Beat the Fear and Build Presentation Skills

Presentation Skills

Presentation skills aren’t something that you’re born with. They are something that you can learn. Even that elusive quality called charisma can be nurtured and developed.

After all, Barack Obama didn’t begin life making flowing speeches and Winston Churchill started out with a voice impediment. So there is hope for each and every one of us.

Increasingly, presenting is something which we all have to tackle as part of our working lives. Whether it is direct presenting to a room full of expectant people, or remote presenting to a far off business partner via Skype or WebEx, or even one to one presenting at a job interview or sales pitch – presenting is a fact of modern life. So we really do need to learn to like it and build relevant presentation skills.

But the good news is presenting can be something you genuinely enjoy!  And, as we all know, if you enjoy something it usually makes you better at it which, in turn, shapes the experience of your audience.

Surprisingly, many of the techniques and ideas that a skilful presenter uses are nothing more than basic acting tricks – anyone can employ them regardless of how experienced or confident you are.

5 Ways You Can Build Strong Presentation Skills

You can learn a great deal by working with a trainer or coach, but, as that’s not always possible, here are a few presentation skills tips designed to help you deal with some common concerns and get you feeling confident.

1. Own the Space

When a superstar enters, they own the room. If you arrive early get into the presentation room before your audience. Walk from front to back, walk round the edges. Have a look at the stage from the audience point of view. Make it yours.

If you’re late and the crowd are waiting, do the same thing but with your eyes. Scan the presentation room; take in the details before you begin. Even if you feel nervous, you’ll start to make the space your own.

2. Don’t Hold Your Breath

Simple as that really. When you are anxious, your breathing becomes shallower; this affects your voice and drains the confidence from your presenting. Place your hand on your tummy button and breathe down deep.

If it’s mid presentation, take a drink, give the audience a question to discuss, and send your breath down low. Steady your ship.

3. Relax Your Feet

Another rapid fire remedy. The panic is rising, your voice is shaking and your hands are trembling. Stand still and relax your feet. Let go a little. Your feet are your foundation, let them take the weight. Trust us; it’ll make you feel better in a moment of panic.

4.  Softly, Softly

No one likes being glared at. So win you audience by making soft, gentle eye contact with them all. Think ‘scan the room’, not ‘stare them down’. You’ll make new friends that way.

5. You’re Never Alone

Presenting is a two way communication. You don’t need to feel alone up there. Ask the audience a question to kick off, make it conversational, allow them to contribute and be happy not to know every answer.

Helpful Habits Set You Free

By using a few of these tips your presentations will rest on a surer footing and you will be well on the way to developing excellent presentation skills.

Of course the key to performance success is practise – it may not make perfect but it certainly makes you feel more in control.

As with all skills and tips the only way to truly integrate them into your working life is to allow them to become subconscious habits. Habits are very powerful things, and we all stack up our fair share of ‘bad habits’, or at least unhelpful ones.

The ideas in this article may seem very simple – they are very simple – however, if you can use them and practise them enough so that they become deep rooted, helpful habits you’ll have a firm foundation upon which to build your future presentations and performances.

In fact, these practical tips constitute that mysterious and hard to define skill known as performance technique – the kind of thing which makes audience members say,

“Wow! I really felt as if his presentation was just for me.”


“She made a real connection with me; she spoke straight to me.”

Most of us have experienced truly powerful public speaking, where the room is left buzzing with energy and ideas by the speaker, where a sense of real connection between the audience and the person at the podium has been created.

To create this buzz you’ve got to have two essential attributes.

Firstly, you have to have something meaningful and relevant to say, something which will have an impact on the audience and resonate in their lives.

Secondly, you have to be able to connect with the crowd, you have to be able to open up to them and let them see into your heart and sense a little bit of your vulnerability.

Using the few ideas in this article will set you up to make the right impact and create a lively connection with your audience. This is the first step on the path to becoming an expert presenter with strong presentation skills. Enjoy!

Photo by o5com.

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David Windle is Director of Opposite Leg Creative Training and Development, one of London's leading communication and presentation skills training companies. Opposite Leg has delivered soft skills training to over 1000 employees from business, charity and public sector organisations specialising in performance and communication skills.


  1. Kayleb Holden on the 23rd May

    Great post David and I think the tips you gave are fundamental but useful. It is a successful presentation when you manage to engage with the audience and really peak their interest. I think nerves is the biggest hindrance but as you said, they tend to subside with practice. You just have to seem like you aren’t nervous even if you are and as you get into the rhythm it changes. Do you think there is some weight on the platform used to present with? PowerPoint is arguably the most popular and easily accessible but it does mean that a lot of people read off their slides or pack them with too much information. Do you think that using interactive presentation software could make a difference? Maybe it wouldn’t be so overwhelming.

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