So, we’ve all received that call at some point… “I need you to do a presentation on…”. It could be to the board, at a sales pitch, or an industry conference, the end result is the same. It strikes fear into most of us. What if the audience is bored? How will you remember what you’re going to say? How many Powerpoint slides equate to the length of slot you’ve been allocated? Cue diving straight in to Powerpoint, picking a template that you think will make you look cool (or at least make people more interested in the talk) and start writing down everything you know about the topic, right? Wrong! We’ve all had to sit through so-called presentations where the ‘presenter’ simply puts up slides, half turns away from the audience and reads off each bullet point in turn, with of course, a cursory glance at the audience (probably checking that they’ve not fallen asleep yet!).
The fear of doing a presentation is often worse than the reality – as long as you prepare. Good content is clearly king, but there are also some key factors around what (and how much) to put in to your slides that are essential to feeling confident and giving a great presentation, where the audience goes home with at least. some greater depth of knowledge on the subject than before you spoke to them.
To help you nail your next presentation, we’ve put together some handy tips to get you started.
- Preparation is critical – why not story board the content you need to cover first? A Mindmap would work equally well. This way you can carefully consider what’s essential and what, quite frankly, is superfluous. And then only use your Powerpoint slides to emphasise the important points. Remember, most people will only remember a maximum of around five points that you raised.
- Next, if you don’t have a corporate slide deck template that you need to comply with, don’t go looking for the wackiest Powerpoint template you can find. You don’t want slides that are so bright coloured, or heavily patterned to distract the audience from what you are trying to convey. If you’re using a template, choose one that complements your brand / represents you best. And stay consistent with the use of a colour palette throughout.
- Remember to include imagery that enhances your key points – many people are more likely to remember your imagery (and what you were conveying in your presentation) than lots of slides filled with words and numbers. But remember not to ‘steal’ images for free from someone else’s website – they’ll be low resolution and make you look cheap. Good quality images enhance a presentation, not detract from it.
- But don’t overload your slides with too much data, research facts and figures or detail… you can always provide handouts after the presentation if you need them to retain that level of information. And if you’re using graphs, use them to tell a story or show a trend. They’re there as a pictorial reference point, not necessarily to be spot on with the numbers.
- When thinking about the order of your slides (and therefore your presentation)t, keep. it logical (so as to tell a ‘story’) – this makes it easier for the audience to keep track of the subject. And remember the key thing here is to ensure that the most important elements of your talk should be towards the front of the presentation, this helps embed the key messages. Good presenters often use the final slide to re-emphasise one key point too as it’s the last thing the audience will take away with them. Personally,. I tend not to end the slide deck with ‘Summary’, ‘Conclusion’, etc. This indicates to the audience that the presentation is over and they start packing up before you’ve even been able to utter your final sentence.
- Once you’ve prepared all the slides, and have checked that they’re in the right order, the images enhance the presentation and you’ve used enough key messages to be a prompt for what you need to say, don’t forget to do a spell check! Poor spelling or grammar just look lazy.
- Check that your font size is legible – run it on a screen (or a plain white wall in the office) and take a few strides back to where your audience will be sitting to see if you can read it. Also, check for consistency. No-one likes a presentation that starts off in Arial and then wanders in to Times New Roman in the middle. It looks as though you’ve taken someone else’s presentation and dumped it in to yours. The audience then starts to think more about the laziness of this approach – or indeed your credibility (if you don’t know the topic well enough you had to get someone else to write it for you, why are they spending time listening to you?). And of course, it’s never a good idea to use a ‘quirky’ font and NEVER Comic Sans!
- Consider whether or not you want to ‘break the ice‘ with a short joke or something to get the audience to laugh. This can also serve to relax you before you get down to the serious business of the presentation ion. But do consider the. audience and whether or not it’s appropriate to make jokes!
- When presenting, don’t read verbatim from your slides – remember they are simply an aide memoir.
- And finally, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. This allows you to relax more when it comes to the main event, ensures you’re on track with timing, helps you identify any slides that are not actually needed, and refines your presentation. It’s also great if you can practice on a friendly co-worker, who will give you some honest feedback.
Good luck with your next presentation! And if you need any help curating your slides, or writing a script, we’re available to give you a helping hand.