Presentations can often evoke a sense of dread in the audience, so often the content is too long, too boring and irrelevant. We want to rid the world of boring presentations. Follow these tips to ensure you engage and convince your audience with a winning presentation.
Prepare an interesting opening
Your opening is the first impression your audience has of you, it sets the scene for the rest of your presentation and gives an indication to the audience of how interesting it will be. A great opening will wake the audience up, get them excited about your presentation and give them an indication of what is coming. We like openings that sum up the key message of the presentation without giving the whole content away. There should be some suspense to keep the audience interested.
What this sounds like –
“Last year equipment failures caused you over 100 hours of shutdown time which cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost production time. In this presentation I am going to show you how by using smart advance warning systems you can reduce downtime by 60%”
Have a clear key message
Have you ever sat in a presentation and thought, what is the point to this? Yep, us too. Make sure you can sum up the key message of your presentation clearly and succinctly. Your key message could be your USP, what you are asking for from the audience or your key product benefits. The key message gives your presentation focus and you should communicate it early on in your presentation so that the audience isn’t left wondering why they are there and what you want from them.
What this sounds like -
“Our technology provides you with real time performance indicators of all your live equipment. It saves you time in manual services, reduced downtime and effective planned maintenance. Today I want to help you understand the key features of this technology, how you go about implementing it into your business and what the associated costs and return on investment is.”
The difference between a presentation and other forms of communication is… YOU! In a presentation it is your opportunity to share your personal thoughts, feelings and personality. You create a connection with the audience by being yourself and conveying information beyond the boring stats and technical information. Share something of your own personal journey, your experiences and emotions about your topic. Share why this is important to you and what it means to you. You don’t need to get overly deep here, and make sure that what you share is relevant to your topic. Remember people like to hear from real people, not robots reciting standard information.
You create a connection with the audience by being yourself and conveying information beyond the boring stats and technical information. Share something of your own personal journey, your experiences and emotions about your topic.
Tell a Story
Stories captivate attention, when we hear a story we listen with rapt attention and we remember more information from a story than from random pieces of information. Every presentation should have a flow to it, so that the reader is going on a journey with ups and downs and twists and turns. So often presentations flat line, they are predictable and boring and the audience loses interest.
There are a few different ways you can incorporate a story into your presentation to make it more interesting.
Treat your presentation as a story with a beginning, middle and an end. This is the first basics of storytelling. Split the presentation into three main sections – in the beginning you are introducing the purpose of your presentation, yourself and your organisation, in the middle you are getting into details about the topic and in the end you are outlining conclusions and next action steps.
If this is too basic you can use more advanced storytelling techniques. Hero’s journey is a common technique that is used heavily in films and literature. In this story version of your presentation, the hero (this could be you, your team, company or the audience) is presented with a challenge which you are initially reluctant to take on. Then something happens which forces you to accept the challenge, the challenge forces you outside of your normal comfort zone (in the films it usually involves travel away from home, like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars) During the challenge you face an enemy which you need to defeat, a battle endures, you emerge the victor and you return home a hero.
Another way is to include stories throughout the presentation. These could be personal references, client examples or past experiences.
Analogies are a way to simplify your message by relating a theme in your presentation to something that is simple and easy to relate to. Richard Branson talks about how he never understood gross and net profile until someone drew him a fishing net with fish inside the net representing the net profit and the fish outside the net representing gross profit. What analogies can you use to simplify your presentation?
What this sounds like -
“With this technology everything regarding your equipment will be available online, any time with everything you need to know available to you. It is like having a real live news app for your business machinery. Just hit refresh and the latest information will be on your phone.”
Analogies are a way to simplify your message by relating a theme in your presentation to something that is simple and easy to relate to
Close it Properly
The ending to the presentation deserves some thought. It is not simply that your content comes to an end and you thank the audience and leave as quickly as possible! The ending should neatly sum up the key messages of your presentation and tell the audience what the next steps are. The next steps will be what needs to happen to move things forward and should include something you will do and something you would like them to do.
What this sounds like –
“Today I have outlined for you the technology features and the ways it can help your business. The key areas for consideration now are: scale) to what extend would you like to deploy this software?; support) what level of support do you require from us? and start date) when would you like to get going? We would also like to invite you to a site visit of an existing client so you can see this technology in action. Thank you for your time and we are looking forward to working together.”
Do an Agenda
An agenda is a really boring way to start a presentation. Why tell me everything you are going to tell me? A presentation shouldn’t be much longer than 20 minutes, therefore the audience doesn’t need an outline of how the content will be delivered to them. It removes all suspense and has the audience mentally checking how far through the agenda you are as you deliver your slides. To maintain engagement use your impactful opening and key message at the start to create intrigue and then deliver your content.
Tell everything you know
The presentation is not your opportunity to show off how knowledgeable you are. No one likes a know it all! The content you include should be relevant and every bit of content should have a purpose. That purpose is to help move the audience towards your desired goal. Presenters can get stuck in giving information that they find interesting whilst forgetting what the audience needs to know. As a presenter it is important that you can put yourself into the mind of the audience, imagine what they are experiencing and consider where they are on their journey and what would be most helpful to them.
As a presenter it is important that you can put yourself into the mind of the audience, imagine what they are experiencing and consider where they are on their journey and what would be most helpful to them.
Bore with numbers
I appreciate that sometimes numbers are important to share during a presentation. They work as a helpful indicator of success, a benchmark of where we are now and a milestone that can be achieved. However, often we see presenters misuse numbers within presentations and they lose all the impact that they could have.
Follow these guidelines to successfully use numbers in your presentation:
Use key numbers only – don’t overload with too many as the audience won’t remember them.
Share the story behind the numbers – people will remember the story not the numbers themselves.
Send links to detailed spreadsheets after the presentation; don’t give them out during the presentation.
Use infographics, visuals and simple graphs to represent your data in an appealing way.
Highlight trends and changes in data rather than just the raw numbers.
Don’t copy and paste tables from excel – they are hard to read and you lose the audience as they try to interpret the data.
Use all the power point features
Unless this is your PowerPoint GCSE presentation this is not the time to show how well you can use the software. PowerPoint has hundreds of features and you only need to use a few of them. This means no slide transitions, no text flashing in and no fancy text. Keep it simple, keep it professional and you won’t lose the audience.
PowerPoint features worth using:
Appear animation – this is essential to control the flow of your presentation. Use it on bullet lists and to build slides as you talking about them.
Disappear animation – this can also be helpful to use when you no longer want the audience to see something.
Smart Art Graphics – this gives you a different way to display information. You can use flow charts, diagrams, list features and more.
Embed pictures and videos – never rely on an external source for a video play during your presentation. It will interrupt the flow of your presentation and is more likely to go wrong. Download any videos you want to play and insert them directly into your presentation
Overwhelm with Information
For an audience listening to a presentation for the first time there is nothing worse than being overloaded with information at a fast pace with no time to absorb it. Another problem audiences often face is competing demands on their attention at the same time.
Imagine you are sat watching a presentation, the speaker is talking, there is a graph on the screen that has some interesting stats on it and a paragraph of text that you want to read. Where is your attention? The presenter in this example has no idea if you are looking at the graph, listening to them speak or reading the text. The presentation should be like a journey and you are controlling the ride! You need to know where the audience’s attention is at any one time so you can be sure they are receiving the message that you want them to. Make sure you use the animation affects to control your slides so they appear in flow and also use these techniques:
Use the blackout feature on your clicker. This blacks the screen and forces the audience to focus on you. This is good to use once you have finished talking about the slide content and want to deliver an important message.
One message per slide. It doesn’t matter in your presentation how may slides you have. It is better to have 5 slides and talk for one minute on each than have one overloaded slide that you stay on for 5 minutes. Keep your slides clean and simple.
Slow down and use pauses. You know the presentation inside out, but for the audience it is the first time they are hearing it. That means it will take them longer to process information. So slow down slightly and insert pauses where you want the audience to digest what you have said.