Attending a presentation can be a transformative journey. Anyone who has seen Steve Jobs’ presentations knows this well. Making a compelling presentation that achieves your goals is no easy task. But some techniques can be applied to develop this skill that is so sought after—and well paid — in the market.
The first point to highlight in this regard is that the presentation has to have a story, and it needs to be presented at the right pace and with a good ending. Since not everyone has Jobs’s talent, it takes a lot of personal effort for most people. Even those who are going to do this for the first time can get good results as long as they take into account some essential tips.
Knowing your audience is the starting point for the success of your presentation. When you know who you’re talking to, you can adapt the language and content to attract and retain their attention, as well as focus on the points that matter. The starting and ending points of the story can also be made more effective.
How to structure the presentation
A well-structured presentation is essential for success, and mastering the subject matter is the primary key. Busy audiences expect you to understand the topic thoroughly, so ensure your ideas are clear and engaging.
The presenter’s style and experience are not the sole determinants of a successful presentation; the idea presented and the presenter’s engagement with the story matter significantly.
Avoid presentations in the form of reports. Prefer those in a story, as they are more captivating. The ideas and stories are fascinating and attention-grabbing. Use numbers to help you tell that story, as they have the power to convince the audience of your arguments.
The story’s structure can follow a sequence of presenting the problem, followed by the solution, and leading to an outcome or conclusion. This is done without overextending or using unnecessary terms.
Using the slides as a personal script for the presentation is not advisable, as your audience will start to yawn when they notice this. If you need a script, put it on separate paper and refer to it as the presentation progresses.
Formatting and layout of slides
Try to place several slides that do not overload the presentation time, always avoiding using too much information in each one, which can visually pollute and cause repulsion instead of attraction. On average, it is recommended to have one slide for every minute of the presentation, but you can adjust this metric according to your personal characteristics.
The typology — typeface — used also influences attention retention. For screens, sans-serif letters — those little dots seen in Times-type fonts, for example — are the most suitable. Arial and Helvetica are recommended fonts, as they are straight and easy to read on electronic devices. Use them with a size of at least 24 points.
Stay with the same font throughout the presentation. Changing the font from slide to slide causes the presentation to lose its visual unity, hindering the memorization of what has already been said.
Don’t overdo the colors. Use subtle backgrounds and avoid changing slide by slide. Also, avoid colors that are difficult to see when layered, such as red on blue or green on red. Whenever it comes to layout and design, “less is more.”
Include images, graphs, and data analysis that are relevant and that visually demonstrate the information passed on verbally. That’s how you can convince people that you can be a good leader who will direct the team’s energy into the proper direction.
Pay close attention to grammar. Grammar errors can discredit your whole story, especially if your audience is well-qualified. Review the presentation more than once to ensure everything is up to an acceptable standard, including the language in which the presentation was given.
The presentation environment
It is essential to know where the presentation will take place and what resources will be available. Go to the venue and check the equipment, how to operate it, ventilation conditions, and the audience’s position on the stage. This will avoid unpleasant surprises and give you more confidence when presenting.
In case of any technical issues or compatibility problems, always take one or more copies of your presentation, and also consider converting your presentation from PDF into PPT using tools and carrying it on a pen drive or another type of media for backup. Always be prepared for unforeseen events to ensure a smooth and successful presentation.
It’s time. And now?
Before going on stage, do slow, deep breathing exercises, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. This will help reduce anxiety considerably.
When starting the presentation, don’t move too much. Beginning presenters move unnaturally from side to side, leaving the audience apprehensive. Try to keep the legs more stationary and move only the upper part — especially the hands — to emphasize points in the presentation. You don’t have to stay still; don’t overdo it.
Admitting your nervousness, as long as it is spontaneous, can break the ice and generate empathy with the audience. You can bet that the vast majority of people there have the same insecurity as you and will hope that everything works out.
A little humor during the presentation goes well, but don’t try to be humorous. Select some personal or professional episodes that you and a few others find funny or interesting and related to the theme, and use them quickly, as the presentation allows.
Attention to body language
It is essential to emphasize the importance of body language during the presentation. It represents 55% of our communication. Our words comprise only 7%, and their intonation carries 38% of the information.
Eye contact with the audience is essential, but don’t focus on just one side. Go through it, taking turns on the sides. If you find it interesting to feel more secure, focus on two or three people on each side for eye contact, as if you were talking to old friends.
Care with voice imposition
As for the intonation of the voice, avoid speeches or attempts to convey too much authority or superiority. Just talk to the audience as if you were having a normal conversation. The tip here is to be yourself and show it to those listening to you.
A final tip regarding voice, diction, and language addiction is to film yourself doing the presentation simulation.
Pay attention to the height of the voice and if the words are audible, in addition to trying to understand the need for possible corrections in language addictions, such as “huh?” at the end of each sentence.
In conclusion, delivering an effective presentation is a skill that can be developed with dedication and practice. To make your presentation impactful and memorable, it is crucial to have a well-structured story that captivates your audience. Know your audience and tailor your language and content to engage them effectively. By implementing these tips, even beginners can deliver compelling presentations that leave a lasting impact on their audience. So, take a deep breath, embrace your nervousness, and deliver your presentation with authenticity and conviction. With time and experience, you will become a more effective and persuasive presenter.