Say Goodbye to Your Public Speaking Fears with These 5 Tips!

by | CAREER GUIDANCE, Job Hunting, Top 4

Leadership communication is a skill that can be honed through consistent practice and by planning your delivery in advance. We deep-dived into this in our recent 1-hour online masterclass titled “Communicate and Present Like a Successful Leader”, led by Dr. Evangelia Baralou. She is a senior lecturer in organisation studies at the Open University, UK and the academic director of the MSc in Tourism Management at the ALBA Graduate Business School.  

Evangelia shares key insights on what a professional presentation looks like, including what you need to avoid in your leadership communication. Read this article to grasp key takeaways from the webinar or catch the replay below (available in English only).

Communication skills are highly sought after by employers when filling hospitality jobs. According to Evangelia, communication skills are often prioritised over technical skills in hospitality recruitment. But it’s not just entry-level hotel/restaurant employees who require these skills; Whether you are a middle-level travel and leisure manager or in the tourism sector C-Suite, you need to be persuasive and sound like a leader to your audience. With ‌technology such as video conferencing and virtual collaboration, leadership communication now encompasses presentation skills. Before we dive into the webinar takeaways, let's discuss what leadership communication skills entail.

What Are Leadership Communication Skills?

Communication skills refer to the ability to give and receive information. Effective communication skills is the ability to provide and receive information in a clear and concise way. Developing leadership communication skills is an indispensable part of everyday life, more so when you are applying for jobs, delivering staff training, or preparing for interviews in the hotel sector. 

Communication is a give-and-take process involving not just giving information through speaking or writing, but also listening, observing, and empathising with your audience. Furthermore, communication can occur through different channels, including in-person or through digital means like phones and computers. And this is where presentation skills come in.

Presentation skills refer to the ability to create and deliver ideas and information compellingly through a medium, such as slide content, images, videos, and infographics. Effective presentation entails what you say, how you structure your ideas, and how you deliver those ideas to your audience.

Developing good presentation skills is crucial, since this form of communication is becoming invaluable in the workplace. For instance, you may be required to present a report to your supervisors, facilitate a training session, or explain the progress of a project to the top management. Acing such a presentation can enhance your professional standing and set you apart during interviews. The reverse is also true—a subpar presentation may lower your topic authority and dent your professional credibility.

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Sound Like a Leader: 6 Professional Presentation Best Practices

Follow these tips and tricks to enhance your leadership communication and presentation skills:

Focus on the Audience

One hack when preparing your presentation is to focus firmly on what the audience needs. The key question to ask yourself is: What does the audience expect from your presentation? Put yourself in the shoes of the audience and tailor your content accordingly. A presentation that is not audience-centred risks alienating participants and failing to hit its intended purpose.

During the actual presentation, involve your audience and make them part of the activity. For instance, move around the room to establish a connection with them. If conveying complex information, break it down into simpler bits for everyone to understand. If you notice the audience's concentration level is dropping, find ways of re-attracting their attention. 

There are different ways of refocusing your audiences’ attention, according to Evangelia. Vary the tone of your voice or use authentic stories to create an emotional connection with your audience. You can also include humour in your presentation, but ensure it's appropriate for the audience in question.

Pro-tip: Struggling to maintain eye contact with your audience during presentations? Evangelia suggests looking at their foreheads instead.

Design Your Presentation

How you design your presentation determines whether you wow or lose your audience. According to Evangelia, you only have a brief honeymoon period to make a good impression on the audience. A well-designed presentation is key to winning your audience’s attention. 

Opening slide must introduce you by featuring your name, contact information and company affiliation. Use the second slide to outline the agenda or structure of your presentation, so the audience knows what to expect. The next slides should cover the main body of your presentation, while the concluding slides will contain key takeaways from your presentation. 

Evangelia emphasises that every slide should have a title and a smooth flow from start to finish. If you introduce a new point, you need to change the slide to ensure your ideas are connected. Also, make use of tables, images, and graphics to make your presentation visually appealing.

Use a Simple Layout

The key to professional presentations is simplicity. A simple layout enables the audience to read the slide content and devote more time to listening. Cramming too much information into your slideshow achieves the opposite: the audience will go all-out to read and most likely miss what you are saying. Evangelia advises presenters to apply the 6×6 rule–use no more than six bullet points per slide and no more than six words per line.

Pro-Tip: When designing presentation slides, use a light background colour and a dark font colour. If possible, go to the back of the room (where you’ll be presenting) to check if your slides are legible and adjust your fonts accordingly beforehand.

Back up Your Claims With Evidence

While your presentation may contain personal opinions, it’s advisable not to rely too much on them. Make your presentation more credible by backing it up with evidence, such as research findings, statistics, and citations from reputable sources. Evidence is particularly helpful when you want to persuade your audience, as it allows you to engage at a rational level.

For instance, when you want to persuade the board to adopt a new business model, your opinion may not be enough, but an evidence-based presentation can do the trick. According to Evangelia, the more evidence in your presentation, the more convincing and stronger it becomes.

Pro-tip: Always evaluate the context of your presentation. If the organisational culture is more relaxed, your presentation can follow suit, and vice versa. Also, adapt your communication style to suit your audience and personality.

Cite Your Sources

The evidence you provide in your presentation needs to be cited; otherwise, you run the risk of plagiarism, which is itself a serious offence in professional settings. There are different ways of crediting your sources. If you pick a sentence word for word from another source, indicate the author, year of publication, and page in parentheses within the slide. However, if you paraphrase a source, write out the author and year and leave out the page information. 

If you use images from external sources, cite them as well, even if they are free to use. At the end of the presentation, provide full details of your sources, including the full title of the cited publications. This adds an extra layer of credibility to your presentation and allows participants to read further about the subject.

Practice Makes Perfect

Presentations can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if it’s your first time or when exploring a technical topic. You can enhance your confidence and mastery of the subject by preparing well. Thorough preparation not only enables you to convince your audience, but you also become more adept at answering questions that arise. 

If you are feeling nervous or stressed before a presentation, Evangelia offers the following preparation tips: tour the room in advance and study the space before your audience arrives. Check your equipment and plan how you will interact with participants. Rehearse in front of your friends or colleagues to identify areas where you need to improve. 

5 Mistakes To Avoid in Presentations

Working in hospitality and want to sound like a leader? Here are 5 mistakes to cut out from your presentations:

  1. Don’t memorise slide content. Avoid the temptation to memorise your content or read out complete sentences in your slides. Doing this risks boring the audience, and you appear as someone with little mastery of the subject. Instead, use keywords to remind you of what you need to say on every slide.
  2. Don’t show stress. If you are experiencing some levels of stress, don’t let the audience know about it. Also, don’t start your presentation by offering apologies. Prepare well and put your best foot forward. After all, the presentation won’t last forever.
  3. Don’t over-defer answers. It is acceptable to admit that you do not have immediate answers to some audience questions. However, do not overuse this option, as it shows a scant knowledge of the subject or poor preparation.
  4. Don’t make assumptions. Avoid drawing broad assumptions on a particular subject, regardless of how strongly you believe in them. Keep in mind the diversity of your audience and choose your words carefully.
  5. Don’t turn the presentation into an argument. There might be members of the audience who disagree with your point of view, which is okay. However, avoid the temptation of over-defending your point of view, as this might lead to counterarguments and make you lose control of the presentation.

The tourism industry prides itself in providing customers with a personalised experience. If you are a jobseeker or an established hotel professional, perfecting effective leadership communication skills can help you excel in this field. 

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