Just like a captivating stage performance, successful presentations require more than just the right words—it demands a compelling performance persona, audience connection and a strategic approach to leave a lasting impact.

As someone from a performance background of over a decade, and recently pivoted career from dance and musical theatre to coaching and development, I have witnessed the transformative impact performance skills can offer in life, careers and most importantly when giving presentations.

Eight essential tips to elevate your presentation skills include:

1. Crafting your performance persona

The foundation of noteworthy presentation skills lies in the development of your performance persona. Channel the energy of iconic performers like Tina Turner, Queen or Elton John and ask yourself, ‘Who am I, and how do I show up?’. Design a persona that aligns with your strengths and resonates with your audience. Through a simple exercise of self-reflection and delivery, you can unveil a charismatic alter ego that enhances your presentation.

Tips for creating your performance persona:

• Understand the ‘message’ behind your presentation. What do you want your audience to know? How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do? Aligning your presentation with a message or a story helps to better captivate your audience.
• Connect with the emotions you want to convey.
• Design your persona based on your own strengths and desired impact. What do you most admire about yourself? How would you like to emulate that to best connect with your audience?

2. Audience impact

More than just conveying information, a presentation is about creating a memorable impactful moment. I encourage participants in my presentations skills training to reflect on a quote from researcher and storyteller Brene Brown which says: ‘what we know matters, but who we are matters more’. Foster a culture of constructive feedback from people you trust, your colleagues, family and friends or your coach to enhance self-awareness and refine your presentation style.

3. Start with the end result

Incorporate a holistic approach by visualising the end result of your presentation. Holding this visualisation and the feeling it creates imagine… the applause and the feeling of success as you walk off the stage at the end of your presentation. By doing this, you can set the tone for confidence and feel fuelled by positive energy from the very beginning. Hold onto those buoyant feelings as you step out onto the stage to start – and it will carry you through to a successful finish.

4. Confidence building

Confidence is a key element of any outstanding performance. To feel confident, you much be well-versed in your material, which should have a logical flow and professional supporting materials. Rehearsal is crucial to solidifying confidence, and it will make you feel more at ease and in control during the live performance. Confidence also starts from within, if we can put self-belief at the forefront of performing then the rest just happens naturally.

5. Emphasising specific words

Transform your words into a powerful tool by emphasising specific terms. I encourage my clients to employ annotation techniques to highlight pauses, dramatise certain words or signal changes in tone. This adds depth to your communication, making it more engaging and impactful.

When I used to annotate my scripts, I would put a solid vertical line at the end of a word if I was going to stop there. I would put a squiggle above a word if I was going to really dramatise that word and make it something. If I wanted to go up at the end of a sentence I would put an up flick or to go down at the end of a sentence place a flick going down. And the best advice would be to double underline a word for extra impact.

6. Engaging the audience

Effective audience engagement is a cornerstone of a successful presentation. Remember the importance of body language – it’s 55% of our communication. So, the words and tone of voice and how we’re saying it isn’t actually that impactful, rather how we present it as people is the huge selling point. Think about how you’d like to engage your audience today. What’s your impact going to be and intent going to be for delivering today?

7. Performance concerns

What if I fall over? What if I forget the words? What if, what if, what if… Typically, the more we feed the fear, the more we end up believing it. So, what if we were to change that and instead ask well, what if it goes right? What if it goes really well? What if I smash it? We have the mental power to boost our confidence. Instead of giving all that airtime to our anxiety or worries, we can flip into positive thinking first. Adopt breathing exercises to manage nerves, I personally use box breathing to focus and calm my mind. Also, try to shift your internal dialogue from negative ‘what ifs’ to positive affirmations. Remind yourself to focus on the potential for success rather than dwelling on potential mistakes.

8. Visualisation

Harness the power of visualisation to transform concerns into confidence. Presenters need to envision success. By starting with the end goal in mind, you can work backward to eliminate doubts and embrace a positive performance mindset. Without having a clear vision of what the end results looks like, we’ve got nothing to aspire to. Consider what will it feel like when you’ve done the presentation? How happy or relieved will you feel? What will the audience applause sound like? Forget your concerns, visualise success and harness your inner confidence.

Mastering presentations by tapping into the world of performance can take your presentations from good to truly captivating. From crafting a compelling performance persona to visualising success, you can deliver a more engaging and impactful presentation without being held by fear or nervousness. By combining these elements, you can enchant your audience, leaving a lasting positive impression and ensure your message is not just heard but truly felt.

Karl Green
Karl Green
Performance and wellness coach at Wishfish | + posts

Karl, with a rich background in performance, dance, and musical theatre, transitioned from a decade-long career as a professional theatre artist to wellness coaching in 2022. Now, as a transformational performance coach and member of Wishfish Coaching & Development, he combines his artistic expertise with coaching skills to help individuals and groups unlock their potential through bespoke workshops and personalised coaching.