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Honing Your Presentation Skills

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 26 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Networking Event Presentation Audience

At many networking events, making a short presentation is part of the order of business. If you’re one of the presenters, you only have a short time, so you have to make the most of it, and that means your presentation skills have to be razor sharp.

Standing up in front of a room full of people can be an ordeal for some, especially if those people are peers and business contacts. You need to make a good impression, and it has to be made very quickly. Don’t worry too much, there are things you can do to ensure you come over very well.

Prepare Your Presentation

Quite frankly, you’ll do most of your work long before you stand up to speak. The more you prepare, the more confident you’ll be, and the more powerful your presentation will be. Ask yourself a few questions to start: what are you trying to achieve, what are the main points you want to convey, and in what order?

Write out your presentation as if it was a report. Do a draft first, then a more polished version, bearing in mind the time limit for your presentation, which could be just two minutes.

Rehearse it at home. You don’t need to know it word for word like an actor, but you do need to be very familiar with the material. Try it out on colleagues at work and ask for their reaction, then make any changes they suggest if you feel they add to your work. Write out the main points on note cards to serve as reminders, and include key phrases if you feel that helps.

Appearance is important, too. However casual the networking event might seem, you don’t want to show up to give a presentation wearing a tee shirt and jeans. Dress appropriately and make sure you look professional.

Giving the Presentation

You might have an attack of nerves before standing up for your presentation, and you wouldn’t be the first person ever to suffer from stage fright. However, if you know your material very well, once you begin things should flow smoothly.

Don’t be afraid to consult your notes, but don’t read from them. Keep your head up, speak loudly, clearly and concisely. At the end you should sum up briefly, and don’t be afraid to keep mentioning your company’s name – after all, that’s what networking is all about.

Look at your audience, don’t be afraid of them. Use body language, emphasising points with your hands, stance and facial expression. That helps push your points home to the crowd. Stick to the time limit – you won’t win any friends if you ramble on and on. If possible, look as if you’re enjoying yourself up there, try to be as natural as possible, as if you were talking to a friend – it really does make a difference.

Improving Presentation Skills

After the first time it can become a lot easier to give your presentation. Think about what you’ve said and ask yourself how it could be better. Write down what you’d do differently and practice it, since you’ll inevitably have the chance to do it again at other networking events. Don’t ever become slick, but understand that you’re really selling yourself and your company – so make it count!

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