Last week, while attending the Future of Online Advertising Conference I had a chance to meet some amazing people in addition to see some great presenters. In contrast to most people (I would imagine), I spend my time focusing on how well a presenter presents rather than the content they are providing. Additionally, a great presenter is much more likely to grab my attention, forcing me to actually listen to what they have to say. After seeing some amazing presenters and one pretty bad presenter (who will remain unnamed), I decided to put together a short list of important presentation skills.

  1. Don’t stay behind the podium - This one is key. When you go up on stage and have an entire stage to present, you should walk around and engage the audience. Standing in one place does not help at all. Look like you are having fun even if you aren’t. Moving around will also help to make you feel a little more comfortable up on stage.
  2. Don’t read from notes - I thought everyone was taught this in college but apparently not. One of the speakers at the conference read directly from their own notes. If you are going to present come prepared. If you forget a part, just glance up at your presentation to remind yourself of where you are.
  3. Start with a bang - If you walk up on stage and just start talking, your audience will fade fast. Walk up and try to connect. This one can be truly difficult and understandably so. If you at least make a solid effort, it shows that you are trying to connect. If you use a joke as an introduction and it fails, say so and poke fun at yourself. This is always a good technique to get the audience listening.
  4. Use humor - Humor is the best way to captivate an audience. I saw someone present at a past presentation and he livened the audience. It had nothing to do with the content he was explaining, it had much more to do with his ability to entertain the audience. When you are making a presentation, you are a performer, so get up there and have fun.
  5. Speak passionately - Some people aren’t interested in what they are talking about, and it shows. Don’t be one of those people. Be passionate when you are speaking. If you aren’t really passionate about it then it is time to act and pretend like you are!

While this is by no mean an exhaustive list, it is a few of the key characteristics that are exemplified by successful presenters. Bottom line, engage your audience and look like you are having fun. If you aren’t having fun on stage, your audience won’t have a fun time listening to you.