Making a presentation doesn't have to be scary; take time to connect with your audience.

Presentation Skills 101

Leadership Communication

Whether you’re presenting to four acquaintances or a stadium of strangers, you can gain confidence in your presentation skills with a few easy tips.

Learning and perfecting presentation skills may not have been part of your job training, but if you’re moving forward in your career, you may be asked to present to management or groups of employees. Public speaking is said to be one of the most common fears, but making presentations doesn’t have to be scary. With a little self-coaching and lots of preparation, making powerful presentations can become second nature and an additional sought-after attribute in your career path.

Start becoming more comfortable in front of an audience by working on these presentation skills:

Develop Content Carefully

It’s easy to go overboard when you’re passionate about a topic, but in a single presentation, you simply can’t tell your audience everything you know — or everything they need to know. You have to make choices about what to include or your important points will be lost in all the content. Chris Anderson, curator of the TED Conference, recommended framing your presentation as though you are taking your audience on a journey from one point of knowledge to another. Determine what your audience may already know about the topic and what you want them to know or understand when your presentation is over, then develop examples and stories to illustrate your points to get them from one point to the other.

Prepare Exhaustively

Unless you’re called upon to speak impromptu, there’s no excuse for not being prepared for what you’re going to say. Take the time to write out an outline of the main points you want to communicate, and practice out loud in front of the mirror or to a friend or family member. Spending time rehearsing out loud will help you feel more confident, determine whether your presentation is too long or too short and find out if there are certain words or phrases that seem to trip you up, according to Forbes.

Be the Best Visual in the Room

While it’s often important to provide handouts, slides or other visuals to help your audience keep up with what you’re saying, the best presenters never include all their points on their slides or handouts. “Always say more than you show,” says Laurie Schloff, a speech coach and author of Smart Speaking. If your presentation is simply rehashing everything that’s written on your slides or handout, your audience may tune you out and simply read the visuals. Instead, include main points, graphics or key quotes on your visual aids, and add color, commentary and examples throughout your speech.

Perfect Your Delivery

Not everyone will be a champion orator, but everyone can practice skills to improve their delivery before an audience. Wear clothing that makes you feel comfortable and look professional. Speak slowly enough to be understood, but not so slowly that your audience becomes irritated. Most people can absorb 650 to 700 words per minute, Schloff says, so practice speaking at an appropriate speed. Rather than vocalizing pauses by saying non-words, such as “ah” or “um,” work on taking true pauses when you need them to avoid distracting your audience.

Making presentations doesn’t have to be intimidating. Spend time developing, practicing and perfecting, and you just may wow your audience — and attract additional invitations to present again.

Nancy Mann Jackson
Nancy Mann Jackson

Nancy Mann Jackson writes regularly about finance, the workplace and career issues. Her work has appeared on CNBC.com, CNNMoney.com, Entrepreneur, Glassdoor.com, DailyWorth.com and Fortune.