Polishing Your Presentation Skills

Perhaps you think your career does not entail delivering any presentations. Well, this is where you might be wrong because no matter what your job is, presentation skills ultimately will come into the picture in some way.

I have heard it before: public speaking is the number one human fear. Studies show that this fear ranks ahead of the fear of death for many people. Some people are born presenters. Most are not. Hence, you are not alone when you say that you do not enjoy delivering presentations and speaking in front of a large audience. Stage fright is inevitable. And yet, speak well and you can rise to the top of your organization or industry. Good presenters are quickly recognized as rising stars and catapult over their mouth-full-of-sawdust colleagues.

Communication is a vital key in this new century. All of us will at some or other time chair meetings, deliver presentations, training, or workshops, to either internal or external customers. It gives an edge to keep abreast with the fast pace of the times. Presentation skills definitely work toward this goal. Maybe you are up for a presentation delivery soon and you need valuable tips. Or perhaps you see the link between success and effective presentation skills and have realized that effective presentation skills can be a great ally.

Today’s diversity of opinions, which are often controversial, are present in the workplace, and this situation has increased the need for presentations. People need to voice their views to function well at work. For some 4,000 years, public speaking has been the key in building and keeping a democratic society and way of life. Aristotle said “a speaker needs three qualities: good sense, good character, and goodwill toward his hearers.”

Presentations before colleagues can sometimes be a real challenge, if not a source of embarrassment, not only to employees but even to persons of high rank such as scholars, scientists, politicians, and executives. They may have hesitations in facing an audience, and they experience sweaty palms, stuttering, and the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon. These dilemmas often cause untold problems to the presenter (especially in self-expression) and unpleasant effects to the audience.

Presenters usually fall into one of four categories. Do you perhaps recognize yourself?

The Avoider does everything possible to avoid facing an audience. In
some cases, avoiders seek careers that do not involve delivering

The Resister becomes fearful when asked to speak. This fear may be
overwhelming. Resisters may not love to deliver presentations, but they
have no choice. When they speak, they do so with great reluctance.

The Accepter can do presentations but is not particularly enthusiastic
about doing them. Accepters occasionally give presentations and feel
good about them. Quite often these presentations can be quite persuasive
and satisfying.

The Seeker always looks for opportunities to speak. Seekers understand
that anxiety can be a stimulant that fuels enthusiasm during
presentations. Seekers work hard at building their professional
communication skills and self-confidence by trying to present often,
despite anxiety.

Success in delivery of effective presentations can open a whole world of opportunities for your career. It can help you conquer new frontiers. It can broaden your horizons through personal development, influence, and advances in your profession.


There was once a student who dropped a course five times because she hated speaking in front of the class. But after a self-study on building up confidence, she decided to give it a try and was successful. In fact, she came to enjoy the experience and even volunteered to deliver more presentations.

I can certainly relate to this example. I used to harbor an extreme distaste of public speaking in any way, shape, and form. Today my bread and butter comes from a professional speaking career, and I passionately pursue every single opportunity to give a motivational talk or conduct a corporate workshop.

Through presentation skills tools like research, conceptualization, and organization, you have a systematic and effective way of presenting your ideas, and thus you will be able to express yourself better. Inevitably you will also become more open to other people in the process.

Furthermore, presentation skills can launch you into a more significant role as you get recognized. Last, well-honed presentation skills can satisfy one’s sense of achievement when you add value to an audience. This is one of the strongest motivators to further raise your level of communication skills and acumen in this crucial developmental area.

Effective Presentations Benefit Your Organization. It is not only you who can benefit from the art of communication but your organization as well. Most meetings or presentations are exception-ally boring, and with proper communication skills, you can breathe new life into dull boardrooms. And not only that, but good communicators get recognized more often and over time get promoted. If you want to get ahead in life and in business, there is really no way you can nor should avoid public speaking.

Presentation Skills Advance You in Your Profession. Good presentation skills can boost your career remarkably, and eventually, your finances, too. Usually, success in the business world is gauged by answers to questions like, “Do you hold an MBA degree or something similar?” Researchers have shown, however, that the best indicator of success in any profession is whether the person is often asked to deliver presentations. Those who give more presentations tend to have higher salaries than those who give fewer or no presentations.

The longer you work for an organization and the higher you climb the organizational ladder, the more the boss will ask you to preside over meetings and to give talks to the staff and subordinates or the clients. The higher your position, the more your responsibilities in leading people under you, and the more you must speak effectively. A manager once said, “From the chairman of the board to the assistant manager of the most obscure department, nearly everyone in business speaks in public or makes a speech at some time or the other.”

Big corporations and small organizations alike need people who are successful presenters, both internally and externally. For example, if salespeople cannot present their services or products with a convincing sales pitch, fewer customers and clients will buy their products. Employees of big organizations meet regularly to make group decisions that they will present formally to senior management.

The bottom line is this: Whichever road you take, you will encounter instances that require you to deliver presentations. This begs the obvious question … will you avoid, resist, accept, or seek?

by Estienne de Beer