How to Own Your Next Presentation

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The other day I was making a presentation to my team on our latest promotion strategy, when I found them staring blankly at me (Mark from design was almost half asleep).

I was wondering whether the lack of enthusiasm – or consciousness – was due to the time of day it was, being after lunch and all.

But I cornered my colleague after the presentation and asked him how it was, and he blatantly said that I could have done much better “without putting everybody to sleep”.

What could I have done better?

Following are a few areas to which if I had paid a little more attention, would have made my presentation a lot more compelling.

It Should Start with an Outline

Like an essay or a blog post, a presentation should have a flow, beginning and a conclusion.
The slides you create should support this story you are trying to say.
This is why it’s extremely important to jot down the key points of your presentation first, as it would give you a better sense of its flow. Afterwards, you can use the outline as a guide to prepare your slides.
Make sure to focus on one point on each slide. This will make it easy for you when explaining the slide, and for the audience to read it.

It Should Include Visuals

A lot of text throughout the presentation will dry the enthusiasm of your audience very quickly.
Human beings, wired to respond to visuals faster than text, easily comprehend anything complex when explained in or with visuals. Plus, they are quick to grab and retain attention.
The idea here is to select any form of visual that can better convey what you would otherwise have to use several words to say.

Always look for data that can be visualized; turn statistics into charts and graphs, processes into flowcharts, timelines into Gantt charts, analysis into mind maps or concept maps, organizational structures into org charts, demonstrations into videos etc. With a diagramming tool like Creately, you can easily visualize any statistic or information for your presentation. 

Make sure that the graphic you add is relevant to the point you are making and not to add more than one graphic per slide – this is more effective in retaining attention than several smaller visuals in one place. 

Use Minimal Text and Larger Fonts

Do not use more than two sentences to highlight a point on a slide. The audience wouldn’t read paragraphs of texts on slides, but they’d rather listen to you explain what’s on it. So limit the text you put on your slides to fewer words to drive your message home.

Adding bullet points could crowd your slides and take away the attention of your audience from you, to the slide. But if you can’t avoid adding bullet points, make sure 

–    To highlight keywords in each point
–    To keep a lot of white space between each bullet
–    To visually separate each bullet (add graphical elements such as a background colors, rows, shapes, SmartArt, lines etc.)
–    Not to use more  than 3 bullet points per slide
–    To animate bullet points so that only one shows up at a time

Don’t let your audience squint their eyes to catch a glimpse of what’s on the slide, because they won’t bother to do so.

Refrain from using a font that is smaller than 24pt. Since one slide only highlights one point, you can effectively use a larger font on it.

Customize Slide Deck Design

The slide deck design you choose for your presentation will play a part in grabbing and retaining the attention of your audience and maintaining the credibility of your message. This is why it is important to stick with a professional design.

–    Clean and organized layout – It’s always better to keep it simple, otherwise you will end up cluttering up your slides and drawing the attention of the audience to things other than the point you are trying to make.

–    Customized – Avoid using the PowerPoint design templates for they’ve been seen by your audience countless times. While you should not go overboard with your designs, keep it simple and tailor it to your message and your brand.

–    Branded – If you are doing a presentation to a group of clients, stakeholders, company directors etc. branding should be an essential part of your slide design. It could be adding a footer with the brand message, or a logo in a corner or brand colors, remember to customize your slides with your brand UI in mind. But be careful not to over-brand as well. 

Own the Presentation

Although you’ve optimized your slides to their best version, don’t forget the fact that you are the star of the show. Let the slides be just an accessory to your presentation and

–    Avoid reading the slides word to word. This could bore the reader pretty quickly and end the presentation faster than you estimated it for. Instead use what’s on the slides as talking points, and explain them with your own words. If that’s not enough, you can use notes to refer to additional points, but avoid doing it all the time. 

–    Connect with your audience. This could be by making eye contact with the members of  the audience, nodding your head in agreement with what they might express, asking them questions, maintaining a flow when you are speaking, taking brief pauses between each slide or by making gestures. Always be active, rather than standing still in front of your audience.

–    Make it a conversation. To generate a positive response from the audience, you need to engage with them. This is why you need to make sure to talk with them rather than just reciting facts and stats. Use a conversational tone and remember to ask open-ended question from   the audience every now and then.

–    Be prepared. This mean not only being able to do your presentation without overly referring to notes, but also being ready with equipment such as your laptop, power cord, cable for A/V etc. necessary to do your presentation.

A compelling presentation does not depend solely on the presenter or the slides; it is a combination of the two. Each should complement the other. Make sure to follow these tips to do a killer presentation next time.

About the Author
Amanda Athuraliya is the communication specialist/content writer at Cinergix, the team behind the development of Creately Org Chart Software. She is an avid reader, a budding writer and a passionate researcher who loves to write about all kinds of topics.

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