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How to Deliver Amazing, Successful and Effective Presentations
Make Your Presentation Entertaining!
Good Presentation Skills are Essential in Today's Competitive World
Today, it’s not just what you know that counts but how you present your knowledge to the world. In this guide, we'll look at how to deliver a professional presentation to an audience that differentiates you from the crowd.
Delivering accomplished presentations is a vital skill in anyone's armoury whether you're a student just starting out or the head of a large organisation. So, if you want your presentations to be impressive and persuasive then read on!
Here are lots of tips and techniques for preparing successful presentations and how to get your points across. We'll also consider presentation skills training.
Even if you don’t normally give presentations as part of your day-job, one day you'll need to address a hobby group or a community organisation so it pays to prepare and develop those skills now.
These days, public speaking and business presentations are also often a key part of the recruitment and selection process, particularly in education, consultancy or marketing.
What Do We Mean By a Presentation?
Here are a few examples:
- A design review
- A project brief to colleagues (peer review)
- A pitch to potential customers or senior executives
- A business presentation
- A paper at an international conference or exhibition
- Sharing a few tips with fellow hobbyists - for example, other pet owners
How Do I Begin?
First decide what you want to say and how much time is available to do it. If it is a conference or seminar then you will probably be allocated a fixed period of time; typically 15-30 minutes, plus time for questions.
Technical people, in particular, often need to focus on a great deal of detail in their everyday work, so the most common mistake when giving a presentation is to include too much information.
The golden rule is, ‘Keep It Simple’. Think of a presentation as designing an advertisement. You should focus on a few key themes and benefits. You don't fill an advert or a presentation with detail such as circuit diagrams or technical data sheets.
How often have you sat through a presentation where there was so much information on the screen you just couldn't read it all before the slide disappeared from the screen? Remember how it made you feel?
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A Good Presentation
A good presentation needs an introduction, followed by the main body and an ending with some conclusions. It is also helpful if the main body breaks into about three key themes. You can leave the detail either for inclusion in your written paper or to be dealt with during question time.
Once you've mapped out what you want to say, you will need some visual material and, if appropriate, a formal paper or maybe a brief the audience can read beforehand. For an informal peer review a whiteboard or a flip-chart is fine. For a more formal occasion, the use of a PC presentation package such as PowerPoint (Power Point) may be more suitable.
How Many Slides?
As a general rule, have about one slide or less for each minute of elapsed time. Most people, when first attempting a 10-minute talk, will find themselves speaking for well over 20 minutes. Remember you are talking about something that is of great personal interest so you will find you have far more to say than you expect.
If you’re doing a marketing-type presentation, remember to present benefits rather than features. For example, the user of the latest mobile phone probably isn’t interested in bandwidths or frequencies, but he or she is interested in how quickly and easily a snapshot or movie taken in London with the new toy will be transmitted to a friend in New York.
If you don’t know if a projector will be available, lightweight, Portable Projectors are becoming more affordable. Ideally take the presentation on your own laptop. If this isn’t possible, PC presentation packages like PowerPoint allow you to create a self-contained presentation with a built-in viewer. Load this onto a USB Memory Stick or a CD then you will avoid any software compatibility problems. Another useful gadget is a Wireless Laser Pointer which enables you to control the presentation remotely without having your hand on the mouse.
I once began a presentation to an international electronics manufacturing conference by playing Bob Dylan's 'The Times They are a Changin'.
Bob's gravelly voice is not a universally popular choice for this demographic but at least they woke up and took notice!
What Should Go on the Slides?
Select a large, readable font. Make sure the colours you choose work well on a big screen. White on a blue background is a safe choice. Even if your company have a designated template it may be worth the risk of using a different one for an internal presentation so you stand out from the crowd.
Keep the number of words to a minimum. If you do use bullet points then keep the number of bullets to a minimum. Avoid 'Death By Powerpoint' (presentations where the audience switches off because of page after page of bulleted text).
Try to introduce visual information - A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. For example, if you are talking about a lovable pet then a photo can say far more than words ever can.
If you’re referring to software tools then one or more simple screen dumps included in the presentation might help. Simple block diagrams are good. If the diagram is more complicated then animate the presentation so it builds gradually (controlled by mouse clicks) as you describe it.
You might also consider a short video clip. Even a 'sound bite' is a possibility to make your presentation different. Why not consider a relevant piece of music to start with?
Finally, avoid simply writing on the slide what you want to say and avoid too much detail. The slide should simply act as a visual cue to help you get your ideas across. It's not a script!
Catch Their Attention!
Recently I was pitching a complete change of direction to the Company Board involving a 'Green' Strategy so I opted for a blue sky template with the slogan 'From Green Fields to Blue Skies'.
A little cheesy but it meant I stood out from other presenters who used the 'unexciting' company template.
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Sense of Humour Helps
Try to add a little humour or even a little drama. If you're pitching green solutions to a smaller audience then throw some newspapers around with global warming headlines. Generally having something simple to pass around, like a fabric, a component or a sample product, is good.
Paint a bleak picture and look gloomy then break into a broad smile as you pitch your solution. Don't be afraid to sell. If you're passionate about something let it show, There is no substitute for real enthusiasm in getting your ideas across.
What About the Day Itself?
Make sure you are familiar with the venue and your material. Take advantage of any opportunity to rehearse with the equipment you will be using. Don't be afraid to adjust things to suit your needs. Jot down what you want to say over each slide on a printout but don't try to write a script - just a few key words for each point will do.
In practice, by the time you give the presentation, you won't need your notes. But if you do dry up, then the notes are your safety net. Even if you are petrified and feel totally inadequate, make yourself feel confident. Think positive. Try to smile. Dressing up can help. A smart suit or dress can make you to feel more confident (Why not use the presentation as excuse to improve your wardrobe!)
Presentation Skills Training
Presentation skills courses or workshops can be a helpful tool in developing these skills. It is really beneficial to present to a small group of people, in a ‘safe’ learning situation, and share with one another what works and what doesn’t.
Presentation training works particularly well when augmented with a video camera so the presenter can get some idea of how their presentation actually looked to the audience. This enables the trainer to help the presenter to spot any annoying mannerisms, awkward body language or hesitations and hopefully eliminate them.
Presentation Guide - Final Thoughts
People often feel they are selling out when they simplify complex ideas and designs for a presentation. However, the ability to make advanced technology and science accessible and understandable to a wider audience is a vital asset in this increasingly technology-based world.
Delivering successful, effective presentations is an essential skill in increasingly competitive business and career markets.
Public speaking skills and the ability to produce and deliver winning, persuasive presentations helps secure a new job or progress in your current post.
If you're not confident in putting together a presentation or unfamiliar with tools like PowerPoint then either teach yourself, find a colleague to coach and mentor you or look for a suitable course or some training material. You'll find a flair for presentations really pays dividends, particularly in these times of rapid change when even continuing to hold down a job can be a real challenge!