The ability to craft and deliver great presentations is skill that you can--and must--build if you hope to stand out in an increasingly competitive workplace. According to Chris Anderson, the guy who runs TED Talks, "Presentation literacy is a new superpower than anyone, young or old, can benefit from."

A winning presentation attracts customers or clients, inspires teams, generates excitement for a company and can dramatically elevate your career.

There are three important elements that are often overlooked when people give presentations. Incorporate these tips into your next presentations to win over your audience.

Tell stories.

In a PowerPoint presentation, storytelling is the vehicle to transfer your ideas and emotions to an audience. Text and bullet points on a slide don't inspire anyone; stories do.

Neuroscientists like Paul Zak are studying storytelling in the lab. Zak is a public speaker, author and the founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies. He believes that stories are essential. "A compelling story with an emotional trigger alters our brain chemistry, making us more open, trusting, understanding and open to ideas," says Zak.

I've worked side-by-side with professional presentation designers who create major keynotes for famous CEOs. The designers don't start by opening the presentation. Instead, they begin by storyboarding--sketching scenes on a whiteboard or an iPad. They're like movie directors who visualize the entire narrative before they pick up a film camera.

Remember, the story comes before the slides. Slides simply complement the story and act as a visual backdrop.

Use hand gestures.

For one of my first books on communication skills, I interviewed University of Chicago professor, Dr. David McNeill, who specialized in speech and gestures. "Gestures are an integral part of language--just as words, phrases and sentences," McNeill told me.

When speakers ask me what to do with their hands, I say: Use them!

Many communicators keep their hands glued stiffly by their sides or their hands awkwardly clasped together for much of the presentation. Hands are like a cat's tail--it seems to have a life of its own. Don't over-think it. If you're passionate and excited about a topic, let your hands loose. They'll do what comes naturally to them. It's actually unnatural to keep your hands still.

McNeill says that gestures give the audience confidence in the speaker because complex thinkers use complex gestures as a "window to their thought process." The simplest fix for a "stiff" presentation is simply to pull your hands out of your pockets--and to use them.

Animate your vocal delivery.

In newly published research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger found that speakers who alternate the pitch and volume of their voices are considered more confident and persuasive.

Scholars call it 'paralinguistic persuasion.' Simply put, if you raise and lower the volume of your voice and alternate between a high pitch and low pitch, your presentation will be more influential, persuasive and commanding.

Don't underestimate the power of a great presentation. The ability to sell yourself and your ideas is more important than ever. If you can craft a good story and deliver it effectively, you'll stand out among a sea of business professionals striving to be heard.  

Published on: Dec 13, 2019
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