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Effective communication in the workplace
Effective communication in the workplace

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4.1 Presentation skills

If the thought of delivering a presentation fills you with dread, you are not alone. Being prepared and learning to manage your nerves can help make the experience less stressful. Below are some pointers to help you.

  1. Know your audience.

    Consider who you will be delivering your presentation to. How much do they know already? Think about the types of questions that they might have – try to prepare for these in advance.

  2. Know your material.

    If you know very little about the subject, this will add to your anxiety. Spend time researching and thinking about the information you wish to share. Remember, this information has to be engaging and you simply cannot present everything you know. By sticking to the key points, you will ensure that you do not bore your audience. Consider other ways to engage, perhaps by asking the audience a question.

  3. Structure the presentation.

    Create an order for your information and stick to it. Minimise nerves by using cue cards, notes or slides. A word of warning – memorising everything that you intend to say may result in a robotic and/or monotone delivery.

  4. Practice.

    Once you have devised your structure and written your notes/cue cards or slides, you should run through the presentation. Ensure that you are speaking clearly and slower than your usual pace. This will also help you to assess your timings.

  5. Final preparations.

    If the presentation is in your place of work, try to practice delivering in the room before the real thing, or at the very least familiarise yourself with the space. This too can help settle nerves.

  6. Manage your nerves.
    • Walk around during the presentation. This helps to use up some of the nervous energy that you have.
    • Take deep breaths throughout (see Week 3, Activity 4).
    • Have a drink of water close to hand. All the talking could give you a dry mouth (which will not help your nerves).
    • Remember to smile, which will help you and others to relax.

Finally, remember that the presentation involves an audience, so try to stop thinking about how you are feeling and focus on keeping them engaged, avoiding the situation in Figure 5 and aiming for Figure 6!

A photograph of people around a meeting table. All the participants are asleep.
Figure 5 A negative meeting.
An image of a positive meeting, with everyone looking engaged.
Figure 6 A positive meeting.

Even if your role doesn’t require you to deliver formal presentations, you will often be presenting to colleagues informally, for example in meetings, and the same rules apply, i.e. know your audience, know your material and aim to structure what you say.

Increasingly, employers require job applicants to deliver presentations, mostly because they wish to observe the candidate’s communication skills and ability to handle pressure. They also be looking for coherent proposals, arguments or ideas.