Stop Giving Bad Presentations: 5 Tips to Bring your Presentation A-game.

I recently presented at a regional conference to other career services pros and it got me thinking about presentation skills.  It’s something that I’ve come to love, mostly because now I feel confident doing it.  But that wasn’t always the case.  I delayed taking public speaking until my last semester in college, dreading getting up to speak in front of only 20 of my fellow classmates.  So what changed?  I practiced.  I stepped out of my comfort zone and just did it.  And part of me began to care less what other people thought.  Sure, I wanted them to trust me and value what I had to say (who doesn’t) but I stopped getting so hung up on questions like, “will they think I’m credible?” and “what if I don’t wear the right outfit?” Here are 5 other tips to get you on your way to better presentations:

1. Know your audience.

Whom are you going to speaking to and why are they listening?  Think about their knowledge coming into the session and what they will be expecting from you.  Are you going to be teaching, motivating, or persuading them?

2. Visit the room or space in advance.

You’ll feel more comfortable knowing what the set up is ahead of time. Figure out if there are distractions you need to deal with so you have time to request changes in advance.  This could be anything from the temperature to lighting, windows, or chair arrangement. 

3. Ask about A/V equipment.

There’s nothing worse than watching a speaker scramble with technical components while the presentation is supposed to be happening.  Do you have an electronic presentation to show while you speak?  If so, will you need a computer or projector or will they be provided?  Will you need a microphone?  Again get these things taken care of in advance so you can begin calm and confident, knowing the A/V is all taken care of.

4. Get organized.

Create some sort of structure for your audience to easily follow.  People have short attention spans, so break it down the way you did when you wrote essays in middle school:

  • Tell them what you’re going to tell them (your agenda or purpose)
  • Tell them (the body of your presentation)
  • Tell them what you told them (your conclusion)

This may seem redundant to you as the speaker, but it was help the audience stay on track and grasp what you’re saying.

5. Ask for feedback.

The best way to improve your presentation skills is to simply ask someone for honest input. Seek out a mentor or supervisor who would be willing to provide you with constructive criticism to really improve, not a close friend who will tell you that you did a great job no matter what.  Be specific in what you are seeking feedback about as well, such as your projection, eye contact, clarity, or content.


Improving your presentation skills takes time and effort, but it’s certainly worth it.  Nearly every job will require you to speak in front of a group (big or small) at some point, so regardless of industry or occupation, it’s something to strive for.