How good are your presentation skills?
Whether you are presenting your ideas to a potential employer or communicating the mission and vision of your own company, interacting with the audience and transmitting messages in an engaging way, with clarity and conviction, will without doubt give you the edge in the workplace and help further your career.
‘Presentation skills are extremely important in the accountancy profession,’ says Natalie Hannan, early talent manager, Moore Kingston Smith, which – while not a training firm – employs several ACCA qualified accountants within the business.
‘Accountants need to be able to present information in a clear and concise way, making complex, technical ideas digestible and explaining practical solutions,’ says Hannan. ‘They also need to be credible, to ensure clients and colleagues trust the information they provide and will look to return to them for further questions and follow-up business.’
Your presentation skills do not only reflect on you, but also on who you are representing, whether you work in industry or practice.
‘As your career progresses as an accountant, you will take on more responsibility, getting involved in the development of junior team members and working on winning new business,’ continues Hannan. ‘Pitching for new business will involve presenting to prospective clients, acting as a representative of the firm and showcasing what the firm can do to meet their needs. Always keep your audience in mind, thinking about what they want and need to know.’
Of course, being able to present does not come naturally to all and, for many, it is something quite far out of their comfort zone.
‘The earlier you get comfortable presenting to audiences of different sizes and seniority, the more prepared you will be,’ advises Hannan. ‘Practice is the best way to build confidence in this area. Be brave and record yourself delivering presentations and ask for feedback when you present to others. This will help you to fine-tune your presenting skills and polish your delivery.’
Boosting your presentation skills: five practical tips
- Face your fears. If you don’t overcome your fears, you will never move from where you are. The best thing to do if you suffer from anxiety over speaking in public is to speak in public. But you don’t have to throw yourself into the deep end straight away. Start by presenting to small groups, or practising in front of friends and family. Once you have built up some confidence, you can move it up a notch by offering to make an announcement at work or take the lead at a meeting. You could consider joining an organisation like Toastmasters International, which is a not-for-profit educational company that operates clubs across the world for the purpose of promoting communication, public speaking and leadership
- Know your stuff. You may have left school years ago but it’s still important to do your homework. Not only will being well prepared give you more confidence, it will also give your audience confidence in you.
- Keep it simple. Concentrate on your core message and decide beforehand what key points you want the audience to take away. If what you are planning to say doesn’t contribute to that core message, don’t say it.
- Practise, practise, practise. Find a mirror, a friend or a colleague and rehearse your presentation until you know it inside and out. Of course, you can use notes to refer to, but there’s a reason for the phrase ‘practice makes perfect’.
- Connect with your audience. Ensuring that you have a rapport with your audience will help build trust, both in you and in what you’re saying. Smile and use eye contact and keep your audience in mind at all times. Speak conversationally and don’t use jargon.
This article was first published in Student Accountant in December 2021