By Singapore Teaching Centre, British Council

12 July 2021 - 16:00

BE student with charts

Imagine this: you’re standing in front of a PowerPoint display, with several colleagues looking at you. Your boss is there, too. It’s time to give a presentation.

How do you feel? Nervous? Or confident?

Presentation skills are essential for the modern workplace. If you can’t present your work clearly and confidently in English, then you may be holding your career back.

In this blog, we take a look at why presentation skills are so important. We’ll also cover how presentation skills can advance your career, and some simple ways to upgrade and improve your business English and professional skills.

Why do presentation skills matter?

Whether you head up a multinational company or just starting out, you’ll need presentation skills. Being able to share information, offer an analysis and lead the conversation are all crucial capabilities for the business world.

In fact, 70% of employees surveyed by Prezi, a presentation software tool, said that presentation skills were essential to success. Another 20% said that they would do almost anything to avoid speaking in public. Which group do you think is more likely to achieve their goals?

Presentation skills might even be the key to your next job. According to a 2020 survey by the Ministry of Manpower, these are the top transferable skills that employers want:

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Innovation
  • Analytical skills
  • Business development 
  • Digital skills

Public speaking demonstrates all of these skills. 

When you give a business presentation, you use your leadership abilities to hold people’s attention. Your communication skills help you to convey information efficiently.   You can demonstrate your capacity for innovation, analysis and development through the ideas you share. 

Finally, if you can put together the research and slides for a presentation, then you’ve also shown that you have digital skills . And presenting is an excellent way to demonstrate your English proficiency!

How presentation skills can advance your career

As we’ve seen, presentation skills are very attractive to employers. However, they can be useful for more than just career advancement. Learning how to present your thoughts clearly can also have personal benefits.

Feeling confident in high-pressure life situations, such as a business negotiation, can help increase your confidence in other areas. As you practise interacting with an audience, you’ll develop your emotional intelligence and learn how to make a powerful impression.

Careers website The Balance points out that presentation skills also include chairing meetings and dealing with feedback. This experience trains you to think on your feet and solve problems in real time. It’s also valuable practice in guiding conversations and setting the tone for business meetings.

3 ways to improve your presentation skills

If you want to improve your presentation skills and master public speaking, here are a few ideas you can try. 

  • Create the habit of speaking spontaneously. That means no reading. While you can have a few bullet points to guide your speech, try to speak without memorising or reciting a text.
  • Record yourself. Lots of people find it strange to watch or hear themselves on tape. But once you break through that barrier, videos can be a helpful teaching tool. Watch your performance for any verbal tics, repetitive gestures, or points to improve.
  • Slow down. A common problem with presentation skills is going too fast. It’s natural to speed up when you’re nervous - so try and consciously slow down. Pause after key points so that your audience has time to listen, process the information and react.

Like any other communication skill, the best way to improve your presentations and business English is to practise, practise and practise again. It’s often a good idea to practise with friends or a class, so that you can get instant feedback and support. 

Before you book a class, spend some time thinking about the specific presentation skills you need. Do you attend a lot of conferences? Do you have to give weekly progress reports, or lead negotiations with other businesses? Some professional skills courses are designed for specific industries or expertise.

For example, the British Council in Singapore uses personalised teaching content for different students. This means that you can immerse yourself in the specific presentation style that works for your goals. The British Council courses also include access to networking events, so that you can practise your skills with other professionals.

Want to improve your presentation skills?

Learn more about our Business English SkillsFuture Credit-eligible courses