Important Presentation Skills for Workplace Success

Business woman giving presentation
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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 upon information passed in a presentation format, and hardly any business changes its mind without first seeing a persuasive presentation.

Not all presentation skills exist 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 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 tasks that involve speaking before an audience.

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.

Presentation Phases

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 supportive visual/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 connects with your laptop. You'll also want to practice your presentation as many times as you need to feel comfortable to deliver it with ease and confidence within the set amount of time allotted.

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
  • Interjecting 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, like names and contact information or completed surveys, which you also must collect, 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

Analytical

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 that 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
  • Reporting
  • Surveying
  • Optimization
  • Predictive Modeling
  • Problem-solving
  • Restructuring 
  • Strategic Planning
  • Integration
  • Process Management
  • Ongoing Improvement
  • Diagnostics
  • Dissecting
  • Evaluating
  • Judgment

Organization

You do not want to be that person spending half of 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.

Additionally, presentation preparation also means keeping track of notes, information, and start/stop times. Finally, you will want to proofread and fine tune all materials you plan to use for the presentation.

  • Event Planning
  • Auditing
  • Benchmarking
  • Prioritization
  • Recordkeeping
  • Scheduling
  • Attention to Detail
  • Quick Thinking

Nonverbal Communication

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, through the use of hand gestures, and through eye contact with the audience. Practice your nonverbal communication by filming yourself doing a practice presentation and observing your body language carefully.

  • Active Listening
  • Bearing
  • Poise
  • Confidence
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Respect
  • Facilitating Group Discussion
  • Awareness for Diversity of Ethnicity, Politics, and Religion

Presentation Software

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.

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.

  • Articulation
  • Engagement
  • Assessing the Needs of the Audience
  • Consulting
  • Handling Difficult Questions
  • Controlling Performance Anxiety
  • Memorization
  • Modulating Vocal Tone

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.

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 respectful, honest, correct answers without getting off-topic.

  • Active Listening
  • Focus
  • Empathy
  • Handling Difficult Questions
  • Assertiveness
  • Advising
  • Affirmation
  • Enunciation

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.

  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Vocabulary
  • Proofreading
  • Building Outlines
  • Note Taking
  • Document Markups

More Presentation Skills

  • Summarizing
  • Sales
  • Persuasion
  • Providing Anecdotes to Illustrate a Point
  • Humor
  • Training
  • Rehearsing
  • 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
  • Multilingual
  • Contracts
  • Working with Reviewers
  • Consistency
  • Develop and Maintain Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Developing a Proposition Statement
  • Creativity
  • Logic
  • Creating and Managing Expectations
  • Motivation
  • Coaching

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Include Skills on Your Resume: If applicable, you might mention these words in your resume summary or headline.

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 also 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.