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Presentation skills are crucial. Michelin-starred chefs and Broadway actors alike know this. And—you need effective presentation skills whether you're preparing for a job interview, company meeting, or promotion to the position of public relations manager.
Wondering how to improve presentation skills? You're in the right place because…
This article will show you:
- 25 ways to improve your presentation skills, public speaking, and speech delivery.
- Presentation skills examples for a resume, cover letter, and job interview.
- Effective presentation skills you need for jobs and creative presentation ideas.
Want to save time and have your resume ready in 5 minutes? Try our resume builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you’ll get ready-made content to add with one click. See 20+ resume templates and create your resume here.
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Here are some other skills guides to help you along:
- Analytical Skills
- Communication Skills
- Conceptual Skills
- Creative Thinking Skills
- Critical Thinking Skills
- Decision Making Skills
- Interpersonal Skills
- Language Skills
- Leadership Skills
- The Best Resume Examples for All Jobs
Presentation Skills — Definition & List of Main Presentation Types
First of all, what are presentation skills?
Presentation skills are the abilities one needs in order to deliver compelling, engaging, informative, transformative, educational, enlightening, and/or instructive presentations. Central to effective presentation skills are public speaking, tone of voice, body language, creativity, and delivery.
That said, there are several types of presentations:
Main Types of Presentations
- Persuasive Presentations
Persuasive presentations are those given to arouse the audience to make the decision which the presenter hopes for. An example might be a startup founder delivering a presentation to an angel in the hopes of getting investment or a salesperson pitching a product to customers.
- Instructional Presentations
Instructional presentations are those given to guide the audience on a new policy, law, etc. For example, an HR manager might hold an onboarding presentation to instruct new employees on the rules of the company.
- Informative Presentations
Informative presentations give information about a new procedure, benefit, etc. One example might be a company HR presentation where the manager gives information about the new bonus requirements.
- Inspirational Presentations
Inspirational presentations are similar to persuasive presentations, but here the speaker aims to boost morale or increase brand pride, for example. Another example would be the rousing conclusion of a TED Talk speaker as they wrap up their speech.
Here’s a beautiful example of an inspirational presentation about, well, presentations:
And, there are several presentation delivery methods:
Presentation Delivery Methods
- Extemporaneous presentations are those you deliver without any preparation, though you plan it beforehand.
- Memorized presentations are those you learn by heart. Hard to get right, but compelling if it is!
- Manuscript presentations are those you deliver from a pre-written script or notes.
- Impromptu presentations are similar to extemporaneous presentations, but you decide on and deliver them on the spot.
Pro Tip: What’s the difference between a speech and a presentation? A speech is just plain ol’ spoken word read or delivered based on a written draft while a presentation gets creative with interaction, videos, slides, etc.
Skills in general are broken down into soft skills (those you develop throughout life, like communication skills) and hard skills (those you study, such as computer skills). For more on this, check out: Soft Skills vs Hard Skills for a Job: What Employers Look For
2. How to Improve Presentation Skills [25 Steps]
Some people are born entertainers or have an innate eidetic memory (the ability to recall things from memory with great clarity from just a moment of exposure).
The rest of us always have room for growth.
No matter what the situation—
Here are the best ways to improve presentation skills:
1. Prepare Your Presentation in Advance
There are various methods of preparing for a presentation, and they’re all very similar to preparing for a job interview.
Run lines with a mock audience or friend, like actors and actresses auditioning for movie and stage roles. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for an upcoming presentation or speech, especially when you are less experienced.
And, the last part of preparation—always be prepared with answers to follow-up questions once your presentation is over.
2. Practice Your Presentation As Much As Possible
As with anything, practice makes perfect.
Hopefully it doesn’t come down to Gladwell’s “10,000 hour rule,” but practice of some length is always required to hone your presentation skills.
Practice alone. Then, practice with a friend or family member. Then, always use each live presentation opportunity as a practice round for the next presentation.
3. Learn How to Skip Around
Poor presentation skills for most people involve a monotonous, robotic delivery.
And, sure, that isn’t so compelling.
However, what’s equally lackluster is a presenter who is unable to be dynamic and find real-time solutions to questions asked during the presentation. If an interruption or news update mid-presentation throws you off, then you need to practice and learn how to handle them.
Likewise, imagine giving a breaking news update to the public. If an advisor comes up to your podium to whisper in your ear, you have to take this new news into consideration, altering your presentation to fit.
Like improv sketches, knowing how to handle changes is an important part of a performance.
4. Speak Passionately About Your Topic
When you are passionate about the topic of your presentation, the audience senses it. It leaks through your pores and reflects from your eyes.
Show passion. Show enthusiasm. Be slightly crazy—
Or learn how to fake it.
Audience members who feel it on a visceral level, rather than only intellectually, are much more inclined to pay attention and find agreement with you.
And, bonus: they tend to fall asleep less!
5. Tell Stories in Your Presentations
Storytelling is one of the most effective presentation skills.
Crowds love stories. They give great examples of what the presenter is talking about, and they earn that rapt attention which any presenter aims for much more easily.
6. Understand What You Should And Shouldn’t Do
On your first presentation, you’d be forgiven for having a coffee to clear the fog from your mind. If and when it increases any pre-PowerPoint jitters, you know never to drink coffee prior again.
Same goes for the way you breathe, and the food you consume beforehand. You don’t need the added discomfort of a gassy stomach, so know what foods, if any, cause that for you.
On the opposite side, exercise, for most people, is a great way to relieve any built up tension the night prior.
As you practice, practice, practice, you’ll get signals from your environment, audience, and body as to what does and doesn’t work for you.
7. Know Your Audience
This one requires research in advance (remember: prepare!).
Let’s say you were hired to deliver several motivational speeches to various members of a large company. You nail your first presentation delivered to an audience of interns.
Do you give exactly the same performance to the senior-level executives, your next stop?
You wouldn’t, hopefully.
Executives will need to be spoken to in a different language, almost, with different vocabulary. Research your audience to deliver a presentation that speaks directly to them, not some other crowd, even if it was successful before.
8. Film Yourself
Try filming yourself delivering the presentation and playing it back. You can learn a lot just by seeing your own mistakes and working to improve them.
Later, give that same video to a friend and ask for further feedback and criticism. They are likely to spot something you might have missed, because, you know, two heads are better than one and all that.
9. Connect With the Audience’s Emotions & Inspire Action
Connect with the crowd on a gut level. The audience has to feel that what you’re saying is important, actionable, and true.
Here’s what the awesome social motivator, Simon Sinek, has to say:
When we communicate from the outside in, yes, people can understand vast amounts of complicated information like features and benefits and facts and figures. It just doesn't drive behavior. When we can communicate from the inside out, we're talking directly to the part of the brain that controls behavior, and then we allow people to rationalize it with the tangible things we say and do. This is where gut decisions come from.
Be engaging. Be entertaining. This is how you truly speak to the audience. He sums it up like this:
Sometimes you can give somebody all the facts and figures, and they say, ‘I know what all the facts and details say, but it just doesn't feel right.’ Why would we use that verb, it doesn't ‘feel’ right? Because the part of the brain that controls decision-making doesn't control language.
10. Tell Them You’re Nervous
This is one of my favorite presentation tricks, as I get super anxious before any kind of public speech or demonstration.
If you feel nervous, consider starting off by telling the audience such (“Forgive me, please, if my voice is wobbly, I’m a bit nervous…”). The audience is sure to empathize with your situation, and you don’t have to go through the entire presentation with some higher bar of confidence.
11. Use Humor
Add some jokes and humorous comments throughout your presentation. Like storytelling, it connects with the audience on a deeper level, and getting them to laugh helps to earn their attention back if you were losing it.
On top of that, you help cut any tension in the room, which is helpful if you’re nervous or have a fear of public speaking, but also helps to make any proposal or instructional presentation more palatable to the audience.
12. Remove Filler Sounds & Crutch Words
For example, do you, um, give, like, uh, sounds like this?
There’s nothing wrong with these in everyday speech. In linguistics, these are called filler sounds (or crutch words), and it is a common way to allow your brain to catch up with your words.
However, in presentations, these only make you look incompetent. Likewise, find other ways to improve your presentation delivery. Maybe your hand gestures look robotic, your jokes fall flat, or your voice cracks.
A compelling presentation depends on a compelling delivery. Check out this guide from Harvard Business Review for a great write-up on how to stop using so many crutch words.
13. Use the Right Visual Aids & Presentation Media
With some presentations, the medium of delivery is set (aside from the speech element). On a school project, for example, you may be required to use Microsoft PowerPoint.
However, when you have a choice, choose the right visual aid method. Even with PowerPoint, you have to choose between text slides, image slides, and infographic slides.
Not only is there not a single perfect visual aid medium for all presentations, but different sections of one presentation could benefit from a different media format. Maybe a 5-minute video would work great as an intro. Perhaps a set of image slides to wrap things up.
14. Improve Your Confidence
When trying to learn how to improve speaking skills or how to improve public speaking, work on improving your confidence. It’s one of the single most effective ways to boost your delivery, and thus your presentation.
A confident speaker is way more effective at how to give a presentation than one who isn’t, and this is true at job interviews, meetings, and negotiations.
15. Get Psyched
Sometimes the best way to get over those nervous jitters is to get yourself psyched.
Consider workouts, for example. How to get over that lazy feeling and get yourself to the gym? Think of the beach, think about how you’d like to look, play some heavy metal or hip hop.
Likewise, figure out what gets you pumped and excited before entering onstage. Music almost always helps, as does a bit of private dancing in an empty room. Maybe make faces at yourself in a mirror to immediately. Think of the post-show party after your presentation is over.
Invigorating yourself with these common routines is sure to prepare you for any type of presentations—including job interviews!
16. Focus on the Core
A great presenter may have many illustrious stories to help the audience understand the gist of the show.
If you don’t use storytelling correctly, you’re liable to go off on tangents which will lose the audience. More disastrously, it could make you lose your own train of thought.
So, when you’re more of a beginner, focus on your core topic, and don’t stray far from its message. As you get more confident, you’ll be able to step further and further with your storytelling.
An added bonus: your presentation will be short, sweet, and over that much faster.
17. Engage an Audience Member
We’ve talked about connecting with the audience before, but this presentation trick works wonders, too.
Is everyone staring too intently at you and you are starting to get freaked out?
Turn the attention onto someone else for a moment to help you recollect yourself.
Perhaps make a joke about how your partner (“sitting right over there”) just ran three red lights to get you there on time. Or, if you’re on a panel, maybe you could give praise to that academic award your colleague behind you just earned.
Whichever way you do it, all eyes look away, giving you an instance to get your head right.
But be careful and always get permission! You don’t want to embarrass someone or say something not meant to be revealed just so you can have a 15-second reprieve. Always ask in advance.
Breathing is so involuntary and commonplace that you likely wouldn’t consider it to be a potential presentation booster.
However, with the right breathing techniques, you can definitely lower your stress and anxiety, whether it’s on stage or at an interview.
Danny Penman, Ph.D. tells Psychology Today:
Momentary stress causes the body to tense and you begin to breathe a little more shallowly. A shallow breath lowers oxygen levels in the blood, which the brain senses as stress. Breathing then becomes a little faster and shallower. Oxygen levels fall a little more. The heart begins to race. The brain feels a little more stressed. It's a vicious circle.
Snap yourself out of that loop of despair by practicing some breathing exercises.
19. Reappraise Anxiety as Excitement
I used to always be nervous going to work each morning. Around the same time, I would also want to use the restroom.
That needing-to-go feeling always felt associated with nervousness. However, when I told myself that this feeling was just a normal morning urge, rather than anything to do with work—boy did that help!
As a Harvard study theorizes, you can use reappraisal of anxiety to help with presentations, as well:
“Individuals can reappraise anxiety as excitement using minimal strategies such as self-talk (e.g., saying “I am excited” out loud) or simple messages (e.g., “get excited”), which lead them to feel more excited, adopt an opportunity mind-set (as opposed to a threat mind-set), and improve their subsequent performance.”
Now, when I go to work each morning, I’m excited.
20. Use the Toilet
As I stated in my story example above, that need-to-go feeling may become associated in your mind with nervousness.
So, go to the bathroom.
And go even when you don’t have to, just in case your portion of the presentation or the questions afterwards runs longer than expected.
21. Mingle Beforehand
You were probably going to shake hands and chit-chat with audience members after the show’s over, depending on the intimacy and nature of the venue.
Mingle with them beforehand, as well. For those of you who might be afraid of public speaking, chatting face-to-face with members of the crowd turn them from big, scary monsters to people just like yourself.
Even if you’re just generally nervous about public speaking, getting a few smiles and handshakes prior adds a “temporary friend” in the audience for you—sure to put you more at ease than if everyone were complete strangers.
22. Arrive Extra Early
You might have planned to arrive a few minutes early anyway, right?
It’s not enough.
There are likely dozens of things you can’t or won’t account for, from the projector malfunctioning to crazy feedback on the mic to curtains that just won’t recede.
While you don’t have to account for everything that could go wrong, it’s best to give yourself extra time just in case. And, hey, if everything is fine for you, then you just get a few extra minutes to relax yourself and rehearse once more.
One of the best ways to have a relaxed demeanor and attitude right before a presentation is to exercise. Regular exercise is proven to reduce anxiety and stress, too.
Go for a brisk walk for 10–15 minutes, or do a few bicep curls. Like a shot of whisky, it’s sure to take the edge off. It’s just healthier and safer.
However, don’t go too hard—you don’t want your shirt to have visible pools of sweat.
24. Sit In on Other Presentations
Aside from your own public speaking and presentations, what better way to improve your presentations than by watching others?
Don’t just watch anybody, of course.
Find a person or two whose presentation skills you absolutely adore. Whether they’re online or at your local town hall, watch closely and take notes on what makes them such a compelling presenter.
This brings us to the next step—
25. Learn From These TED Talks (Videos)
Watch others and follow the best presentation practices to improve your skills. This means having active listening skills when your audience asks specific questions.
Here are some more presentations on how to give rousing presentations (how meta is that?):
- Giving Presentations Worth Listening To
- TED's secret to great public speaking
- The surprising secret to speaking with confidence
- How to sound smart in your TEDx Talk
- The secret structure of great talks
- The science of stage fright (and how to overcome it)
These TED Talks give some great ideas on improving presentation skills, boosting confidence, and reducing stage fright.
26. Don’t Give Up!
As you continue to present and practice presentation skills training, you’ll get more and more comfortable. Your confidence will increase as your shyness and hesitance withers away.
On top of that, you’ll begin to learn what works for you and what pre-presentation rituals you should avoid.
Finally, you won’t get the practice you need if you don’t continue presenting!
Pro Tip: Toastmasters International is a unique club for members who want to develop presentation skills, confidence in public speaking, and leadership skills. There are thousands of clubs all around the world, and they meet weekly to improve.
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building a professional resume template here for free.
3. How to Show Presentation Skills on a Resume, in Your Cover Letter & During a Job Interview
Since this is Zety, the premier career platform, it’s now time to connect presentation skills with your career.
You have three opportunities to highlight your presentation skills while you’re hunting for jobs: on your resume, in your cover letter, and during a job interview.
We’ll now go through it step-by-step.
How to Show Presentation Skills on a Resume
First and foremost, relevance is key. Always tailor your resume to one specific job opportunity.
Remember that meta tip from before (watching presentations which talk about presentations)?
Resumes get a bit meta, too.
If the job ad mentions presentation skills, not only do you need to list them on your resume, but your resume as a whole is a form of presentation, itself.
This is how to get it right:
1. Presentation Skills on a Resume
These days, more and more companies are using the ATS to assist in the hiring process.
The ATS, or applicant tracking system, is software which aids human resources staff by parsing each resume for the right resume keywords.
Don’t have the right keywords?
Start by bringing out the job description for which you are applying.
Here are several examples from various job listings requiring presentation skills:
- Excellent communication and presentation skills with confidence to serve as the company’s spokesperson.
- Demonstrate excellent presentation skills, including the ability to create presentations and present to all levels of an organization.
- Candidate must possess strong presentation skills including thorough competency of AutoCAD, Photoshop, & SketchUp.
As you can see, different companies need presentation skills in different ways. Specific ones, such as Microsoft Office skills, should be listed when necessary.
You’ve got to list them in a specific way.
To make the ATS happy, stick as closely as possible to the wording the job ad uses when adding it to your skills section.
And, to make it even more effective, quantify your presentation skill by turning it into a numbered professional achievement:
- Developed excellent communication and presentation skills to confidently deliver over 50 public speeches to crowds greater than 150 people.
- Demonstrated excellent presentation skills and presented to all levels of an organization of 500+ employees.
- Built strong presentation skills and competency with AutoCAD, Photoshop, & SketchUp, creating 25+ presentations which were responsible for $500,000 in sales revenue.
Were you a public speaker in the past?
Then you have an even better way to list presentation skills on a resume.
Instead of in the skills section, you’ll create an extra resume section specifically called “Presentations” or “Public Speaking.”
Here’s an example of how to include presentations on a resume:
Presentations & Talks
- 2018-04-01 TED Talk, How to Use the Higgs Boson to Locate an Italian Restaurant. City Hall, New York, NY.
- 2017-09-18 Astrophysics Conference, Taking Advantage of Quantum Dilation to Boil Potatoes. Brandywine Theater, Brooklyn, NY.
Not so hard, right?
This kind of section works great if you’ve given TED talks or been interviewed on a public talk show, for example.
Nothing shows presentation skills better than an actual presentation you’ve given in the past! And it boosts your employability skills even more so.
2. Presentation Skills on a Cover Letter
Just because you talked up your presentation abilities in your resume doesn’t mean you can’t include it on the cover letter, as well.
We always advocate for adding numbered achievements to cover letters, too.
So, include a win or two in the body of your application letter just as you did on your resume.
Here’s an example of presentation skills on a cover letter:
… During my career thus far working as the chief evangelist for Orion Tech, I’ve worked tirelessly on honing my presentation skills to perfection. I am proud to submit to you a few examples of my presentation abilities, including:
- Earned the 2016 Research Presentation Award from the University of Rochester Office of Undergraduate Research.
- Presented at over 15 international conferences, all with more than 5,000 attendees.
As you can see, I have the confidence and experience needed to conduct presentations at all levels …
Here, we used the body of the cover letter to talk up your presentation talents. You gave them a quick intro into your abilities, then fired off a few shots to prove it, and finally summed it all up for them.
Not so hard at all, right?
3. Presentation Skills at an Interview
Lastly, the interview.
The job interview is a make-or-break performance for you, and presentation skills will be needed in spades.
While most of our presentation preparation tips from before are relevant, here is a quick way to ace your interview:
- Prepare for your interview properly. Do mock interviews with family members, calm your nerves, and get plenty of sleep the night before.
- Dress well for your interview. A nice suit or dress definitely helps to boost your confidence before your big meeting.
- Get ready for their questions. What’s an interview without questions? Our guide can help you with answers to more than 65 common interview questions.
- Bring your own questions to ask. A good interviewer will always ask if you have questions for them at an interview. Don’t be unprepared.
- Learn the STAR technique. When answering behavioral interview questions, the STAR method is the best way to structure your reply.
Pro Tip: Presentation skills requested on a job description may not be obvious. Instead of asking for them outright, the job ad might seek someone able to use Powerpoint or Google Slides and is comfortable with public speaking. Make sure you spot this.
After the interview, there’s one more time to present yourself. Check this article out: How to Follow Up After an Interview
Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:
Here’s a quick recap of everything you need to remember about presentation skills:
- Good presentation skills are more than just speaking in public. They are a part of many aspects of life, especially in careers and job seeking.
- Preparation is one of the most important ways to have a successful presentation.
- Memorizing the speech element of a presentation is not as necessary as good speech delivery.
- Knowing your audience is crucial to obtaining your goals for the presentation.
- Always prepare for follow-up questions after your presentation is over.
- On a resume, list your presentation skills in the skills section as closely to the wording of the job ad as possible.
Do you have any questions on how to make a presentation? Need help with creative presentation ideas, ways to present a project, or presentation tools? Give us a shout in the comments below and we will answer your question. Thanks for reading!
Curious about other types of skills you can put on your resume? Check out these guides:
- Management Skills
- Marketing Skills
- Organizational Skills
- Problem Solving Skills
- Project Management Skills
- Skills on a Resume
- Teamwork Skills
- Technical Skills
- Time Management Skills
- Transferable Skills
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This article has been reviewed by our editorial team to make sure it follows Zety's editorial guidelines. We’re committed to sharing our expertise and giving you trustworthy career advice tailored to your needs. High-quality content is what brings over 40 million readers to our site every year. But we don't stop there. Our team conducts original research to understand the job market better, and we pride ourselves on being quoted by top universities and prime media outlets from around the world.