Presentations aren't easy. Standing up and speaking in front of an audience can be a daunting, if not terrifying, experience.
However, getting the content right can make a massive difference. Knowing that you are about to deliver something that is informative and well written should help settle some of those nerves.
Here are some of the keys to creating a presentation to be proud of.
An actor or actress doesn't go out on stage without having learned a script. Every word has been studied, memorised and delivered over and over again. You should take the same approach when it comes to a presentation.
Write down every word of what you intend to say – from the initial 'hello', to the final 'thank you'. And while practice might not make perfect, it should make better. Like an actor, you'll become more confident in the content and your delivery. Soon, you'll be able to speak without having a printed copy of the words in front of you.
Every presentation has three main stages – a beginning, a middle and an end. While that's hardly groundbreaking advice, keeping it in mind will help to achieve a piece of work that has clear aims and has been well planned.
Beginning – Introduce yourself (if the audience don't know you) and try to make a positive, upbeat start. Rather than 'I'm here to talk about paperclips', explain that your paperclips could save time, money or both. That should grab the audience's attention. Also give an overview of the topics you will discuss.
Middle – This is the main part of the presentation, the one which will decide whether or not it's a success. You'll get across every point you want to make, covering every topic you want to discuss.
End – A brief recap, reminding the audience of the key points. You'll then thank them for their time before inviting questions.
Efficient Use of Visual Aids
So many good presentations are ruined by cramming too many words onto visual aids. It's messy and very off putting for audience members. Remember, the presentation comes from you – the aids, as the name suggests, are only there to help.
Regardless of whether you use PowerPoint, a printed booklet or even a handwritten flipchart, keep any written content brief and to the point. Bullet points are a great way of achieving this. They are a lead in to what you are about to say, the rest comes from you.
Consider Your Audience
Presentations are no different to any other piece of written work. You must always have your audience in mind. The content should be informative, interesting and relevant.
If you are writing for a group of colleagues or staff who report to you, the use of in-house jargon may be acceptable. Likewise a pun or joke might help overcome any tension. However, if you're presenting to the board of directors or external stakeholders, a more formal approach might be best.
If you're pitching your services, a product or a change in a process, then treat your script like any other sales writing. The emphasis should be on showing the benefits to those listening in.
Link The Slides
It doesn't matter if you have five, ten or fifty beautifully designed slides or pages – if you don't link them together then you don't have a presentation. All you have is a series of stand alone, unrelated slides.
You don't have to do anything spectacular to ensure that one part of the presentation leads on smoothly to the next. A few words can make a massive difference to the delivery.
“which takes me onto...”
“Now let's consider...”
Nothing fancy required. Just enough to make a seamless transition from one topic or section of the presentation to another. The presenter looks like a pro and avoids 'umm', 'err' or any uncomfortable pauses.