A Simple Way to Improve Your Presentations

August 2022
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One of the great discoveries of the virtual era has been the “hide self-view” function, which spares us the unsettling experience of seeing our own image staring back at us on video.

But while that may well reduce Zoom fatigue, seeing ourselves as others see us is one of the best ways to improve our presentation skills. 

As we return to in-person presenting, now is the time to watch yourself on video. And not just on Zoom or Teams — those give you a limited picture of your skills. 

The best way is to record an actual presentation in front of an in-person audience. It doesn’t have to be technically fancy. You can hand your phone to a colleague or bribe a stranger with a Starbucks card. 

Short of that, a home or office recording of yourself standing and delivering a mock presentation will do. 

Understand the hard part.

Getting the video is the easy part. The hard part for many people is summoning the strength to watch it. If that’s you, then here’s some advice.

First, the aversion you feel is your ego talking. Try to suppress concerns about how you look and sound and remind yourself that presentations are not about us, but about the audience. The whole point is to deliver important information that will help them grow and improve.

Second, as I tell people in my presentation workshops, video is a flat medium, literally and figuratively. You’re only seeing two dimensions — there isn’t any depth or view of the audience, and it fails to capture the “feel” of the room. 

I promise that you are more magnetic and charming than you appear on camera! So with those caveats in mind, here’s what to look for when watching your video:

Check your delivery technique.

First, what are you doing with your body? Think about:

Posture/gesture: You should stand tall with your head high and shoulders back. What are your arms and hands doing? Do they reinforce your words or distract from them?

Movement: Do you move about the room deliberately and fluidly or does it seem random and “herky-jerky”? When you stop, do you plant yourself firmly and own the space or do you shift your weight restlessly from one foot to the other?

Eye contact: Are you looking people in the eye or does your gaze flitter about the room?

Next, listen to your voice.

Volume: You should be speaking a little louder than you would in everyday conversation. 

Speed:  Are you speaking too quickly for people to absorb your ideas? Slow down and vary your pacing.

Articulation/Inflection: Do you enunciate clearly or do the words run together? Do you trail off at the end of your sentences? Is there variety to your emphasis or a monotone?

Finally, the “X” factor: Do you exude energy and passion for your topic? Do you project confidence? Are we seeing the “real” you? Is there warmth, emotion and a human touch?

Evaluate your content.

Of course, what you say is as important as how you say it. Turn away from the picture and just listen. What do you hear?

Structure: Is it clear and easy to track?

Clutter: Where does it drag? Those parts are ripe for trimming.

Audience engagement: Is it a monologue or a dialogue?

Feedback: Are you hearing laughter or verbal reactions from the audience?

Length: Did you rush through the end or skip slides? Again, look for cuts.

Phone a friend.

It’s hard to be objective about ourselves. So it helps to verify what you’re seeing with someone you trust to give you the straight story. Keep in mind that the truth lies somewhere between your insecurities and their kindheartedness. 

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