by Adam Noar
If you are giving an important presentation, common sense dictates that you avoid making certain mistakes. You should know better than using a bunch of different fonts and designs that clash. You should know not to lose track of your focus, and stay on point to maximize the precious presentation time allotted to you. And so on, and so forth.
But sometimes, telling people what not to do when it comes to presentation design format or their presentation layout is simply not enough. Sometimes, people need to be told what factors will help them create the perfect presentation. If you want to make the perfect presentation, look no further for guidance on this topic. The following is a simple list of ten ingredients for a perfect presentation.
If you have an important presentation to do in the future and want to leave your best impression with your audience, consider these elements and incorporate them into your work, then let us know how it goes!
#1. Make your presentation easy on the eye
Before you even step onto the stage, or stand up at the head of the conference room table, your presentation will be won or lost in the planning stage. When you put metaphorical pen to paper and draw up your presentation, you need to be sure that you are creating a presentation that looks great and does not confuse your audience. If making PowerPoint presentations make you nervous, fear not! There are plenty of free templates out there for the design-queasy amongst us, which means not having to worry about whether or not a certain font matches the background or color scheme. If you are a bit more confident in your design skills, focus on creating presentation slides that are bold, simple, and visually arresting. Simplicity has been a buzzword in graphic design for the past few years now so if you focus on minimalist design attributes such as unadorned text, minimalist images or vectors, and hi-res photos that complement your color scheme and font choices, your presentation is guaranteed to make a very positive impression right from the start. When your presentation looks good, your audience is definitely more likely to follow every word that comes out of your mouth.
#2. Get yourself psyched!
You know what they say: It’s not what you sell that’s important, it’s how you sell it. The same principle applies with a presentation, no matter what the topic or the audience. You are selling you as much as you are the given topic. Before you go onstage and deliver your presentation, you should be doing whatever it is that you do that puts you in a positive and energetic mindset. Take fifteen minutes before going on to squeeze in a quick bout of meditation. Go for a run the morning of your presentation and get your blood flowing. Drink a highly caffeinated and slightly toxic energy beverage of your choice. Listen to your favorite Eminem album. Whatever it takes to get in the zone, get there. Imagine being in an audience where the speaker strides onto the stage with purpose in her step and a gleam in her eye, her voice carrying strongly—without being too loud—through the room. Wouldn’t you be hanging off the edge of your seat before she even got started? You need to aim for that same presence when you deliver your presentation. Turn heads with your energy; capture people’s imagination.
#3. Make some noise for yourself!
At most conferences you will be introduced, and the audience will look forward to hearing your story. So make sure to actually give them a bit of background about who you are! Not only do they deserve to know who you are and why they are paying to hear you talk (or possibly paying to invest in your startup), telling them a little bit about who you are will help create a genuine, authentic bond with them. It does not have to be much—just a sentence or two, perhaps about how you know the main presenter or how you came to be the foremost expert in your field. Tell people why your background matters so that it properly establishes you as an authority on the subject you are about to talk about. That framing makes it easier for people to accept your expertise on a subject, so they are more likely to pay attention to your presentation and heed whatever call to action you may give them at the end.
#4. Invite your audience to be friends
These days people are so obsessed with building their social media presence online that they forget to seize the opportunity when it comes their way in real life! I’ve seen too many presentations where someone completely forgets to mention where they can be followed on Twitter or what their blog URL is. Or in many cases where a presenter does allude to their social media presence, it may be for a brief moment at the very end of the presentation, almost as an afterthought. Social media is crucial to building your business—why would you neglect this fantastic chance to reach out to notable professionals or potential clients in your industry? The next time you give a presentation, show your relevant social media info, such as your Twitter handle, Facebook page, or company website, at least twice during the presentation. Once at the beginning—right after you’ve introduced yourself, when people are fully paying attention to you—and once at the end. Give people an incentive, too, to following you, so that it does not just sound like you are sad and lonely and need more Twitter followers. Explain that if people want to learn more great tips about XYZ they should definitely follow you online for great articles and links to other industry-specific websites. If you remind your audience of the reward that comes with following you on social media you will definitely see a tangible payoff in terms of followers in the hours and days following your presentation.
#5. Tell stories, not case studies
Don’t get me wrong: Case studies are a super important aspect of a good presentation. Oftentimes data tells the story. But you should think of it the other time around. Let a story tell your data! People love stories; we’ve been telling them since cavemen sat around campfires thousands of years ago and bragged about who killed the biggest wooly mammoth. The best presentations I have attended didn’t really feel like presentations. They were more like stories, with some relevant and insightful data thrown in here or there. The whole audience was captivated, and at the very end everyone sort of remembered that this was actually a presentation, not a poetry reading. If you need to explain something to an audience see if you can translate it into a story, an anecdote, or even a joke. If you need to convey information then tie that information to a story; anything to keep people interested in what you have to say. If you can make your audience laugh, even better!
#6. Make em laugh!
And that brings us to the next important point. Humor is such a fundamental part of human communication. Why it was decided in corporate boardrooms that humor didn’t belong in the workplace was a huge error that we are only just beginning to realize. So liberate yourself from the shackles of boring, monotonous presentations and shake things up a bit! Loosen those ties, let down those ponytails, and tell a joke, or relate a funny story that has to do with your presentation. Not every single talking point of your presentation needs to be linear. Allow for a humorous tangent to keep people smiling and in a good mood. You know why that’s so important? Because people are better at listening to you when they are having a good time.
#7. Get your audience as involved as possible
Laughter is one way to engage with your audience—after all, they are getting involved with you by giving a loud and clear response that they are listening to what you are saying and loving it! But there are other ways to facilitate audience participation. You can briefly ask them a basic question about your topic, especially one that is related to them. People love to think about themselves, so if you start a (relevant) question by asking “When was the last time you . . .” or “How does _____ make you feel about _____,” you will keep them focused and happy to keep listening to what you have to say.
#8. Check your timing
No matter how good or funny your presentation is, you have to keep it within the allotted amount of time. Rather than be discouraged by having a limit on time, look at it as a facilitator for covering only the most important subjects within your presentation topic. In fact, whatever your time limit is, you should aim to finish at least five or ten minutes early. This will allow your audience to ask you questions—or for you to ask them questions—and to clear up any potential misunderstandings. The most important thing to remember about a time limit is that you are not given 20 or 30 minutes to fill with you talking. Your goal is to give a great talk, not to speak for a certain amount of time—and those are two very different things.
#9. Provide a practical takeaway
At the end of your talk try to think about something specific you can give your audience which they can apply in a practical way as soon as they get back to work. This accomplishes two very important goals:
1) It rewards your audience for taking valuable time to listen to your, and ensures that they will be eager to attend the next speaking engagement you have
2) It keeps your presentation at the forefront of their consciousness, even after it has already concluded.
The truth is, as inspiring as a story can be, if the implication is that to accomplish XYZ you need to focus a ton of hours or follow thirty steps to achieve said goal, no one will be so interested in what you have to say. But if you preface a story or a major talking point by saying something like “But you can apply this very easily tomorrow by doing the following,” you will find that people are more eager to listen to you and will be more likely to do what you say.
#10. Reiterate ONE key point
Unfortunately, a lot of presentations suffer from information overload. This is when you have so many important details—or at least, in your mind they seem important—that you cram you presentation with what seems like lots of really good info. The sad truth is that no matter how engaging you try to be, most people can’t really absorb everything you have to say. You might just be one of five speakers they see that day, they might be suffering from a chronic lack of sleep, or maybe they find your tie to be really distracting. Assuming that your audience will only take away one major point from your presentation, what would you like it to be? Tailor your talk so that you keep returning to that one crucial idea again and again during your presentation, so that way your audience will actually remember something you said once you’ve finished speaking. Ideally, this one point corresponds neatly with whatever actionable bit of input you give as well.
So, now you should have a better idea of how to deliver a dynamic and awe-inspiring presentation that grabs your audience’s attention and inspires them with practical advice to input into their lives or careers.
What will you do differently for your next big presentation? Let me know what you think and please try to be as specific as possible. Sound off in the comments below!
Lastly, do you have a friend that could benefit from learning about these presentation design tips? If so, email them this post.
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