Everything in life is a presentation. Whenever we interact with others, we are presenting the most important commodity we have: ourselves. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first day on the job, the first big client meeting, or even meeting your in-laws; people judge us by every action we take and create a lasting impression for every future encounter. Of course, presentations can elicit many different reactions in people. To some, presentations are a chance to display their knowledge and skills. To others, it is what nervously keeps them up at night. A 2014 study in the Washington Post reported that America’s biggest phobia is the fear of speaking in front of crowds at over 25% of those surveyed, just ahead of heights, bugs and snakes.

This is the reason I began attending Toastmasters, an international organization whose mission is to provide a supportive and positive learning environment. They strive to give every member the opportunity to develop their oral communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth. As I listened to speakers of all skill levels –old and new Toastmasters members –attempt to hone the art of delivering an effective presentation, it occurred to me that being able to present information and speak to an audience is not just a skill only truly dedicated people practice but should be viewed as the “golden skill” that everyone needs to practice. It is not just a skill for formal business but a skill for speaking in any type of setting.

As someone who has started the journey to becoming a better presenter, here are a few tips I have already learned that can improve anyone’s presentations skills:

Engage in roleplay: Create a character bursting with confidence, long strides in their walk, an important job that demands everyone’s attention and respect. By imagining this persona and pretending to be them before a presentation, it can greatly improve your ability to speak clearly and confidently.

Start and finish strong: Your goal should be for the audience to actually listen when you speak and remember what you say. Have a beginning that draws the audience and an ending that calls them to action or leaves the audience with something profound to think about
Don’t memorize: Preparation does not equal memorization. While this is counterintuitive to what you learned in school, it is expected that you may make adjustments off the cuff. The main goal is to expand upon the slides of your presentation.
Engage your audience: Know your audience: Whether pitching to your company or meeting your in-laws, it is important to tailor your presentation to your audience.Tell less and show more with your deck: Engage your audience with some great images and quotes that support your speaking points and enhance your words. Don’t be afraid to pause and think: It’s a presentation, not a marathon!

With all I’ve learned about public speaking and presentations in my short time with Toastmasters, it’s clear that there are no limits to how far we can take our ability to present information in an interesting and effective manner. There are all different forms of presentations and not all involve standing at a podium. It is an ever-evolving art that people should always be looking to improve upon and grow, just as we at Cheer strive to grow every single day.