Have you ever heard a speaker who spoke with professionalism, poise and power, one that truly impacted you? Have you ever heard a boring, disjointed or distracting presentation? Have you ever given one? I have.

Over 30 years ago, I was told it was difficult to watch me present. I moved constantly, played with my whiteboard markers nonstop and my presentations were not well-structured. I knew this would limit my upward mobility, so I decided to do something about it. In the first course I took, the instructor videotaped my presentation and made me watch it. It was painful.

Many people are afraid of speaking in public. In fact, millions of people in the country would probably rather crawl across broken glass than present in public. I’ve heard someone say, “I don’t get butterflies, I get ostriches and they aren’t happy.” People are not afraid of talking. They do it all the time, so what are they afraid of? Looking foolish. While I wasn’t really afraid to speak in public, I just wasn’t very good.

Fair or not, you will be judged on how well you present ideas. Whether you are currently in a leadership role or would like to be in one, making effective presentations is a critical skill to master. Having a great product or service or an amazing idea has little value if you can’t present it in a way that is received well by the listener.

4 Presentation Motives

Here are four main reasons to make a presentation, and a few examples of each:

To Inform

• A project manager giving a status update to a client’s board of directors.

• A supervisor explaining the results of the latest customer service survey.

• A treasurer for a nonprofit presenting the monthly report.

• An engineer explaining to a client how an installation process will proceed.

To Persuade

• A salesperson/team convincing a potential client to move forward with a proposal.

• A team leader explaining a new process or policy that may not be popular with the team.

• A person asking for contributions to a worthy cause.

• A mid-level manager looking to get buy-in from the leadership team to implement a new system.

To Inspire

• A manager encouraging a team to achieve a sales or performance goal.

• A coach rallying a team to reach down inside to fight and claw for victory.

• A missionary raising awareness of a need for people to rally around a cause.

• A politician asking his volunteers to make calls for support.

To Entertain

• An emcee at the company Christmas party.

• A professional humorist at a corporate event.

• A comedian at a comedy club.

• A speaker lightening the mood for our military service members.

The Impact Of A Great Presentation

Nearly everyone, at some point, will be called on to do a presentation that is designed to inform, persuade or inspire. Even if you are never called on to emcee the Christmas party or host a charity event, having some entertainment in your presentation, when appropriate, will help you connect with your audience.

If you don’t present an idea well, an amazing program may never get implemented, a charity may not be able to help those who desperately need it, a client may choose another supplier with an inferior product or service, or a co-worker might get the promotion even though you are more qualified.

4 Ways To Improve Your Public Speaking

The fact that most people are afraid to present in public is a good thing. It gives you the opportunity to set yourself apart. As a professional speaker, I have now given over 800 presentations. Here are four tools I have learned that will help you improve your skill and overcome the butterflies — or, at least, get them to fly in formation.

1. Prepare (Premise): Who are you speaking to? What do you want your audience to think, feel or do differently? What examples or information do you want to deliver? What stories will reinforce the point?

2. Plan (Structure/Flow): Plan the flow of information, examples and stories so the message is clear. The confused mind says “no” — if people are confused about the message, they may dislike the messenger. Once you have created the structure, practice several times until you are comfortable with the material. Decide when to move and when to stand still.

3. Present (Delivery): Once you have your material ready, it’s time to shine. Stand tall and be confident! People want to follow someone who knows where they are going. If you seem unsure or lost, the audience will be uneasy and not want to go on the journey with you. Your audience wants you to do well — nobody hopes they are going sit through an awful presentation. Draw from that positive energy. My best tip is to never, ever say you are nervous or apologize at the beginning of a presentation. It will tell your audience your presentation is going to be rubbish and gives them permission to check out, or at least check their Facebook.

4. Perfect (Reflection): After the presentation, review how it went in your mind. Keep a journal of what went well and what you can improve on next time. Did you feel connected? Were your audience members’ heads nodding at the correct time? Did you get laughter where you expected? Constantly get feedback. Have someone you trust tell you how they think you did — ask them to be brutally honest. Video or audio record whenever you can, even if you just turn on the record feature on your mobile phone a few minutes before you start, then listen with an ear to improve, not to beat yourself up.

Each time you make a presentation, if you prepare, plan, present and perfect, you can look forward to giving presentations with professionalism, poise and power.