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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

How to Improve Your Presentation Skills Effectively - 10 Tips to Give a Good & Successful Presentation

Shahridzuan bin Azali
Written by Shahridzuan bin Azali - Join us and apply to be a contributor now!

There’s probably a hundred ways for me to introduce myself so I figured short and sweet would do the trick. I’m Shahridzuan bin Azali and when I write on my blog, I go by the initials SHZ. My philosophy in life probably sums up who I am. I have many thoughts, perhaps many more ways of looking at things but I don’t always say them out loud. Writing affords me the luxury to voice what’s bottled inside me. I have always, and will always, love writing. The big dream is to have my novel published. I have a Mass Communication background and I’m currently working as an Information Analyst - a writing-based job. See, it’s all about words. Words are oxygen to the writer’s mind.

How to Improve Presentation Skills

It doesn’t matter what course you enroll in at university or college, you’re bound to make presentations, at least once, in front of your mates. Speaking from experience, many students find it an awful task to talk in front of the class. I’m a Mass Communication graduate so it’s pretty ironic to say that right? I mean, communication students are meant to be able to talk. Perhaps. The problem is… presentations are not merely talking. They are delivering facts and explanation in a professional manner that helps the audience understand. I believe many students fail at maximizing the benefits of presentations because they fail to capture the effective method in making good presentations. Here are some tips which I would like to share. They’ve worked for me and I reckon they would for you as well. Good luck!

How to Present Effectively - Things to do

1. Understand the topic before making the big dive
There’s no way your presentation will work if you do not understand the topic. So, take some time (not the entire decade) to comprehend the topic you’ve been assigned to. Read once for familiarity and twice for understanding. Repeat as needed. As you do, jot down short notes. You can do this at the side of the material you’re reading or you can use a notepad (or iPad). Whatever suits you. These notes may come in handy later on.

2. Dig the skeleton out…ooooooo….
Once you’ve comprehend the topic, make a mind map. This will serve as the core of your presentation. Trust me, with a mind map you will be clear on what you need to present, the points you to emphasize and the explanations and examples needed. Now, there are many types of mind map. Again, choose the ones that work best for you.

In a mood for groovy and funky..?
Mind Mapping Maps
(Photo Credits to TT Group)

Love simplicity…?
Mind Mapping
(Photo Credits to Nait)

In need of order…?
Types of Diabetes Mind Map
(Photo Credits to SmartDraw)

3. Prepare the Power Point slides
Halfway done. Of course, you will need presentation slides as visual aids. The slides should be brief and clear. The fonts need not be too small or too big. Pick fonts that are simple and professional-looking. Ensure that they can be read from the back of the class (you wouldn’t want your class mates peering over other people’s hates, it would distract YOU). As for the background, pick one that brings out the color of your text. Think contrast.

4. Practice
This is one of the best time to adopt the cliché, practice makes perfect. You don’t have to stay up night and nights just to get it right, though. Presentations are best rehearsed, not memorized. So, have a few run-throughs, familiarize yourself with the slides as you speak. The rehearsals are meant to help you coordinate what you speak with what you display on the screen. You’ll notice that as you practice, you will soon remember what slides come next. It makes you appear credible when you don’t hesitate in speaking and clicking for the next slide.

5. Be a presenter
Presentations are only presentations when you present. As you speak, maintain eye contact with your mates. They are there to listen to you, not to sit down as props. Show that you want them to understand because that indicates that you know your stuff. It’s fine to occasionally look at the slides but don’t glue your eyes on them and just read.

How to Give a Good Presentation - Things NOT to do

1. Do not read. Do not read. Do not read
This is the most common mistake many students do. They go in front of the class, project the slides and read. One slide after next. That is not presenting, that’s reading. If you do that, chances are no one will be interested. They might as well read the slides by themselves. Refer point 5 above.

2. Do not copy and paste
Ahah! Another big NO-NO! Students just love lifting and pasting, don’t they? Notice how Power Point slides have limited space? Well, that’s because they’re meant to be filled with essential points, not the entire text you’re presenting. Say you’re explaining the process of communication. Don’t squeeze everything on the slide. Maybe just exhibit the process in a chart form. Explanation for each step should be done through spoken words. Let the audience take notes as you talk. That keeps them engaged.

3. Avoid verbal clutter
We may not notice this but saying “ummm…”, “aaaah…” and “like” too often will drive the audience nuts. It is totally understandable that you are nervous during a presentation. We all are, especially if it’s the first time. That’s fine but do not succumb to verbal clutter. When you can’t seem to find the next word to say, don’t say anything. Shut your lips, take a deep breath and slowly continue your presentation. Control your nerves, don’t let them control you.

4. Toss the desire to be “fancy-mancy”
While being creative is a plus point, being too creative is annoying. How in the world is your audience going to remain engaged if you have slides with a yellow background, curvy fonts and red wordings? That’s like trying your best to blind them out of the living daylights. When choosing your slides’ appearances, consider visibility. Can it be read? Is it too striking? Being fancy is not likely to score your extra points.

5. No last minute work
This applies to life in general but keep this in mind for your presentation. You’ll end up in bits and pieces if you prepare the entire presentation the night before. You won’t have time to truly understand the topic, let alone delivering it. If you’re one to procrastinate, it’s time for some attitude adjustment.

Presentations can be fun if they are done right. Which would you prefer? A dull lecture or a chance to command the class and learn along with them? See, presentations aren’t that bad, are they?

Here are some sites that may help you:
Roger Darlington - How to Make a Good Presentation
Microsoft - 12 Tips for Creating Better PowerPoint Presentations
MakeUseOf - 10 Powerpoint Tips for Preparing a Professional Presentation
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  1. I agree with you and may I add some advice on the power point slides..keep less words and more on to the presenter's explanations. Point the main point of each article or sentence. Less words on the slides and more explanation from the presenter tells the audiences and the Lecturer of course that we or the presenter truly understands what he or she is presenting. Trust me. It will blow the lecturer's mind by doing so.

    1. Hi,

      I second that. Perhaps that is the core students should live by when making presentations. I reckon public speaking skills are closely related too. Cheers!


  2. this is a very good guide. awesome job! :)

  3. This really comes in handy. I've been doing presentations in front of my class for the past 2 semesters and I've been doing it exactly how you wrote it, except for the rehearse part.(need to work on that. And right now, I have something big coming up; presenting in front of big names which require professional presenting. This is really helpful in so many ways. Presenting should be something fun and plus, it's great to enhance one's soft skills in communication

    1. Good to know that. All the best with your presentation. ;)


  4. Dear Shahridzuan,

    Good article. I have a blog on persuasive communications that you and your fellow students may find useful. Here is an article I think you will like:



    The Idea Peddler - http://nasserismail.blogspot.com

    1. Hi,

      Thanks. Will definitely check the link out. Cheers!


  5. This post is really helpful, thanks a lot SHZ! I'm following your blog! Great ideas you got there SHZ

    1. Hi,

      Thanks. Support like that is why I never stop writing. :)


  6. Hi,

    Thanks. Support like that is why I never stop writing. :)


  7. i see eye to eye with u.
    no mater how my eng no good,i try my best stand infront the slide be a presenter.
    sometime because my eng problem make my presentation marks drop down.


    1. Hi Tong,

      Don't get discourage with your English. Language is something which will become better with more practice. At least you're striving to be a presenter. That's progress. We never stop learning language. So don't be too hard on yourself. Believe me, you'll find yourself better at it soon. :)


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