"What should I do, if I have been away from presenting for a while, to refresh my skills?"
Perhaps you've had some presentations skills training in the past. Perhaps you even previously presented with some frequency. But you haven't presented in some time -- because of a job change or having been out of the workforce. Now you want to get back to feeling comfortable speaking in public.
Should you start all over with basic presentation skills courses? Should you just jump back into presenting, assuming it's like riding a bicycle and all your former skills will come back to you?
I think the best advice is a combination of both.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO REFRESH SKILLS
1. First, assess your current presentation skills. This may require the help of a professional coach or trainer who, by videotaping you delivering a presentation, can help determine the key areas you need to address.
2. Depending on what your assessment uncovers, there are a variety of presentation skills workshops and books you can use to refresh your skills. Do some homework so you choose ones that focus mostly on your deficit areas rather than on a broad spectrum of beginner skills, many of which you may still be reasonably competent in.
3. If presentation nerves are bothering you, here are a couple of good books to give you some perspective on that anxiety and tools to deal with it: It's Your Time to Shine: How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking, Develop Authentic Presence and Speak from Your Heart by Sandra Zimmer and The Confident Speaker: Beat Your Nerves and Communicate at Your Best in Any Situation by Harrison Monarth and Larina Kase.
4. Update your knowledge of how to use slideware (PowerPoint or Keynote) to support your presentation. This is one area where there has been significant change in best practices. Search out blogs like PowerPoint Blog, PowerPointology and PowerPoint Ninja and books like Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds and slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte.
5. Other resources that can educate and inspire you are the TED presentations, where speakers are challenged to give the presentation of their life in 18 minutes and PechaKucha presentations where speakers streamline their talk to 20 slides, each forwarded automatically after 20 seconds. Listen to brilliant orators like Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Don't ever underestimate the value of watching and listening to skilled speakers as a way of incorporating techniques into your own style.
6. Speak frequently. Look for opportunities to present to groups whether it's staff meetings, customer briefings or sitting on a panel. The more you get back up on that presentation bicycle, the smoother and more comfortable you become.
7. At the end of the day, whether you embrace all or some of the above recommendations, it comes down to practice...and more practice. If you're just rusty...practice. If you are acquiring new skills...practice. If you're refining and updating previously used techniques...practice.
Practice is truly the one thing that will make a significant impact on your confidence and ability to deliver presentations and speak in public.
So presentation skills are indeed a lot like riding a bicycle...you'll always have them. You may just need to take a few spins around the block to once again feel comfortable.
This post is part of a blog carnival at The Eloquent Woman blog -- surf on over and check out some other perspectives on how to revitalize rusty speaking skills.
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