The ability to give a focused and meaningful presentation is a great skill to master. To engage and persuade your audience to take a desired action is a very useful skill add to your toolbox. The good news – this is an acquired skill. Some are more natural than others but with a little practice anyone can do a great job.
The essence of a presentation is communication. Taking an idea or concept you have and sharing it with others to either entertain, garner their support and take action, or acquire funding. None of this is magic – it just takes an awareness and a little practice.
1. Determine the Length – Adjust your presentation to the task at hand. A good keynote talk may be 45-60 minutes, while a project review and request for funds may only last 10 minutes. Regardless of the timeframe maintain your focus on the single issue at hand. It may be to entertain or share new information and convince your audience this is a worthwhile new thought. If you’re asking for funding, maintain focus on this and have every slide and story support this goal.
2. Be Entertaining – The quickest way to slit your own throat is to be boring. Give your message life and present it in a unique and interesting way. Be yourself and have fun. Tell humorous but interesting stories that support your overall mission while keeping the audience focused and entertained.
3. Use Engaging Slides – Use images to support major points and anchor your message. Images evoke feelings which help your audience empathize with you and your subject. Keep your slides clean, focused and with minimal text. Use a large font for all text you do use. If your audience is trying to read your slides you’ve lost them and shot yourself in the foot. Short videos may be used but be careful not to bore your audience and let them lose interest in your mission/goal. Everything needs to support your overall message.
4. But not too Many – Slides are to punctuate your talk, not a script to read from. While there’s not set rule on how many slides to use ask yourself this question – “does this slide add or detract from my mission?” Adjust accordingly. 15-20 slides for an hour long presentation is a good rule of thumb. If you move too quickly or offer too much information you’ll lose your audience. Once lost, it’s much tougher to gain them back.
5. Deliver an “ah-ha” Moment – Your goal is to have the audience to come to your desired conclusion near the end of your presentation All on their own. You want to deliver your talk in such a way that they discover for themselves how you want them to feel. Spend less time presenting what people already know and more time helping them discover something new and interesting they can use in their lives.
6. Practice – If you’re like most people, you get excited or nervous when giving your presentation. You may stutter, speak quickly, and use filler words like “um” and “so”. One of the best ways to minimize this is to practice until you know your presentation forward and backward. This helps minimize nervousness so your confidence soars and your presentation flows like the Mississippi river. Another great tool is to join Toastmasters and get more practice speaking and presenting while eliminating filler words.
7. Handouts and Q&A at the End – When presenting, this is your moment and you control the stage. It’s one of the few times in life where people willingly give you their power. Use this to your advantage – tell your story and lead them down the path so they discover the conclusion you want them to arrive at. Afterward you can distribute handouts or make your information available online.