Presentation skills tips: How to Come Up With Great Ideas

A quick list of presentation skills tips and tricks

  • Learn your script, don’t mumble into the desk. 
  • Memorise the key points, then deliver with flare
  • Know your material more widely than the information you are delivering.  It makes you more confident of your subject, and if questioned you can refer to the other information and demonstrate your competence
  • Look the people you are talking to in the eye
  • Don’t overuse power point!
  • You are more important than powerpoint, if you are well presented and prepared that is half the battle.  A good powerpoint won’t wave sloppy presentation.   Terrible powerpoint won’t wreck a fantastic presentation.
  • Always leave time for questions

Your brain is similar to a computer, and you can feed it with ideas and information to be able to get the kind of creativity and material out. Likewise you need to practice at getting that information out. As you do practice I promise you that although it’s a discipline, it will get easier with time. Presentations take creativity to be able to put your thoughts across. Creative thinking connects with people so that they start generating creative thoughts and appreciating the possibilities that you suggest.

These presentation skills tips are free, but please don't think they are useless!  I have tested the ideas out for many years and found them valuable.  I constantly reevaluate and try new ideas out.  The ideas on this hub are tried and tested not just by me, but thousands of professional presenters, trainers and speakers. With that, lets move on!

Presentation skills tips body language

  • Use ‘open’ gestures
  • Never fold your arms
  • Stand with your feet firmly planted, don’t lean on the desk or speakers lecturn
  • Be aware if you wave your hands a lot when you speak, it can become distracting
  • If you sweat under your armpits, keep your hands down, jacket on.  Open a window if you risk getting very hot
  • Smile

Presentation skills tips #1: speech and creative thinking

To get good creative thought out of your brain to and communicate in your presentation, you have to put some good ideas in. I had someone say to me and a friend the other day that they had never met people with so much useless information in their heads. And yet it was at that point I could tell her exactly why I knew that information, and how I had used it as part of my public speaking role! Information, no matter how trivial it may seem at the time, is information that you can draw on in the future. And the great thing is that if you find something that makes you stop and think ‘I could use that at some point in some upcoming presentation or other,’ then pause a moment, think about what it reminds you of; appreciate the connections that could come from it; then move on. Don’t worry if you will remember it for the future or not unless you require the finer details in which case write it down. No, the point of the exercise is to stimulate your mind into creativity, and your marvellous memory will actually store the info away for the future so that next time you sit down at to create your next presentation you will in fact have data at your finger tips and you will be reminded of the useful fact…even though you can’t remember where you saw it!

Similarly it is in my experience that if questioned on something that I am presenting I will use these seemingly irrelevant pieces of information as illustrations which suddenly pop into my head. And the more you know, the more connections you can make, and the more you can remember, and the more you will be creative.

Presentation skills tips #2:advice is a carefully nurtured thing, so if you are giving it, firstly nurture your thoughts!

So what kind of information should you be feeding your mind on that will help you creatively communicate? Read widely! By that I mean don’t just serve up a diet of junk magazines to your brain. You need to read Booker prize winners. 18th century authors. Journals. Science magazines. Newspapers – both tabloids and broadsheets. The secret is to fire your creativity and your interests. You have to do this to be able to generate ideas. Then you need to make insane connections. To give you an historical example, the aeroplane wing came about by studying a bird’s wing. I have generated many new lines of thinking simply by seeing how one thing is very similar to another, even though it is completely different. It’s the trick to getting ideas into people’s heads.

You explain something using the terms and language that your listeners are already familiar with.

You also don’t know when inspiration will strike, so always carry a notebook with you to write down snippets of conversations you might have or over hear. Likewise have a notebook next to your bedside in case you wake up with a bad case of inspiration.

How to Mindmap for Speech and Presentation Writing

Presentation skills tips #3: Actively being creative in your presentation planning

There is nothing worse than a blank sheet of paper for making your mind go blank! It’s almost like it influences you. As an artist (another one of the many things I do) the first thing is to change the colour of the paper, and then start bashing shapes onto the paper, being vaguely aware of where you are going. It’s after you do this you start to see new possibilities creeping out at you. I have my own method for getting over the blank page problem when I am preparing my presentations.

I personally like to use mindmapping. Just google it if you don’t know what it is! Basically by using mindmapping (and no, you don’t need special software) you think of a keyword or theme, then come up with as many concrete ideas as you can off of that key theme. Then use each of those new words as the keywords to create more branches. Keep them all on the same piece of paper.

Don’t be critical of yourself while you are doing this. If you get stuck, shove your word into google and see what comes up on the first page or so to give you inspiration.

A great tip I read somewhere – there I go again not being able to pinpoint stuff! – is to draw empty branches before you begin. I think it was actually the creator of mindmapping who came up with it: Tony Burzan. Your brain likes things to be complete, so as much as the blank page effectively freezes your creativity and suggests to your mind that it is blank, the branch that needs completion stimulates your mind into wanting to fill in the blank.

Once your sheet is full then is the time to edit. But don’t look for the good points – look for the weaker ones and aim to eliminate half of the ideas you have had. Also aim to eliminate duplicates. You should be left with just a few of the strongest possiblities which you can use as your creative ‘word pallet’ – in the same way as an artist would use colours, or an interior designer might use a mood board.

Another thing that I have noticed when I am using this method for focussing my ideas for presentation is that I discover a much better central point. As you refine, you start to see one idea relating to another, and for this you join them with a dotted line. Quite often, more often than for it to be a coincidence, I find that one branch has many lines and arrows attached to it. This then is frequently the strongest idea on the page, and I will then go and redraw the mindmap with this as the central idea, and it will lead me to much more creative points.

Presentation skills tips for trainers

Having a group of people together is a unique opportunity for any trainer.  So don’t deliver what you could have just given them in a book.  So many people who are in training think that they have to impart and deliver materials.  This is what a book is for.

Instead, a training environment is the perfect place for people to interact with the ideas and make them their own, and arguably the science behind learning suggests that most people learn not when they are listening, but rather when they are testing out the ideas with other people who are their peers. 

I learnt this the hard way a number of years ago when I arrived at a training event prepared, but feeling ill.  I hardly delivered anything, but instead delivered the core information, provided 3 minutes to read through some text that I had produced, and then set the groups on a task.  I punctuated the evening with plenary opportunities in which I encouraged the group to respond as much as possible to their own queries and only answered questions as I needed to.

I got some feedback from the group after that and they said it was the best training event they had ever been to!

In short, allow the group dynamic to shape the training.  This is why being widely prepared is so important.  You should also try to send out the important information for your training early on so that everyone has a chance to read it before they arrive.  Then have a summary of the ideas printed for everyone so that they can refresh their minds quickly.  Spend your time for the training event preparing what activities you can set them so that they are able to engage with the ideas you are proposing.

Finally, you may find that through this process they challenge your thinking.  Be gracious enough to accept their criticism and make a note to firstly look at the materials you have prepared to see if they need editing, and secondly to send the person who made the comment a note, email or even a phone call to thank them for their contribution.

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