The problem with presentations and ‘death by PowerPoint’ is that most of us think we can ‘wing it’.
We leave pulling together a presentation until the very last minute, hurriedly rushing to find images and information the night before. Worst still, we dig up something from the archives, thinking ‘that’s kinda OK, I’ll just stick with that’.
The result? Presentation slides that are text heavy, dense, confusing, distracting and misleading. Presentations that are boring, full of waffle and run over time and into lunch.
Unless you’re investing the right time and effort into each and every presentation, thinking clearly through what you are presenting and why, then your audience won’t invest their time and effort in you.
So if you really want to deliver a presentation that builds buy-in, or wins you that pitch, client or contract, then you’ve got to take a step back and look at the real strategy behind your slides.
Here are my top five tips to help you.
- Identify your objective
So what is the purpose of your presentation? Why are you presenting and what is at the heart of what you want to communicate?
It is amazing how many business leaders, CEOs, and execs have sat in stunned silence when I’ve asked these types of simple questions. Usually they deep dive straight into hours and hours of image and text compilation, even though they have no idea why they are presenting it. Sounds crazy, right?
Communication expert Dianna Booher once said: ‘‘If you can’t write your message in a sentence, you can’t say it in an hour.’ I wholeheartedly agree.
Are you trying to educate your audience, sell them an idea or communicate the latest results or strategy? What do you want your audience to do or feel after watching your presentation?
When you have a clear objective then you can measure the success of your presentation.
- Pick one key message
Only 10% of presentation is likely to be remembered. So when it comes content, it’s vital to have clarity around your main message, a sound bite that gets repeated again and again.
Ask yourself: What is the one thing you want your audience to remember when the lights go down?
Think of it as a bumper sticker message that you repeat throughout the presentation to ensure your audience remembers why they are there and what the key take-home message is.
Start your presentation with your message. Close your presentation with your message. Repeat it as many times as you can (within reason) and make it look different each time so it stands out and you audience remember it.
Don’t mix messages and confuse people, pick one and stick to it!
- Use visuals to support your words
Once you know what you want to say, then you are ready to create visuals that support your message and how you will say it, rather than just repeat it.
Your slides are not a teleprompt. Rather, your visuals are aids to help your audience understand what you are saying.
So use icons to summarise main points and infographics to show key bits of data. Photography and illustrations are powerful visual elements that can help simplify and communicate your information clearly.
images that match what you are saying to create sadness, excitement, inspiration or even anger, if appropriate. Recently, I’ve seen clients use video in place of static images to make their message more memorable and emotional.
This is how you make the material useful, easy to read and understand, as well as provide clear actionable insights that add value and impact for shareholders and stakeholders.
- Be consistent
Do all the colours, typography, photos and illustrations have the same look and feel? Do they look like they are all part of the same story?
Creating an overall theme or style in your presentation is really important, otherwise it’s like watching a movie where the actors keep changing characters – confusing!
You want your slides to look like a professionally laid-out magazine, and that means developing a cohesive style across your presentation – using a family of colours, font and images that all work together.
Use white space (negative space) to draw your audience’s eyes to important information. Keeping margins and blocks of white space around text makes it much easier to read.
White space does not actually have to be white! It refers more to the area of design that is empty or not filled with text or images.
Give thought to every element of the presentation to make sure each is contributing to the overall objective. Highlight the most important bit of information on each slide and remove everything else.
- Prepare to present
Preparing a presentation also involves preparing to present it.
Practise your presentation out loud, not just in your head. Let your personality and passion shine! Give your audience more than just a report.
Don’t try and memorise the script. Be prepared to deliver on the spot with no speaker notes, just your clear consistent message and an idea of what you want your audience to do at the end.
And if all else fails, remember this golden rule by Duarte, the world’s leading presentation company: ‘Don’t deliver a presentation you wouldn’t want to sit through.’