Presentations…whether you love them or hate them, they are a part of our professional culture and eventually you’ll have to give one. You can either look at your next presentation as an opportunity to be creative and enthusiastic about your topic or give your audience death by PowerPoint.
If you choose the former, keep reading. If not, continue to put paragraphs on blank white backgrounds, and we’ll see you later after the deep existential crisis over your lackluster presentation sets in. We’ll wait. Before you even start with the nuts and bolts of your presentation, figure out the overall goal and framework of it. Presentations today are often used for sales pitches, information dissemination, and now even for job interviews.
The Framework of Your Presentation
Know the Goal
When you are asked to give a presentation, you should find out a few things before you start: What’s your intent for delivering this presentation and what do you hope to get out of it? Connections? A specific action or movement of some kind? Alignment with your team?
Start with a Story
The best way to grab someone’s attention is to start with a relevant short story that relates and opens up or segues to your main point.
Be Aware of Your Time
How much time do you have overall? How much do you have for each area of your presentation? How are you keeping track of your time as you proceed through it? Use infographics whenever possible so your users can easily digest large concepts. This will cut down time on your users reading through tediously long presentation slides.
Know Your Presentation Technology
There is nothing worse than walking into a room and realizing the technology that you assumed would be there…is not. Call ahead or email to verify. It will be worth it.
Speak to Your Target Audience
When you address your presentation to an audience in “their language” you have a much better chance of getting the message across. That means visually and contextually. Adding in entertainment value such as anecdotes, memes, or fun videos when appropriate can add value to the right intended audience. Again, infographics can help cut down on information overload so use them whenever possible. What specifics define your target audience?
- What is the age and gender of this particular group?
- How do they typically think? Are they analytics or artists? Be specific.
- Do you have or need a call to action?
All of these questions will help shape your presentation. They determine the language, how you will dress, how long you will be talking, and what form it will take. Now, let’s get to the nuts and bolts of your slides.
Your Presentation Tools
When many of us are asked to give a presentation, we hop on our computers and pull up one of the many PowerPoint templates bestowed upon us by Microsoft. We are hastily trying to give our presentation a little flare before we give it to our peers. Here is where taking some extra time will set you apart.
Create a Master Slide
Master slides will set you above the ranks because you’ve taken the time to create your own crafted template. Doing this means you thought enough about the topic or the company to really hone in on the design and flow of the presentation. More than this, creating a master means that each slide will look the same, and you can Ctrl-M your way through instead of having to reset each one to look like the previous.
Think Outside the Fonts
If you are able to go outside of Times New Roman or the company standard font, do it. Changing the font in your presentation means it will give it a little more oomph. If you’re looking for something to make it stand out, check out Google Web Fonts. These fonts are free and can be installed easily on any computer. Take a few minutes to find one that stands out and works for your company and presentation.
Downgrade the Paragraph
Don’t put paragraphs of text on your slides. One, this means your audience will be busy reading the text rather than listening to you. Second, the slides aren’t your presentation, they are an aid to it. Use bullets and graphics to highlight the ideas you are presenting. You are the focus of the presentation.
Use Visuals to Convey Information
Whenever possible, use infographics or graphics to chunk or convey information into succinct visual representations. Your brain process visuals 60,000 times faster than reading text. In a world full of information overload, people need to download the information quickly.
It Doesn’t Have to be PowerPoint
PowerPoint has been around so long it’s a go-to for many. But in the last five years, there has been an explosion of online presentation software that you can use, some paid and some for free. Slidebean, Prezi (see examples here), and Slide.ly (which has a business version called Promo) are a few of the web-based presentation apps available. They range from interactive to video slideshow. Choose the one that is appropriate for your presentation and make a lasting impression!
Decide on Your Aids
Remember, PowerPoint and any other presentation software is just an aid to help you get your message across to the audience. Choose the right one, or none if appropriate. You may also consider infographics, videos, handouts, printed boards, or an audio aid to help you in your presentation. The key is deciding what will enhance your message the most and go with that.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
Standing in front of your peers mumbling “like” will not leave a good lasting impression after a presentation. Better to practice the presentation, going between slides, and memorizing key points so you are on point when the moment arises. Keep notes handy, but don’t rely on them or read them verbatim. The more you practice the more confident you will be when it’s time to head up to the front. There are some great TED talks on these: “The 7 secrets of the greatest speakers in history” by Richard Greene , “The surprising secret to speaking with confidence” by Caroline Goyder , “The magical science of storytelling” by David JP Phillips or “Giving Presentations Worth Listening To” by Gordon Kangas .
Most Importantly: Engage the Audience
How do you get an audience to stay focused on your presentation? You engage them whenever possible by asking and answering questions, adding in humor when appropriate, and storytelling. Storytelling can really personalize information for them more than just regurgitating data. However, combining data with storytelling can often be a winning combination.
Career Strategist & CEO of Career5
If you want to further your career beyond giving great presentations, try strategizing it with our guided system: The Career5 Roadmap. It is a fun process that teaches you how to take control of your career treating it like your own personal business. Think YOU Inc.