The prospect of giving a presentation to an audience fills most of us with a degree of trepidation. The fear may never entirely go away no matter how many presentations you give, but there are ways to improve your presentation skills and leave your audience impressed.

The starting point for improving confidence is in your preparation for the presentation. Central to the process is deciding on the format and structure you intend to use. Decide on what you want to achieve and the points you want to get across. Prepare an introduction, the body of your address and your conclusions. Ensure that everything is included and then check how long your delivery will take. Also prepare any handouts or documents you may wish to give the audience.

How to do a presentation.

There is a good deal of technology available to support your speech, but don’t allow gadgets and technology to take over. Avoid using too many eye-catching graphics or over-using sound effects as these can distract your audience. Above all, make sure that you know how to operate the equipment you plan to use and, before giving the presentation, check that it is functioning properly - technology can be your friend but it can also turn your presentation into a disaster.

With the basics done, you must rehearse even if you are entirely familiar with your subject. Rehearsal will set the key points in your mind and help coordinate the integration of your technical components of your presentation. Familiarity with your content does not mean that you should memorise you material. Speaking from memory will give flow to your address, but if you forget something, trying to get back on track could have disastrous results.

You should now be fully prepared to face your audience. On stage, you should first welcome them. Explain exactly the objectives of your address and how it will be structured. Try to relax and set your audience at ease. If you still feel very nervous, one technique is to imagine that your audience is sitting there naked. This will relax your mood and will make you feel less intimidated.

What makes a good presentation?

Engaging the audience is vital. You cannot do this by hiding behind your notes. You must look up and glance around the room regularly. This will help you gauge how your presentation is being received and observe if there are signs of boredom or confusion, so giving you the opportunity to adapt if necessary. Making occasional eye contact with members of the audience is also sound practice as makes them feel that they are important.

Public speaking skills.

As you speak you must get across your passion for your subject. Enthusiasm is infectious. Also, it does no harm to inject a little humour now and then, provided you are careful not to cause offence. A controlled degree of animation similarly enlivens an address and can help you disguise your nerves; in natural conversation you do not stay still – by moving you will appear more natural.

With your address successfully completed, you should have time to invite questions. If any questions leave you stumped or require a very long answer, be honest with the enquirer but agree to get back to them later – and make sure that you do. All that then remains is to thank your audience for attending and to distribute any handouts you want them to take away, and to ensure that they have some means of contacting you in the future.