Whether you are presenting to your board, your boss, your industry or at your event, the pressure is on. You want to bring your audience along the path of your story or speech. More importantly, you want them to retain what you share with them and connect with your content. Following are some simple tips for doing just that.
- Be succinct
Keep your topic focused so that it can be easily digestible. Make it relevant to as much as your audience as possible. That also means no “death by PowerPoint,” so try to package your content creatively in as few slides as possible.
- Don’t read your slides
Nothing is worse than seeing slides that exactly mirror the presenters verbal contribution. If someone is going to read slides to an audience, why not just email me a PDF? Keep slide content relevant to your presentation, but not verbatim.
- Don’t cram slides with too much data
Keep any diagrams, text, charts etc. legible. Slides that seem to be eye-charts for the audience are not a good idea. With a hard to read slide, your audience may feel like they are missing information. The more they have to struggle or strain to see, the more focus they are putting on what they are seeing rather than what you are saying. Be sure your font size is large enough to read, and conveys only your most critical points.
- Avoid heavy text usage
Include interesting and arresting visuals in your presentation. If the idea you are trying to convey is building revenue, could an image of money or an upward trending graph align with your vocal cues? People respond to videos and images because they are often easier to understand and quicker to grasp than words. If you treat your message as your words, and your “slides” as the concepts, rather than a speech crutch, you can make presentations create bigger impact. I have tuned out to many presentations because they are showing me everything they are saying.
- Know your audience
This is key to getting your message on target and keeping the audience engaged with you. If your audience is a mixed bag, make sure you are clear with your goal and objective of the presentation and stick to the generalities to achieve those goals. If you are trying to explain sponsorship options of your next event, you may tweak your message based on audience composition. You would focus on results and ROI if talking to a decision maker and maybe the deadlines for a logistics person, etc. The last thing you want to do is walk into a room of IT managers and start talking about marketing, or a room full of exhibitors and addressing them as attendees.
- Brevity works
Plan your presentation to be brief. If you have a panel of people speaking, make sure time is divided somewhat evenly so it doesn’t weigh disproportionately on one presenter. It should not appear that presenter A gets 25 minutes, presenter B gets 3 and presenter C gets 2 minutes. It should appear that presenters A, B and C all know the topic and are contributing to the audience’s understanding of it. Make sure that anyone presenting actually is adding value. Someone speaking, just to hear themselves is not offering any value to your audience.
- Engage with your audience
Many people fear or avoid public speaking. It IS a tough job. The best way to ensure a smooth presentation is to follow the advice above and do your best to engage along the way. Are people listening? Are they multitasking? Checking email? Simple things like asking, “Have you ever had that problem?” or “How many of you have been there?” while raising your hand is a good way to gauge who is with you or pull some back into the presentation. If you lose your audience, it’s over. Without them, you’re just speaking to a blank wall. Keep them in step with you and reward them with good content, and effective delivery for staying with you.
Guy Kawasaki sums up all of the above in his 10/20/30 rule: 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point font size. I like to think that is always a great framework to use to check yourself. But I do consider the rules bendable. You will knock it out of the park if, during your presentation, you:
- Stay focused
- Speak clearly on the topic at hand
- Cite relevant and reliable examples
- Use compelling visuals
- Engage your audience
Can you share what you do to improve your presentations? We’d love to hear it.