency. He is the author of Six Pixels of Separation (Grand Central Publishing—Hachette Book Group), a best-selling book named after his blog and podcast.

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  • by Rick Mon Jan 24, 2011 via web

    Wow, this is spot on. I can count the best speakers I've ever heard/seen, and I would say they nailed at least 7 out of your 9. Thanks for posting this - adding the list to my utility belt. :)

  • by Geoff Zimpfer Mon Jan 24, 2011 via web

    Good info and tips! Another cornerstone to being effective is to be 'authentic.' Come from the heart and let your passion for your message come through in your presentation. People will be more moved by that than any slides or gadgets.

    Any suggestions for virtual presentations that you might suggest?

  • by Gillian Mon Jan 24, 2011 via web

    Great piece! A lot of these "simple" things get overlooked and they can make or break a presentation. Definitely agree on point #6!

  • by Doug Brock Mon Jan 24, 2011 via web

    I would also add attending Toastmasters if you are serious about improving your speaking skills.

  • by Karen Swim Mon Jan 24, 2011 via web

    Thank you so much! The timing could not be more perfect as I am presenting this week and want to make sure that I give my audience the best possible experience.

  • by Karla Mon Jan 24, 2011 via web

    Great tips! I would add that it never hurts to practice your speech aloud, especially if the material is new and/or you're delivering a new speech for the first time.

  • by Akich Kwach Tue Jan 25, 2011 via web

    Thanks Mitch; Great lessons to consider. I am developing training on presentation skills. Any one knows where I could get more relevant resources.

  • by Robbie Tue Jan 25, 2011 via web

    I'd add this one: A presentation is not a white paper. Create presentations that highlight key points that you will present in much greater detail. Never read from the screen. First of all, we can all read -- so we don't need you to read it for us. Second, it places you with your back to the audience, which means you've lost their attention.

  • by Cindy B. Tue Jan 25, 2011 via web

    Important points! One of the most engaging presentations I ever delivered was made up entirely of photos (relevant, of course) that served as a prompt for me to elaborate the main points, while providing a little something for the visual learners. Question: What video downloading program do you recommend to embed video?

  • by Bill H. Tue Jan 25, 2011 via web

    Strong points! I think I learned one of the most basic points of presenting -- rehearse in the room where you'll present -- when I saw a "leadling industry professional" doing just that at a national conference I attended. Maybe that's what we all need to see -- someone we admire going through the basics, just like Michael Jordan practices free throws.

  • by Emeka Iwuaba Wed Jan 26, 2011 via web

    This is quite interesting and has made positive impact on me.

  • by Diane Wed Jan 26, 2011 via web

    If you do use slides, keep them simple and clean. Charts and images that have been cut and pasted are too hard to see. Also, slides are used to enhance your presentation - they shouldn't contain your presentation! I love the idea of using nothing but images and minimal text in slides as a reinforcement to what is being said.

  • by Danny Naz - Naz Creative Fri Jan 28, 2011 via web

    Well said. More often than not, all of this will come with experience. the more you speak, the better the presentation will be. Stand in front of the mirror and rehearse. You may feel silly, but you can really tweak your presentation that way.

  • by The Legendary Frank Sun Jan 30, 2011 via web

    I love the idea of asking yourself questions about your topic and then answerig them yourself. I can't wait to apply this technique although I may have them writtne down as I'm not confident enough yet to go it alone.

  • by Elaine Fogel Sun Jan 30, 2011 via web

    All sound tips, Mitch. Just one thing I'll add about limiting technology. As a former educator and current professional speaker, I know that people have different ways they process information. For those who are visual learners, a speaker's talk isn't always going to "stick." And for those with attention issues, multi-media presentations can keep their interest more. I think we have to weigh this when determining how much we use technology. Thanks!

  • by Jonathan Fleming Wed Feb 2, 2011 via web

    Passion, Preparation and Confidence in your subject matter! Use everything you got and love your talk! It works, people love smart confidence and people love passion and knowledge of subject matter. If people sense those things it won't matter. Use both if you can, some people are very visual and need the screens, while others won't care. Meet people on their level at times. Great article.

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