Are Presentation Skills Important for Career Success?
You don’t have to be a salesperson to need presentation skills. Making a presentation isn’t always about a captive audience and a formal slideshow in a meeting room. How many times have you had to give a quick update on a project’s status? Did you have to refer to a particular report or statistic? If you’ve put these things together—and the boss walked away satisfied—then you’ve given a successful presentation.
But the biggest and most nerve-wracking presentations are reserved for the heavy hitters: upper management and clients. To successfully convince them of your ideas, you’ll need to channel your whole arsenal of skills to deliver an ironclad proposal that addresses all their needs and answers their questions. This requires more than just company or product knowledge. It also requires a mastery of the art of presentation. You must present yourself as an authority figure on the topic at hand.
What does it take to become an effective presenter? How do you achieve a masterful level of presentation? More importantly, what valuable presentation skills do you need to acquire?
What is Presenting and What is It For?
Right now, there are people out there asking others to accept a new idea, buy a new product, or join a new group. In order to do so, they need to clearly state what they’re offering. At the same, they need to tell the audience what’s in it for them. Presenting is all about delivering information to another party in the most effective way possible.
All presentations center around an idea. The point of a presentation is to convince the audience of that idea’s merits. Once they agree, you then ask the audience to support the idea.
Here’s the catch: how you present an idea is often just as important as the idea itself. Listeners react to the medium just as much as (if not sometimes more than) the message. No matter how compelling the product or service on order, if the audience finds the presentation or presenter boring, they’re going to tune out.
Strong presentation skills help center the focus on the message, rather than the messenger. When the presenter masters the art of captivating his audience, they become more receptive to ideas.
The Key Elements of Presentation Skills
Thankfully, presentation skills are something one can develop over time! They’re not inborn traits or hereditary talents. The best way to master the art of presentation is through practice, practice, practice. It’s not always easy, but given enough time, anybody can become a confident and compelling speaker.
There are many elements involved in mastering your presentation skills. These elements serve as a foundation for your presentation material and manner. Getting these basic elements down makes it easier to confidently speak in public about almost anything.
A fundamental grasp of the international language of business will always be a valuable asset. This applies not just with presentations, but with everyday communication as well. In a world made smaller by advances in communication technology, there’s an advantage in learning a universal language. English is the official language in more than 70 countries. In business, English-speaking countries account for 40% of the world’s total Gross National Product. If you work in international business, then, some proficiency in English is almost a must at this point.
Trading products and services is no longer limited to defined borders. The most aggressive companies often look for new markets outside their home country. When doing so, English is a good starting point to initiate communication.
Total mastery of English, especially for non-native speakers, can be a formidable task. It is a complicated language! But basic proficiency in both written and oral English is a good start. Like other presentation skills, learning a new language can be uncomfortable and requires a lot of practice. But the results are worth it.
Whether you like it or not, presenting involves public speaking. For many people, that’s a deal-breaker. According to Verywell Mind, around 77% of the population would rather not be the center of attention when discussing a topic. The fear of public speaking even has its own word: glossophobia.
However, public speaking is also a skill that one can develop over time. Strong speaking skills entail more than just learning what to say and how to do so with confidence. Good public speakers also know when to stop and listen to the audience. This is more than listening and answering questions. You must also read your audience to see if they’re bored, disinterested, or disengaged and gather insights from their reactions. This type of conversational marketing can help companies understand markets better, improve products and enhance sales and marketing strategies.
Written communication goes hand in hand with public speaking. While many seasoned public speakers can talk extemporaneously, they usually start out their careers dependent on written scripts.
Beyond writing speeches, though, excellent written communication is another asset valued by management in the workplace. Often, there’s not enough time to go over every issue or concern in a meeting. In many cases, managers would rather their staff just submit written reports. Of course, a well-written report conveys its message clearer and faster than a poorly-written one. Guess which will get a more favorable response from management?
Note that excellent writing skills do not necessarily mean a long, detailed report. In many cases, a few simple, straight-to-the-point paragraphs deliver the point more clearly than convoluted, multi-page documents. C-suite executives often only have minutes to spare to address an issue. A short but complete rundown of an issue saves their time; they’ll ask questions if they want more detailed information.
A Creative and Innovative Mind
A creative and innovative mindset can spell the difference between your company’s ideas and the competition’s. Otherwise, you risk having the audience assume that you have nothing better to offer.
In addition, creativity helps employees come up with workarounds to issues. When rival companies present their products as cheaper than yours, a creatively-developed presentation can point out that premium products often come with premium price tags. You can now remind customers that the added value they get with your products is worth far more than the additional cost.
Non-Verbal Communication Proficiency
Reading non-verbal cues is another important part of developing strong presentation skills. The ability to read the room is critical in determining whether your presentation is actually connecting with the audience. Otherwise, you risk wasting everybody’s time, including yours.
Knowing how to interpret body language, facial expressions and posture can give a more accurate assessment of your audience’s sentiment. When bored, people tend to look away from your presentation. A more relaxed posture might also mean that they’re not paying attention to what you’re saying. This is already a signal to either pick up the pace or shift to a more interesting topic. Don’t wait for the ultimate nonverbal cue to happen: people sleeping, or even some audience members walking out.
When presenting, it also helps to pay attention to your own nonverbal body language. Do you project a confident aura by standing straight and making eye contact with the audience? Do you speak in a loud but even voice that’s neither too slow nor too fast? Are you sweeping the room every now and again to gather feedback from the crowd, and responding accordingly?
Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. Your presentation should also have one of each—preferably in that order. An organized presentation leads to an organized delivery. It helps you prevent straying from the topic too much—and we know that the longer a presentation, the greater the chances of a crowd losing interest. An organized presentation is also easier for the audience to follow. And if you know your organized presentation by heart, it becomes less stressful to deliver!
Even during the presentation’s development phase, it pays to keep everything organized. Writing an outline to assemble your presentation is a great start. This ensures that ideas are presented in a logical, orderly fashion, and you’ll have an easier time sticking to the script. At the same time, having a structure also makes it easier to break out when needed—say, to make a timely ad-lib when the audience starts feeling restless.
The most effective presentations don’t rely on a speaker’s public speaking talents alone. Visual aids give the audience something to focus on while you’re expounding upon a topic. They help explain ideas and concepts, which in turn helps you get your message across better. For example, showing graphs and tables when discussing statistics helps the audience relate to the numbers being discussed. Presenting infographics instead of tables gives the crowd an even more relatable way to appreciate the concept.
Developing presentation materials requires a working knowledge of presentation software. How the presenter uses design elements can also make or break the presentation. Making a word-for-word slideshow of your speech is not only repetitive, but also insulting to your audience. If you’re going to do that, you might as well give the audience a printed pamphlet instead of going on stage.
Of course, software proficiency can extend beyond just the presentation at hand. Collaborating on ideas becomes much easier with a cloud-based software at your fingertips. Coworkers can share ideas online, comment on drafts and develop separate sections of the same document. In the age of instant communication technology, office software increases productivity and improves collaboration efforts.
The Importance of Presentation Skills to Workplace Success
Presentation skills aren’t necessarily exclusive to pitching to a client or seeking approval for a proposal to a boss. Employees often present reports or updates to their teams. In these cases, they will also need to utilize their presentation skills to clearly get their message across. These valuable talents can be applied to other tasks in the office. Once word gets around that a certain employee can deliver on a great presentation, you can be sure that management will come knocking about career advancement opportunities.
Studies Have Proven The Importance of Presentation Skills
Job competence is a basic requirement during the hiring process. Companies enlist workers based on their ability to perform the tasks listed in the job description. During the course of employment, it’s then up to the worker to present their contributions to the company. Project status updates, completion reports and evaluations are often a manager’s resource in determining an employee’s performance at work. It stands to reason then that workers with enhanced presentation skills can present themselves in a better light than their meeker counterparts. In doing so, they enhance their standing and bring attention to their personal brand.
Presentation Skills Lower Your Stress Levels
Effective presenters experience less stress when getting their point across. This works in a number of ways. First, confident speakers who know their material inside and out are less likely to panic in front of an audience. A random question won’t shake their confidence, as they have all their data ready to give a meaningful response.
More importantly, effective presentation skills eliminate the chances of miscommunication. Dealing with inaccurate or misleading information is often the biggest cause of stress in the office. A well-prepared speaker who regularly reviews material before presenting greatly reduces the chances for error.
Presentation Skills Improve Other Essential Career Skills
Effective communication isn’t only useful for presentation time. Mastering this skill often unlocks other skills that are similarly valued at work—for example, time management. Mastering the art of preparing for a presentation means formulating an accurate idea of how long the presentation takes and making sure the actual presentation runs as scheduled or ends earlier. Coworkers and clients both appreciate presenters who value their time.
Another skill that comes from delivering effective presentations is enhanced listening. While good presenters are great talkers, truly great presenters also make wonderful listeners. They actively seek feedback from the audience and can incorporate inputs on the fly. This skill translates very well into the office setting. Many conflicts can usually be resolved when both sides take time to listen and consider the other’s viewpoint. When listening skills are enhanced, empathy isn’t too far behind.
Finally, presentation skills develop a person’s self-confidence immensely. It takes great effort to master a fear of public speaking. Presentation skills help overcome that fear and ultimately help overcome other work-related fears such as speaking to superiors or to clients without going overboard. Higher ranking executives and clients respond better to salespeople who speak with confidence, which indicates they know what they’re talking about.
Presentation Skills Boost Leadership Qualities
Effective presentation skills are one of the hallmarks of a strong leader. Even if officers have superior work knowledge and competency, they can fail at their job if they cannot communicate directives clearly. Leaders who have trouble articulating their vision will often have to deal with confused staff members afterward. The ensuing confusion and additional explanations can eat up a lot of valuable time and resources. This is why leaders often need to set an example by being effective presenters.
Effective presentation skills also come in handy when leaders need to step in if their employee stumbles during a presentation or fails to show up. Saving the day is just one of the many responsibilities that come with being in charge. In addition, higher management often requires middle management, not the rank-and-file staff, to present their department’s proposals.
Presentation Skills Improve Client Acquisition and Retention
When it comes to sales, companies often direct their most important or most difficult clients to their star performers. These top sales executives possess excellent presentation skills, including the ability to anticipate what each specific client needs. This means that they can accommodate client demands to, say, condense a presentation into five minutes, instead of the originally allotted time. The best salespeople know the presentation inside and out—so boiling it down to a condensed version shouldn’t be a problem.
In addition, the company’s best salespeople are also well-versed in reading the client and the room for nonverbal cues. A simple change in the client’s facial expression or a quick glance at the watch can spur them into shifting the presentation’s tone or pace. In short: not only do they know the presentation by heart, but they also know what it takes to get the client’s undivided attention and approval. This is the direct result of mastering presentation skills.
Boost Your Presentation Skills With The Right Software
Even the most effective presentation skills won’t amount to much without robust and complementary presentation software. Without an equally effective display by your side, you'll soon find your audience drifting and looking for something to focus their eyes on. They may also have a harder time grasping some of your presentation concepts, especially when dealing with figures or statistics.
Features The Ideal Presentation Software Should Have
The ideal presentation software should support your ideas, not the other way around. It should contain interactive features that allow for creativity and flexibility when developing presentations. This means providing room for slides to display additional details and seamlessly play embedded videos when clients ask for more info, without diverting from structure too much. In short, the presentation software gives life to the ideas being presented. It’s not just a static collection of images and text to provide a redundant backdrop.
Your presentation software should also have superior sharing options, so that you can collaborate on your presentations with your teammates. Together, you can build the presentation and check each and every section to ensure that they flow as planned. Once everything is in order, you should have no problems sending finished versions to your client for approval.
Apart from the ability to easily create engaging presentations, the ideal presentation software should also help identify which parts of your presentation managed to make an impact with your audience, and which parts lost their interest. This means your software should build in analytics capabilities that measure how much time clients spend on each page of your presentation.
Ingage Is The Perfect Software To Enhance Your Presentation Skills
Let Ingage complement your presentation skills by enhancing and supporting your ideas. Ingage provides an intuitive interface to help you create presentations that enhance your ideas and deliver your across completely and clearly. The cloud-based approach allows you to instantly share drafts with co-workers, so you can collaborate on finalizing presentations anytime and anywhere. Once you send copies to your clients, Ingage’s rich analytics feature provides insights on which pages clients find compelling and which ones failed to make an impression. This allows you to continually refine your presentations in order to satisfy even the most particular prospects.
Learn more about how Ingage can change the way your presentations bolster your sales team’s skills. Sign up for a free demo and change your presentation game today!