Boost Your Impact: 17 Ways to Improve Your Presentation Skills

How can you deliver a compelling presentation?

The ability to communicate effectively is a crucial part of most jobs.

Yet, when asked to deliver a presentation - whether to a small group of colleagues or a large room of potential customers - nerves kick in, thinking becomes muddled, and our communication skills start to crumble.

So, how can you overcome these problems and deliver presentations that engage and captivate your audience?

Why presentation skills matter

No matter how we feel about presenting, we will all need to do it at some point.

Even reluctant public speakers will have to present several times throughout their careers.

We all need good presentation skills to share our knowledge and ideas, convince colleagues of change and compel customers of a product or project.

A rousing presentation motivates, persuades, influences and raises your profile.

So, how can you improve your presentation skills?

Here are some areas we think you should focus on with expert advice from our presentation skills training courses.


How do I improve my presentation skills?


1 Overcome imposter syndrome and stage fright

Imposter syndrome is debilitating and can impact speaking skills and the ability to deliver an effective presentation.

And whether you are a top executive, an experienced subject matter expert or someone new to presenting, it is something we can all suffer from.

It's the fear we are about to be exposed, are inadequate and not the expert.

It's that sudden 'I don't know what I'm talking about' fear and the feeling those in the audience must know more than you.

How can you overcome it and transform nervous energy and negative thoughts?

A good starting place is to remember the audience wants you to succeed. They are on your side. They want you to deliver a good presentation. No one will be sitting there thinking, 'I really hope this presenter fails'.

They expect you to be a little nervous.

Good preparation is crucial and boosts confidence.

It is also crucial to remove the negativity by reframing your thoughts about the presentation.

When you catch yourself thinking you are the wrong person to present this information or people will not learn anything from hearing you speak, reframe it as a brilliant opportunity to share your ideas.

Instead of thinking you won't be taken seriously, think about the success you have achieved to get to this point where you are being asked to share your expertise.

And before you take to the stage, remember to take some deep breaths - it will help to calm you down and keep a lid on your nervous energy.


2 Know your audience

To make an impact on your audience, you need to know who they are.

Who will you be speaking to? Who will be in the room?

As part of your presentation preparation, think about who is attending, what they care about, how familiar they will be with the topic and what questions they might have.

Then, you can tailor your content to create a more engaging presentation.


3 Plan your delivery

How are you going to deliver your big presentation?

It can be easy to fall back on reading your presentation, whether that's from your notes or a teleprompter, particularly if the nerves begin to grip.

Many presenters also base their preparation on building a deck of slides and visual aids they read aloud and end up subjecting their audience to death by bullet points.

Neither approach allows for your personality to come through as you speak.

People are drawn to speakers who sound impromptu and create a natural conversational tone, rather than those who seem like they are talking through a presentation or speech that feels rehearsed, scripted and memorised.


4 Be yourself

It is much better to be yourself than to try and emulate someone regarded as being excellent at public speaking.

Sure, there are things you can learn from how other people present to help improve your presentation skills.

But people will see through you if you try to mimic someone else's speaking style in your own presentation.

And if they think you are not being authentic, you will not build connections with the audience.


5 Tell stories

People love stories about people.

So, tell them your one when you are presenting.

Personal anecdotes, stories and examples are a vital way of keeping your audience engaged.

They help capture the audience’s attention and make messages memorable.

And they add credibility and stimulate emotions.

Crucially, they also help the audience see the human side of the person talking to them.

And they begin to build a bond.


6 Don't include too much

Trying to cram too much information into a presentation is a common error.

We can probably all remember listening to a speaker and feeling overwhelmed by the quantity of content they want to get across.

You can have too many main points. Your audience is unlikely to have a photographic memory or total recall.

Studies have shown that a week after a presentation, the audience will have remembered just 10 per cent. Others have shown people recall just 3 per cent of presentation content.

That's a lot of material going in one ear and straight out the other.

So, instead of cramming your next presentation with loads of information, concentrate on the key message you want to get across.

What do you want those in the room to focus on from what you have said?

What do you want them to do as a result? How do you want them to feel?


7 Pause for thought

Pauses in public speaking are great.

They build anticipation, grab attention, provide a dramatic impact and add emphasis to a message.

It also gives people time to consider your main points.

American writer Mark Twain once said: “The pause - that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words, howsoever felicitous, could accomplish it.”

So, isn't it time to add pauses the next time you are presenting?


8 Bring the passion

Show your audience you care.

Bringing passion to your presentation shows enthusiasm for your subject and suggests you believe what you are speaking about.

Without passion, a presentation can feel sedate, dull and unmotivating.

But for success, it needs to feel authentic. It will annoy the audience if the passion and enthusiasm appear forced.


9 Confident body language

There's plenty to cover on body language, which we explored in much more detail in this recent blog.

But it is critical to remember your audience can learn a lot from your body language, and it will impact how they perceive you.

The best way to improve body language is through presentation skills training.

But there are a few things you can do in the meantime.

You must maintain eye contact. Poor eye contact and wandering eyes can make you look shifty and uncomfortable.

Your posture also offers nonverbal cues about how you feel. Slouching, for example, will make you look disinterested. And the wide power stances often adopted by politicians look forced and unnatural.

Fiddling with jewellery, playing with pens (or coins in your pocket), adjusting clothing, clearing your throat and stroking hair and beards are other signs of nervousness and can take the focus away from what you say.


10 Watch the experts

A great way to improve presentation skills is to watch experts.

There are many sources you can use, including TED Talks and YouTube.

Do they have confident body language? Have they grabbed the audience's attention?

How do they answer questions? Maybe they use a little humour throughout the presentation to engage people.

Take notes on what they do well, what you like and what you think they could do better.

And use those ideas to shape your presentation performance.

Even simply attending other presentations will give you ideas.


11 Make it easy to follow

A presentation that doesn’t flow properly will ensure your audience members feel lost.

When that happens, they switch off.

So, a solid presentation structure is crucial.


12 Manage your time

Take the time needed to properly prepare your presentation.

And avoid any last-minute rushes - you will feel much more confident.

You must also manage your time during the presentation.

The audience gets restless when they realise a presentation is overrunning.

And they are likely to feel short-changed if you finish early.


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13 Ask questions

When it comes to questions in presentations, most people focus on the challenging ones they could be asked and navigating question and answer sessions.

But what about asking your audience questions?

It can help you engage them, show you want to listen to what they have to say and create a connection.

And it gives you time to gather your thoughts.

If you are presenting to a small group, you could ask questions directly.

For a bigger audience, you could pose them through clever digital tools like Mentimeter.


14 Perfection?

It can be easy to think your presentation should be perfect.

But that's not a realistic ambition.

During our presentation skills training courses, we stress trying to be perfect adds to the pressure.

You will make mistakes. Everyone does.

But most of the time, the audience will not remember them.

Instead of focusing inward, place your attention on trying to build a connection with your audience.


15 Feedback to move forward

Good presentation skills are honed over time.

And receiving feedback can be a vital way of improving and enhancing future presentations, particularly if it gives you specific areas where you could improve.

Feedback can sometimes feel uncomfortable.

So, you must avoid being defensive or taking any criticism personally.

You can gather feedback through surveys and feedback forms. And if there are people in the audience you know, you could ask them after your talk.

You can also gain feedback during the presentation.

If your audience shows little animation or facial expression, it may suggest boredom and indifference, and that part of your presentation is falling flat.


16 Boost your experience and practice

Delivering better presentations will not happen overnight.

But the more you present, the more you will improve your presentation skills, overcome any nervousness and boost your confidence.

Rather than hoping it isn't you who has to deliver that next presentation, put yourself forward for it.

And similarly, practice, practice, practice.


17 Adapt to virtual presentations?

Well, there is probably a strong argument that we have spent much of the last few years adapting to the needs of a virtual presentation.

And we've included plenty of advice in our presentation skills blogs about camera angles, eye contact, backgrounds and body language.

With many workplaces now using a hybrid working model and face-to-face meetings and conferences returning, it could be time to concentrate on improving in-person presenting skills instead.


Presentation skills training to develop your skills

These tips are just a taste of the advice offered to delegates on our presentation skills training courses.

Our bespoke courses are packed with practice opportunities, designed to help you overcome your worries.

And give you the necessary skills and sense of confidence to talk with clarity and produce relaxed, composed and engaging presentations.



Media First are leading media and communication skills training specialists with more than 35 years of experience.

We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications and leadership coaches, and media trainers. 

Discover more about our presentation skills training.

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Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.

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