Everyone has to sell themselves at one time or another – selling your idea, the company or product you represent, or even you as a prospective employee. Along those lines, most of us in the business world have to deliver a presentation at some time during our careers, and this activity strikes some people with sheer terror. But fear not! It doesn’t have to be that way. There have been volumes published on this topic, but let me distill it down to a few key tips so that your presentation is effective and memorable.
Start With An Outline
I cannot stress this enough – in order to convey a message to an audience, start with the message itself. Most people remember only a few concepts from a presentation, and they remember it better if small points lead into big conclusions. You cannot expect to leave the audience with a cohesive set of ideas if you do not organize them into a “flow” that makes sense. So make an outline of your content FIRST. Here’s an example:
- Agenda (usually this outline)
- Introduction to the problem
- Why this affects YOU, the audience
- How does this affect you (what is, and how big is, the “pain point”?)
- Propose a solution
- Explain why the solution works
- Summary and Next Steps (give your audience a “call to action”)
The above example tells a story about a problem, then suggests a way to fix it, then asks them to act in some way to make it a reality (buy my product, adopt a strategy, etc.) People will remember it better because it flows from one logical point to another like a story does.
Plus, notice how I structured the content. You tell them the story three times:
- Tell them what you’re about to tell them (Agenda)
- Then tell them the story (Content slides)
- Then tell them what you just told them (Summary & Next Steps)
If you repeat your message in this way, retention (and action) goes WAY up.
Less Is More – A Lot More
When creating slides, some people list out numerous bullet points on a single slide, then stand there and read them all to the audience. Do not EVER do this. Some slides merit a few bullet points, but keep the text on the page very, very minimal. Otherwise, the audience is squinting at the slide, trying to take in all the text – and they won’t be listening to you while they do it. Keep each slide to a few words, and they will read the slide, get the idea, then turn their attention right back to you and listen to the detail.
Spreading out your key points into several slides, and moving through them quickly, will also make the presentation more engaging – maximizing audience interest. Also, use Google Images to find the highest resolution pictures you can to convey your idea. Don’t use Clip Art unless you a) absolutely have to, or b) want to bore your audience.
Also, a note about animation: keep it subtle. Don’t have ANYTHING flying around your slides. It adds nothing to the meaningfulness of your message – only a distraction. If you want to hide a portion of your slide/content, then fade it in with a mouse click when you get to that point, go ahead – that’s a good way to increase audience focus.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Put your completed (and saved) presentation into Slide Show Mode and pretend you’re giving the actual presentation to an audience. Rehearse what you want to say in each slide, and go through the entire thing – make a note of your time spent. Adjust your content or your delivery to fit within the time allotted for you. Do this 2-3 times!
When you have to do the presentation, keep a second copy of your file on a USB thumb drive (or online). You don’t want some disaster to wipe out the only copy. Also, make sure your projector is connected correctly and focused beforehand, or if using an HDTV, make sure it’s set up correctly. If using a TV, I would recommend you change the size of your slides to a 16:9 ratio. You may want to point the laptop screen at you (so you can see the slides while looking into the audience), and use a remote mouse clicker if you have one – they really help!
Delivery of the Message
All of this preparation and creation of great content is all well and good, but what if you don’t like to speak in public? Public speaking was recently ranked as the thing Americans feared most. More than drowning!
Remember when you were a kid, and you asked your parents for something you really wanted? You learned very quickly how to phrase things to get them to react. This is no different, except no whining this time. You want to speak to the audience as if you’re only speaking to one person, and you’re asking them for a favor, or telling them a joke, or justifying your attitude about something (video tips on public speaking here). A passionless delivery will get you nowhere. What I’m saying is: make it personal to them, because when they are listening, THEY make it personal to them.
That’s it! More tips can be found here: http://presentationzen.com – plus, the video below contains some hilarious PowerPoint tips from comedian Don McMillan: