10 Ways to Encourage Continuous Learning in Presentation Skills

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    So you want your team to be better at learning in presentation skills. You know it will pay off in in winning new business, better reporting of projects, and better visibility for your team. But given tight budgets and limited time, what activities will give you the biggest payoff for your efforts? Consider one or more of these:

    1. More rehearsals, especially dress rehearsals. Bring in a small audience to challenge presenters by asking demanding questions. Management can be present at the beginning to stress the importance and offer support, but may or may not sit in.
    2. Have junior people observe rehearsals of senior presenters. They can provide feedback on what was clear and engaging or confusing. They can also ask challenging questions. This way they are learning to evaluate effective presentations, and learning how to give and receive feedback. They are also learning the content.
    3. Suggest that people record their presentations and review them by listening. This will help them maximize vocal skills and habits; a must with so many presenting virtually where voice is key. Encourage people to record their presentations and listen back. They can do this right on the computer or by recording online meetings.
    4. Create or add to a business library. There are so many great books on current thinking in design and communication we can all learn from. Ask people to read and report back to (or teach back) someone else. Reading inspiring books and articles can provide inspiration while preparing for a big presentation. Alternatively: give books or credit for online books as a reward for performance.
    5. Have everyone learn PowerPoint™ so that they can use it to deliver a presentation easily. While this may not always be the media of choice, everyone should know it and be comfortable using it. At a minimum, they need to be able to start, advance, click on hyperlinks, and end their presentations without fumbling.
    6. Have everyone use some kind of electronic delivery system that allows them to click easily through their presentations. Make sure they spend their delivery time with the audience, not dealing with the technology. This can also be done by having someone else run the technology. Also, be sure they have a remote to advance slides.
    7. Consider offering a series of clinics or short training units on various topics: eye contact, voice, acing your openings, power closes, responding to challenging questions, using humor, storytelling, etc. These would be a great refresher for experienced presenters and a good starting point for newer associates.
    8. Advanced-level workshops. This would be a great challenge assignment for experienced presenters who need a brush-up. Select a small group (3-6) Have each person bring 10-15 minutes of a presentation to deliver. They receive practice and feedback from peers and/or a coach. Run it right before a round of new presentations, at the start of a new project, or when working with a new client.
    9. Buddy system. As people begin to present, give them a mentor—an experienced presenter they can ask questions of, practice with, etc. Both parties will benefit.
    10. Coaching for specific issues. Some people will continue to struggle with building confidence, or using body language or voice effectively, targeting their content, etc. Encourage them to get one-on-one coaching to address the issues that might be holding them back. A small investment of time will pay huge dividends in performance and confidence.

    What do you do to help your team continuously improve their presentation skills?