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Polishing Your Presentation Skills

Public Speaking and Communication SkillsPerhaps 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 ways. This article, therefore, focuses on the significance of presentation skills in the marketplace and in your career.

You 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 time or another, chair meetings, deliver presentations, training or workshops, either to internal or external customers. It gives an edge to keep abreast with the fast pace of the times. Presentation skills definitely work towards 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.

The diversity of opinions today in the workplace, which are often controversial, has increased the need for presentations. People need to voice their views to function well at work. For some four thousand 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, often accompanied by 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 presentations.

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 that enthusiastic to do 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.

Presentations Improve Your Personal Development

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 so much and even volunteered to deliver more presentations. I can certainly relate to this example. I used to harbour 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 to 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. Lastly, 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 Benefits 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 exceptionally 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 Advances Your Profession

Good presentation skills can boost your career remarkably, and eventually, your finances. Usually, success in the business world is gauged by answers to questions like, “Do you hold an MBA degree or something similar?” However, researchers have proven 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 less 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, then fewer customers and clients would 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

Estienne de Beer is a Professional Speaker and Presentation Skills Coach. He is the author of the book “Boosting Your Career – Tips From Top Executives”. To receive his free personal development newsletter or to browse e-books for your success, visit his website at www.leader2leaders.com. Reprinted from hr.com.

Copyright 2007 by Estienne de Beer. All rights reserved.

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69 Responses to “Polishing Your Presentation Skills”

  1. Brigitte Ward Says:

    I’m an resister (in those few instances where I absolutely can’t get out of making a presentation) but if I can avoid, that’s what I do.. I believe that it’s easier to make a speech in front of people that you already know rather than a room full of strangers.

    Brigitte Ward
    Oral Communications Student

  2. Kari Anderson Says:

    I enjoyed the article and after reading it, I found I am very much an avoider as well as a resister. I have done public speaking but surely did not like it. I do however, feel that if it having to speak on a subject I am confident about makes a huge difference. I seem to not mind speaking out in a room full if I am more knowledgeable. Thank you for the article!

  3. Nadine Lohman Says:


    When it comes to public speaking I think I may fall somewhere between an avoider and a resistor. I never liked speaking in public, even in classes I had to take. I just never had the confidence it takes to get up in front of a group of people. I also have a low self asteem , but feel that I am coming out of my shell a bit and am getting more comfortable with speaking, also it does help that I am in customer service and have to speak to people everyday. Suprisingly I have had a couple of jobs demonstrating product, needless to say they never lasted very long. I would like to be able to change my attitude about speaking and become a better and more effective one.

    I believe that what you stated in the article about those that advance in companies do need to be and are required to speak more the higher up the ladder they go. It seems that is the norm in most companies.

  4. Justin Keuten Says:

    I agree with this article. I especially liked the part categorizing the four types of people. I think I am a seeker, because I talk constantly and like speaking publicly. It takes a little confidence and a lot of practice to get comfortable with the idea of speaking publicly.

    Justin Keuten

  5. Mark-Microsoft CRM Online Partner Says:

    I think I am the Accepter. I will present, but don’t like the pressure of being on stage. I guess the way I deal with it is to try to connect with the specific people in the room ()and their needs) instead of thinking about the outline itself.

  6. Therese P. Says:

    Well I am definitely between a avoider and resister, much closer to avoider. I do ok speaking in a small group of coworkers, but add in any strangers or make the group larger and I become an avoider. It is almost to the level of a phobia, the thought
    of speaking in front of a large group just freaks me out. I hope by taking this oral communications class I can begin to get over this fear. Found your blog through Ter Scott.

  7. Ken Nyberg Says:

    In feel that I fall into the category accepter. It’s strange because I am a musician and am used to being in front of groups of unfamiliar people. When it comes to public speak I find myself struggling to get out the words and stumbling over my concepts. It was an interesting article.

  8. Shelly Young Says:

    I really enjoyed reading your article and agree that public speaking is a great fear for so many. I have seen it so many times throught my life just how many people avoid doing things that they want to just because getting up and speaking in front of people would be part of what they want to do. What people don’t realize (I was one of them) is that just haveing a regular conversation with someone is a form of public speaking. I don’t mind speaking in front of small or larger groups, but sometimes I tend to stumble on my words.

    Shelly Young

  9. Robin F. Says:

    Great information. I don’t seem to have a problem talking to people in an informal discussion but when I have to get up and speak I have a tendency to freeze. With all the infromation I am reading that Ter Scott has sent us to, I’m hoping I will do much better.

    Thank you,
    Robin F.,

    Oral Communications

  10. Alexis Lambert Says:

    I really enjoyed reading this article. I am definately an avoider and a resister. I do everything I possibly can to avoid speaking to big audiences. I absolutely hate it. I hope that taking the Oral Communications class will help me overcome my stage freight fears and also help me communicate better than i do now.

  11. Shirley Salamone Says:

    I would like to thank u 4 the job you have done in writing this post. I expect the same top work from u later on too.

  12. Amy Kutz Says:

    I agree that communication is key in this century. I think in almost every career or field of work people will need to give a speech, whether it be to one person or to a hundred people. I think that I may fall in between the categories resister and acceptor. This article had given me great insight and motivation that will hopefully help me in the future with giving speeches or presentations.
    Ter Scott asked me to visit this blog.

  13. Barbara Leonard Says:

    After reading this article, I realized that I have unknowingly been involved in public speaking for years. I have owned and operated a small craft business where in any given day, I have spoken to potentially hundreds of people, sellling them my products. I am constantly demonstrating my product or proclaiming how wonderful it is.

    I still see myself as the Acceptor. However, with this new perspective, I am ready to polish my skills. Thank you!

    Barbara Leonard
    Oral Communications COM103

  14. Katy Bortz Says:

    I found your article very informative. In highschool I was definitely an avoider. I had a speech class in which I would be “sick” on speech days. As I have grown, and my education has advanced somewhere between the resister and the accepter, depending on what the speech is about. I find that if I am knowledgeable about the topic, I am more confident in speaking. The article also helped me to realize that if I want to make advancements in my degree, although I won’t have to do many public speeches in my line of work, I will have to be open to the idea of presenting information instead of avoiding it.

    Katy Bortz
    Oral Communications/ Winter 2012

  15. Sandra P Says:

    After reading your article I discovered that I am an avoider, however with the help of this oral communications class I am taking I am hoping to overcome that.

  16. Corissa N. Says:

    Thank you for such an informative article. I was asked by my instructor Ter Scott to visit your blog. I was never aware of the categories of presenters. I feel that I fall somewhere between an Avoider and Resister. I have gone out of my way my entire life to avoid public speaking; yet on certain occasions, I have reluctantly agreed to do so. For several years I was involved with a local animal rescue group. I was talked into giving presentations at local schools and spoke at a few events. I was always a nervous mess prior to those speeches (days prior) and even so when speaking to a class of 1st graders! I never thought about taking a class or self-study on confidence building! Having just started my Oral Communications course and having a chance to look at the materials and outline for this class I am excited about all the information and skills I will learn! I’m actually somewhat looking forward to our upcoming presentations!

    Thank you!

    Corissa N.
    Oral Communications, Duluth Business University

  17. Shelly R DBU Says:

    I find myself as “The Accepter”. I can do presentations but am never enthusiastic to do them. I realize that it is an important part of almost every aspect of life, work, home etc…. but it is much easier when you have a fun topic to present and one that you have interest in.

  18. MIke Says:

    Wonderful Article! I find that I am a “seeker,” yet am often cast-aside, as few truly want to become part of a solution for a much-needed culture-change in adult education: (Post-911 G.I. Bill), students.

    MJ Brown MBTI-CP, MA, Ph.D.
    USMC Retired
    Adjunct Professor
    Oceanside, CA.

  19. Milestone|3 Says:

    This is a good post. I’m definitely going to look into it.Really very useful tips are provided here.thank you so much.Keep up the good works. I agree that knowledgeable & confident presenter are the key to success in this century. I think in almost every career or field of work people will need to give a speech. It shows your personal leadership style, strength and professional vision.

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