Important Presentation Skills for Workplace Success
Whether you’re a high-level executive or an administrative assistant, developing your presentation skills is one key way to climb in an office-based job. Leaders make decisions based on information shared in presentation format, and hardly any business changes its mind without first seeing a persuasive presentation.
Not all presentations take place in a formal meeting. Many presentation skills are relevant to one-on-one consults or sales calls.
It is important for any office employee to know what steps go into creating an effective presentation and what presentation skills are most important to employers.
Highlighting these skills will also help you stand out during your job search.
What Are Presentation Skills?
Presentation skills refer to all the qualities you need to create and deliver a clear and effective presentation. While what you say during a presentation matters, employers also value the ability to create supporting materials, such as slides. Your prospective employer may want you to deliver briefings and reports to colleagues, conduct training sessions, present information to clients, or perform any number of other tasks that involve speaking before an audience.
Any presentation has three phases: preparation, delivery, and follow-up. All presentation skills fit into one of these three phases.
Preparation involves research and building the presentation. This may mean crafting the entire text (or at least writing notes) and creating any slides and other supporting visual/audio materials. You will also have to make sure that the appropriate venue is available and properly set up beforehand and that the projector works (if you'll need one) and connects with your laptop. You'll also want to practice your presentation as many times as you need to to feel comfortable delivering it with ease and confidence within the time allotted for the presentation.
Skills related to preparation include:
- Conducting research related to your presentation topic
- Devising charts and graphs depicting your research findings
- Learning about your audience to better tailor your presentation to their needs
- Creating digital slides
- 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 is the part the audience sees. A good delivery depends on careful preparation and confident presentation and requires its own distinctive skill set.
Skills related to delivery include:
- Delivering an attention-grabbing opening for a talk
- Providing a summary of what will be covered to introduce a presentation and provide context
- Using body language and eye contact to convey energy and confidence
- Pausing to emphasize key points
- Modulating vocal tone for emphasis
- Articulating clearly and smoothly
- Injecting humor
- Speaking with enthusiasm and animation
- Projecting confidence
- Summarizing key points at the conclusion
- Fielding questions to clarify points
Follow-up includes properly breaking down and storing any equipment, contacting any audience members with whom you agreed to communicate further, and soliciting, collecting, and analyzing feedback. In some presentations, you may collect information from audience members—such as names and contact information or completed surveys—that you also must organize and store.
Skills related to follow-up include:
- 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
Types of Presentation Skills
The best presenters are constantly improving their skills. To get better, you must be able to look honestly at your performance, assess the feedback you get, and figure out what you need to do to improve. That takes analytical thinking.
More importantly, you need to have a firm grasp of the information you are about to communicate to others. You need to analyze your audience and be prepared to think quickly if asked questions that force you to demonstrate that you are fully aware of the material and its implications.
- Problem sensitivity
- Predictive modeling
- Strategic planning
- Process management
- Ongoing improvement
You do not want to be the person who spends half of their presentation time trying to find a cable to connect their laptop to the projector. Many things can go wrong just before a presentation, and they probably will, unless you are organized.
Presentation preparation also means keeping track of notes, information, and start/stop times.
A presentation that's over in half the time allotted is problematic, as is one that's too long-winded.
Finally, you will want to proofread and fine-tune all the materials you plan to use for the presentation.
- Event planning
- Attention to detail
- Quick thinking
When speaking to an audience, the way you present yourself can be just as important as how you present your information. You want to appear confident and engaging. You can do this through good posture, the use of hand gestures, and making eye contact with the audience. Practice your nonverbal communication by filming yourself doing a practice presentation and observing your body language carefully.
- Active listening
- Emotional intelligence
- Facilitating group discussion
- Awareness of ethnic, political, and religious diversity
Microsoft 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.
- Microsoft Office
- Google Slides
- Adobe Presenter
You need to appear 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.
- Assessing the needs of the audience
- Handling difficult questions
- Controlling performance anxiety
- Modulating vocal tone
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.
- Big data analytics
- Business intelligence
- Case analysis
- Causal relationships
- Comparative analysis
- Data interpretation
- Deductive reasoning
- Inductive reasoning
- Search engine research
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 respectful, honest, and accurate answers without getting off-topic.
- Active listening
- Handling difficult questions
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 you will say it, and at what level of detail. If you can write a cohesive essay, you can plan a presentation.
- Building outlines
- Document markups
More Presentation Skills
- Providing anecdotes to illustrate a point
- Designing handouts
- Recognizing and countering objections
- Posing probing questions to elicit more detail about specific issues
- Receiving criticism without defensiveness
- Refraining from speaking too often or interrupting others
- Anticipating the concerns of others
- Product knowledge
- SWOT analysis format
- Supporting statements with evidence
- Working with reviewers
- Developing and maintaining standard operating procedures (SOPs)
- Developing a proposition statement
- Creating and managing expectations
How to Make Your Skills Stand Out
HIGHLIGHT SKILLS IN YOUR COVER LETTER: Mention one or two specific presentation skills and give examples of instances when you demonstrated these traits in the workplace.
SHOW YOUR PRESENTATION SKILLS IN JOB INTERVIEWS: During the interview process, you may be asked to give a sample presentation. In this case, you will want to embody these skills during the presentation. For example, you will want to demonstrate your oral communication skills by speaking clearly and concisely throughout the presentation.
PennState. "Steps in Preparing a Presentation." Accessed April 17, 2020.