Most of us have had to give a presentation at some point, at least back in our school days. Some of us still do it regularly, almost on a daily basis, which means that this way of getting your message across is very powerful and relevant today. What’s more, experts predict that it will continue to exist for many more years, but, like most other things, it will see some changes. While there will always be certain challenges, such as the presenter’s need to overcome nervousness and anxiety, there are still so many problems that everyone who is about to give a presentation can anticipate, that it would be reckless to neglect them. With this list of tips and guidelines we’d like to help those with little or no experience to prepare for their future presentations.
Content is the king
Regardless of everything you do about your presentation, it’s the content that is the most important. It has to be presented using an easy-to-follow structure, comprising an introduction, body and conclusion. Your introduction should be brief and sum up what you’ll be talking about and why you think it will be useful or relevant to your audience. The body is where you need to present the facts, quotes and evidence to back up your main points. Finally, the conclusion should be used to loop back to your original statement and give the audience some takeaway on how they can implement what they’ve learned from the presentation. Also worth remembering is the fact that you should restrict the number of slides, no matter how long your presentation is. Don’t even think about having more than 15 slides, though the number in reality should not exceed ten. You want your audience to be able to digest the on-screen messages in line with your talk.
Limit the number of words on each slide
Just like you need to restrict the number of slides, you need to do the same when it comes to the amount of copy on each slide. The rule to follow here is: less is more. You don’t want the audience to focus on reading the screen instead of looking at you and listening to what you have to say. If they’re glued to the text, they won’t feel the emotional impact of your message. Some experts in marketing claim that you shouldn’t have more than six or seven words per slide. While it may sound too short, you definitely need to make sure that you try to reduce the number of words on each slide as much as possible. Studies have proven that information is retained better when it’s broken down into bite-sized chunks.
Design has become important
Long gone are the days when people only chose the background color for their presentations. People now hire designers to help them make great slides or use some of the many available tools to express their ideas in the way they want. They usually opt for an easy-to-use music slideshow maker, which can also add effects to their presentations and, thus, make them much more appealing. Still, we can talk about several general rules, regardless of the type of presentation and who has designed it.
To begin with, avoid too many colors, but stick to those that are relevant to your message. Next, you should be consistent with your font and never switch between caps and lower case, Calibri and Times New Roman, or 10- and 24-point text size. Go with one font and one size throughout. Basically, keep your on-screen text uniform, in order to create a more cohesive message. Finally, make sure your text is aligned and neat.
It’s absolutely ok to start messy and brainstorm ideas, rather than have them organized. However, it’s what you do after this stage that makes all the difference. First, you’ll definitely have more information than you need, which means it’s time to do some editing. Keep doing that ruthlessly until your message is reduced to the bare essentials. Next, find someone to take a look at your presentation, ideally a colleague familiar with the topic. Let them check for relevance and spelling and grammar mistakes. They could be able to provide invaluable feedback when it comes to your content, delivery or anything else related to your presentation.
Focus on delivery
You want to get your audience “hooked” from the very beginning, which is why you need to have a strong opening. This is achieved by providing an interesting story, a new angle or asking rhetorical questions, among others. To make the most of your opening, you should know at least something about your audience. That will allow you to use a relevant metaphor or popular culture reference.
You also need to be genuine, i.e. you shouldn’t try to copy someone else. Forget about imitation being the most sincere form of flattery and speak from the heart. As you might expect, you mustn’t try to impress anyone, but simply do your best to get your message across. Last but not least, don’t be afraid of failure. Such fear can make you even more nervous and you’ll surely underperform.
Make it smooth
You need several practice runs. This is best done by recording your presentation on video so that you can see if your speech matches up with your slides and whether your body language is appropriate. Using a remote will help you maintain eye contact with the audience, be spontaneous and control the flow of your delivery. Ideally, you should have backup material, in case you notice something is not resonating with your audience. This could be a simple anecdote or story, but the fact you have plan B will help you feel more relaxed.
So, before you start preparing your next presentation, think about these tips and guidelines. Try to follow them and you’ll see that you’ll be much more focused on what matters the most – conveying your message. When you see for yourself that this advice works, you’ll become an even more confident presenter, which will further decrease your tension and make your presentations even more memorable and effective.