Soft skills are essential for success in any field and there are ample opportunities for people to improve their presentation skills. People can read books, take workshops, enroll in courses, and train individually with experts. However, there is another training opportunity, one that is easily accessible, that is often overlooked.
Next time you attend a meeting, go to a conference, or even watch a speech online, take extra care to tune in to the presentation. Analyze the speech. Take notes during and after it. Actively engage with the entire process.
Things to Consider During the Presentation:
1. When do I get pulled into their speech?
Note at what moment you become engaged with their presentation. Was it a phrase they said? Was it their body language? Was it an image they created? Write down what the presenter did to hook you in.
2. When do I tune out?
It is critical to notice when, instead of paying attention to the speech, you are focusing on your to-do list or thinking about some project on your plate. Once you realize your mind is wandering, try to tune back into the presentation and figure out why. Was it the way it was organized? Does the presenter sound engaged with the content? Is the information too technical? Figure out what is happening in front of you that made you tune out.
Things to Consider After the Presentation:
1. What do I remember?
After someone is done speaking, it is a good idea to take a moment and think about what stayed with you after the presentation ended. What phrases come to your mind? What images, either from the PowerPoint or from their stories, are still in your head? What did you learn from the presentation?
2. What questions do I have?
Instead of disengaging with the presentation after it is over, ask yourself what questions you have about the content. Is there a term or a concept that you aren’t clear on? Was there a statement or a claim that you didn’t understand fully? What follow up questions would you send the presenter if you had the chance to continue the conversation?
3. What notes would I give the presenter to help them improve?
This is the most important question to answer. How would you reorganize the presentation to make it clearer to the audience? How could the speaker sound more engaged with the content? Was there a slide that had too many graphics on it? Think about how you could help the presenter improve their speech and what steps you would take to make it happen.
After you do this with a few presentations, you will start to see patterns. For example, you might notice that you tend to tune out of a presentation during the overview slide. Therefore, when you give your own speech, take extra care to make sure that your overview slide is engaging. You can change up the graphics, infuse it with active statements instead of passive ones, or even get rid of the overview slide altogether.
Answer these questions and analyze your answers. Don't miss an opportunity to improve your own skills. Actively engage with every speech you hear and apply what you learn to your own presentations.
Bri McWhorter is the Founder and CEO of Activate to Captivate.