So you’ve been asked to make a presentation and the thought alone is nearly enough to get your blood pressure soaring. We’ve all been there. Presentations can be daunting and nerve wracking.
Whenever it comes to public speaking, we tend to focus in on the negatives. What if I lose my way and forget what I’m saying? What if I embarrass myself? What if people find my presentation boring?!
These thoughts plague even the most experienced presenters. But if you set enough time aside for preparation and planning, and really get to know your material, you’ll be well on your way to turning this around and producing a killer presentation. With enough practice, you’ll never fear the podium again. Here’s five simple steps to get you started.
One of the hardest things about giving a presentation can be just figuring out where to start. It’s easy to spend hours tossing up which image to open with or waste hours procrastinating. A simple step to figure out where to start is to first define the purpose behind your presentation. Make sure that your first point of call is setting out the reason for presenting that topic and the outcome you aim to achieve. If the purpose seems unclear or you’re unable to narrow down one key motive, ask yourself what would or wouldn’t happen if you didn’t give the presentation. Once you have the purpose down pat, you will find it a lot easier to structure your main ideas, and the final product will flow better. Think deep, reflect and spend as much time as you need to get really clear on this.
Unstructured and poorly prepared presentations are confusing and do nothing more than cause audiences to quickly zone out. Grab a blank piece of paper and a pen and start to map out your ideas. Using a mind map, start to break down your presentation into 3-5 key groups and then order your content in these groups.
This will ensure that your content flows and makes sense at the big picture level. Rather than skipping forward to create your visual aid, spend time planning in this way. It will also help you generate ideas to create powerful content and ensure that you haven’t forgotten to include any important points.
Preparing proof points that substantiate your ideas will add credibility and grab your audience’s attention. People hold onto genuine, bold facts and figures and are likely to remember them in the future. Regardless of how interesting or impressive your ideas are, if you don’t provide material to support them, they are likely to get lost along the way – especially if your presentation is anything longer than about half an hour. Consider integrating various types of proof points, whether these are statistics, infographics or case studies that illustrate your point.
The opening of a presentation is the opportunity to capture your audience’s attention and give them a reason to engage with your ideas. All too often, presenters take the easy way out and open with an agenda and then an ‘about us’ slide. This approach is not only boring, it’s also a little rude. It’s the equivalent of meeting someone for the first time and spending the first five minutes entirely talking about yourself. Instead, try opening your presentation by defining the problem your product or service solves, provide examples of where it has been successful, and then quantify the outcome it delivers – all in 60 seconds. Test out this approach in your next presentation and watch the difference it makes on your audience. Most presenters struggle to keep an audience engaged for longer than half an hour. Don’t wait for a question slide at the end of this. Take time out to prepare regular, engaging interactions and discussions points to capture your audience’s attention.
Incorporating visual aids into your presentation is the most effective way to make your message memorable. According to developmental molecular biologist Dr John Medina in his book Brain Rules, we are incredible at remembering images. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll only remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%. But make sure to use your visuals wisely – they should be used to create a stronger presentation, not be the presentation.
Only use relevant images that support your ideas and act as proof points. Using too many visuals or unrelated ones will only distract your audience and deter their attention from your ideas. Remember, the aim of including visual aids is to have tools on hand that support you as a presenter, rather than being the focal point of your presentation. So make sure your visuals on the screen or board behind you are in sync with your verbal ideas – not the actual speaking notes you’re talking from.
Be creative in your choice of visuals and move away from the stale stock Google images. Sources I recommend include:
- Create awesome layouts and designs on: www.canva.com
- Beautiful free high res images from: http://www.freeimages.com
- Custom icon creation from: www.iconmonster.com
- Create PDF documents from website with: http://www.web2pdfconvert.com/
Many people spend too much time writing their presentation and don’t save any time for practice and refinement. Practising a presentation may seem unnecessary but it’s a crucial element of a strong delivery. Many errors or improvements are only picked up once a presentation is spoken out loud. And you will feel far more confident and natural during your presentation if you have already run through it.
When practising, it’s important to deliver the presentation exactly the way you would on the day. People often do a last minute run through by reading off the computer screen or off a piece of paper. But when it comes to the actual presentation, they aren’t prepared to speak in front of a large group of people and don’t project their voice or use their body language properly. When practising, stand on the other side of the room from your computer and deliver your speech as though there is an audience in front of you. Use a wireless clicker to practice referring to your presentation whilst addressing your audience.
Whether in the office, in the classroom, or otherwise, people are giving you their time. So pay them respect and put in the appropriate time and planning to make sure your presentation effectively conveys your message, and does so in the most engaging way possible. Put in the effort to follow these five simple rules and in no time you’ll be presenting like a pro.
Kris Flegg an Official Accredited Prezi expert and with his team has spent the last four years helping individuals and corporations such deliver visually pleasing and highly effective presentations.