Improving Presentation Skills

Doing presentations is part of a psychology student's life, and will always be something you will do, as long as you are in a psychological-related field. The people who give the most presentations (other than students) are probably academics and consultants.

As you go along your psychology studies, the skill of doing presentations is not something that most lecturers will teach you; it is something that comes with practice, where you will hone your skills as you do more of it. The worst kind of presentation where one is just reading from the slides, and getting more boring as the time passes, and I know you DO NOT want to be that person. Here's some tips where you may use to improve your presentation skills: (This list is not ranked in any order)

1. Make sure you know your material well - Know what you are talking about!! You are the one presenting it, so make sure you have done your preparation in collecting and reading all the related materials. This can be tested very easily during the Question&Answer session, as flaws will surface when you are being asked a tricky question regarding your topic and you do not know the answer.

2. Take a deep breath (or a couple) before you start - Relax!! Being too tensed will affect how you present, so make sure you have calmed yourself before you step up. This is one of main issues people tend to have. So make sure you take a deep breath, suck on a sweet, or do whatever it takes  to calm yourself down as fast as possible.

3. Know who your audience are - This may not be the most important issue, but it helps to know. This may affect what you wear, how the slides are arranged and written, and even your body language during the presentation. It is very different giving a presentation to a group of students, as compared to giving the same presentation in front of a group of international confederates.

4. Create rapport - Connect with your audience!! If you can win the audience over in the first minute, you will keep them for the remainder. If you lose them from the start, you have lost them forever. You should plan exactly how you wish to appear to them and establish that relationship from the beginning. You may be presenting yourself as an expert, perhaps even as their friend, but whatever role you choose you must establish it at the very beginning.

5. Eye contact - Stay connected!! During a presentation you should use this to enhance your rapport with the audience by establishing eye contact with each and every member of the audience as often as possible. For small groups this is very possible, but it can also be achieved in large auditoriums. The further the audience is away from you (the presenter), the harder it is for them to tell precisely where you is looking, thus by simply staring at a group of people at the back of a lecture theatre it is possible to convince each of them individually that he or she is the object of your attention. During presentations, try to hold your gaze fixed in specific directions for five or six seconds at a time. Shortly after each change in position, a slight smile will convince each person in that direction that you have seen and acknowledged them.

6. Controlling your voice - Your voice is your tool!! Basic rule is to take your time. But that does not mean that you can be slow. A safe style is to be louder and a little slower than normal conversation. Make sure you are not speaking in a monotonous manner! You have experienced that style from others before, so what do you think of it? Try to vary the pitch and speed of your presentation. Pause when you need to at each new sub-section, and change your tone to emphasise important parts.

7. Practice, Practice, Practice.. - Rehearse, but don't become a robot!! You can practice, but too much memorizing can make you sound mechanical and over-rehearsed. Just relax and try to be yourself. No one is perfect, so there is no need to be so polished. Being too polished may seem fake and affect your rapport building with your audience. But still, all your information must be covered well and in detail.

8. Presentation Slides - The slides are the other medium to your audience, other than you. So make sure your slides are well-done!! Have a clear objective in your slides. Make sure there is structure and is well-organised. Keep it short and simple, yet interesting and interactive. If certain information/slides/sections are not needed, you do not need it. Do not have chunks and chunks of words; rather have short phrases of the most important information. One of the good methods would be to have your friends/colleagues look through the slides and ask for their comments. You never know what you may get that can add to your presentation!

Hope you use these tips effectively and improve your presentation skills!