Presentation Skills List and Examples

Business woman giving presentation
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Presentation skills, used in the context of business, refers to all the qualities you'll need to embody to create and deliver a clear and effective oral presentation. Your prospective employer may want you to deliver briefings and reports to colleagues, conduct training sessions, present information to clients, or any number of other possible tasks including speaking before large audiences.

Giving engaging and easy-to-understand talks is a major component of the strong oral communication skills that are a job requirement for many positions.

You can use a list like this one to help plan your professional development. Is there something on the list that you need to work on? 

The list can also help you describe the skills you already have. Then, you can name your skills clearly when you write your resume and cover letter, and when you prepare for your interview. Be prepared to provide examples of occasions when you used any of the skills you claim to have, in case your interviewer asks. Of course, read through job descriptions carefully, as requirements can vary even between very similar positions.

During the interview process, you may be asked to give a sample presentation. You may be assigned a topic, or you may be asked to choose your own.

Presentation Skills in Use

Any presentation has three phases: preparation, delivery, and follow-up.

Preparation means doing the research and creating the presentation. This may mean crafting the entire text (or at least writing notes), and creating any slides or other supportive visual or audio materials.

You will also have to make sure that the appropriate venue is available and properly set up beforehand, that the projector works, if you'll need one, and can connect with your laptop, and a whole host of other logistical details. You'll also want to practice your presentations as many times as you need to feel comfortable to deliver it with ease and confidence.

Delivery is the part the audience sees. A good delivery depends on careful preparation and confident presentation, and requires its own distinctive skill set.

Follow-up includes properly breaking down and storing any equipment, contacting any audience members you agreed to communicate further with, and soliciting, collecting, and analyzing feedback. In some presentations, you may collect information from audience members, like names and contact information or completed surveys, which you also must collect, organize, and store.

All presentation skills fit into one of these three phases.

Top Presentation Skills 

The following list is not intended to be exhaustive, but should give you an idea of the range of skills involved.

Research
Research is the first step in preparing most presentations and could range from a multi-year process to spending 20 minutes online, depending on context and subject matter. At the very least, you must be able to clearly frame research questions, identify appropriate information sources, and organize your results.

Writing
You may or may not need a written script, but you do need to pre-plan what you are going to say, in what order, and at what level of detail. If you can write a cohesive essay, you can plan a presentation.

PowerPoint
PowerPoint is the dominant software used to create visual aids for presentations. Learn to use it well, including the special features outside of basic templates that can really bring a presentation to life. Even if someone else is preparing your slideshow for you, it will help to know how to use the software in case of last minute changes.

Organization
You do not want to be that person spending half your presentation time trying to find a cable to connect your laptop to the projector. Many things can go wrong just before a presentation, and they probably will, unless you are organized.

Public Speaking
You need to appear to be comfortable and engaging when speaking before a live audience, even if you're not. This can take years of practice, and sometimes public speaking just isn't for certain people.

An uncomfortable presenter is a challenge for everyone. Fortunately, public speaking skills can improve with practice.

Verbal Communication
Public speaking is one form of verbal communication, but you will need other forms to give a good presentation. Specifically, you must know how to answer questions. You should be able to understand questions asked by your audience (even if they're strange or poorly worded) and provide a respectful, honest, correct answer without getting off-topic.

Analytical Thought
The best presenters are constantly improving their skill. To get better, you must be able to look honestly at your performance and all the feedback you get and figure out from that what you need to do to improve. That takes analytical thinking.

Examples of Presentation Skills 

Preparation

  • Researching the latest techniques for smoking cessation to prepare a seminar for health professionals.
  • Assessing the needs of an audience of salespeople for information on closing strategies.
  • Surveying members of a division to determine preferences for an IT seminar.
  • Creating PowerPoint slides for a presentation to the Advisory Board about developments at a non-profit agency.
  • Devising charts and graphs depicting sales trends for the quarter in advance of a presentation to the management team.
  • Tailoring language and examples towards an audience of police officers for a presentation on stress management.
  • Breaking up a presentation into parts of reasonable length.
  • Using statistics effectively to persuade an audience.
  • Incorporating concrete examples and stories to illustrate points and maintain audience attention.
  • Preparing handouts or digital references so the audience isn't preoccupied with note taking.
  • Promoting presentations effectively to generate an appropriate audience.

Delivery

  • Delivering an attention-grabbing opening for a talk.
  • Providing a summary of what will be covered to introduce a presentation and provide context.
  • Pausing to emphasize key points.
  • Modulating vocal tone for emphasis.
  • Articulating clearly and smoothly.
  • Interjecting humor.
  • Speaking with enthusiasm and animation.
  • Projecting confidence.
  • Summarizing key points at the conclusion.
  • Fielding questions to clarify points.

Follow Up

  • Creating an evaluation form to solicit feedback from attendees.
  • Interpreting feedback from evaluations and modifying content and or delivery for future presentations.
  • Organizing a database of attendees for future presentations.
  • Interviewing key attendees to gain additional feedback.
  • Emailing presentation slides to attendees.

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