Imagine this – you are trying to pay attention to the speaker, but their presentation graphics are so distracting that you can’t seem to focus. You notice other people looking at their watches, wondering where to go for dinner, and generally slipping into a slide-induced coma. Yep, we’ve all been there. But, with some preparation, the right tools, and compelling graphics, your presentation can be poignant, informative, and engaging – and most importantly, enjoyable for your listeners! Presentations, especially in this digital era of virtual meetings, could be difficult to crack. Here are five tips to help you on your way.
1. Know the audience
Your presentation is a gift to the listener, or at least it should be. You wouldn’t buy the same gift for your wife as you would for your niece, would you? So why would you assume that each audience is the same? Consider the reason you are speaking, the size of the public, and their knowledge about the topic. You will easily lose your listeners if you go on explaining something that they already know or if you use jargon and acronyms that they are not familiar with. What’s helpful is creating a ‘persona’ to help you think about your public as one person rather than a group. You can imagine this person’s hopes, fears, and problems and help them solve them.
2. Idea development – from beginning to end
Your presentation should put forth one single message. This message could be offering to solve their problems, inviting the listener to invest, changing a policy, etc. If you are not sure about what your audience is feeling by the time you finish speaking, then it’s time to turn to Post-it notes. Let your ideas flow and try to come up with something compelling. This way, you can turn a “invest into our start-up” into “hear about how XYZ has doubled their investment into something that is slowly becoming mainstream.” Remember – the focusing should be the benefit of the audience.
3. Plan your presentation away from your computer screen
Step away from your computer screen… go for a walk! If you really want to give a presentation that leaves an impact, the magic will happen away from your computer. Use your notes to plan out the main points you want to hit. Add a little story to each point for relatability. Of course, presentations require facts and number, but stories and emotional connections are what the listener will remember most. When discussing data, bar charts and well-constructed line graphs can serve your needs well; however, pie charts are trickier. Abstract angles can be difficult to digest, and especially so if there are multiple segments. The question to ask is ‘will this graphic help the audience understand my point?’.
4. Use visual aids and minimize text
Give preference to images that clearly support your points and stories. Genuinely happy children playing outside can help set the scene for your talk about the importance of play. These images can be easily available online via various stock photos services. Crello is a great copyright free photos website. It offers a wide range of royalty-free photos for any situation. However, consider your text carefully. Use it sparingly as the audience is there to listen and not to read, mainly. The trick to remember is that the audience is either reading or listening. Not both. Consider that when adding text.
5. Rehearse and keep to time
The phrase ‘practice makes perfect’ is well-known for a reason. You will never be perfect, but practicing will make you better. Rehearse what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, the inflection, the pauses, every little thing that will help your presentation. It is also important to rehearse how you will be using your slides. Imagine the reaction of your ‘audience person’ to each point and make changes as needed. The rehearsal will help you gain confidence and help you stick to your allotted time. In fact, shave off 5 minutes of the amount of time given.