Regardless of whether you are going to do it in front of hundreds of people, or just a few colleagues, or at work, you must prepare yourself for the presentation you will be giving. If you want to achieve the best results possible and really impress, you need to plan and prepare yourself, no matter if it is the first time you are giving a presentation or if you do it every day.
Then there are the nerves….there is apparently a survey that shows American CEOs are more afraid of speaking in front of people than they are of death. The brain and our imagination say that it is a matter of life and death. But even if you hesitate, show the wrong picture, sweat, lose yourself or your voice trembles, you can be quite sure that there will be a new day tomorrow. And what is HUGE in your mind is of no consequence at all to those who are listening.
1. Preparation is key
When you start planning your presentation you need to know who you are going to be speaking to – how many will be there? What do they know about the subject? Is attendance at the presentation voluntary or have they been ordered to listen to you? In that case you may need to make the presentation more casual and not too heavy. Also, think about what questions the audience may ask so you can incorporate that information in the presentation. Bounce ideas around with a colleague or friend – ”what would you ask about this?”
2. Set a goal for the presentation
When you speak at your event, dealer meeting or seminar, for example, you hopefully have a goal for it. How can your speech or lecture serve this goal? What added value can you give your audience?
Do you have five minutes or five hours? The difference can be enormous and therefore you must plan your entire presentation in line with that. What do you want to convey during your time “on stage”? Short and concise is better than too long. A long-winded presentation will kill the whole purpose of why you are speaking.
4. The content should be interesting and relevant
Does anything seem unnecessary? Get rid of it immediately! Unnecessary information takes away the focus from that which is important and the audience can miss what you really want to convey. The purpose of the presentation must be clear.
Speak slowly and clearly. Make sure that the audience is alert and take in what you say. Take breaks – both for your own sake and for those who are listening. Speak for a maximum of 45 minutes, then take a break if you need to speak any longer.
6. Practice makes perfect
Practice as much as possible so you do not have to rely on your notes. The presentation will be better if you can speak more freely. Run through your presentation several times to see that everything works. Both your material and the technology.
7. Be proud of your presentation.
If you show commitment and enthusiasm, this will usually spread to the audience. Smile and be happy when you present your material. But see point 15, as well.
After completing the presentation, it can be good to make use of feedback of some kind. Ask a colleague who is attending the presentation to come up with constructive criticism afterwards – was everything good or is there anything you can improve for the next time? Or just enjoy the fact that you did it and move on.
9. PowerPoint as an aid
PowerPoint is a good aid to make use of when giving a presentation. “Damn PowerPoint”, say some, but don’t get caught up in detailed flow charts or 50 points on a page. Don’t. It’s better to have a picture that you talk around. There is other support, such as Prezi, a little cooler, a little more advanced.
10. Focus on what’s most important
The most common error many people make is to fill their PowerPoint presentations with far too much information on every slide. Such a presentation should not show everything. It should be an aid to enable you to talk freely while still having a few main points to look at for help. It also helps the audience find the most important things in your presentation.
11. Everything in moderation
Try to keep to as many points/text as each slide allows. There are pre-installed fonts and sizes for headings and the body of the text. If you stick to these, that is to say that the text does not start to shrink in size, this is a good guideline on how much information each slide should contain. Usually just a few points are enough.
12. Use images
To activate the two halves of the brain, it is important to have a good balance between the flow of text and images in the presentation. This is the best way to get your audience to understand everything. Make sure not to have more than three slides in a row with just text and facts. If possible, mix images and text on the same slides.
13. …But not just any images
Just because there should be images, it doesn’t mean they can be any image whatsoever. You can remove any Clipart image straight away. Only relevant images should be included, otherwise you may as well do without them. Decorative images serve no function.
Many companies have created their own templates for PowerPoint. If these exist – use them. Otherwise you should select as simple a template as possible. What you want to get across is your message, not how cool a presentation you can show off.
Those are a few tricks that hopefully can help you get started on your preparations and in the end will result in a great presentation that you can be proud of for a long time to come. Good luck!
15. Don’t take yourself too seriously
See the introduction. Are you sick with nerves? It is quite normal. Start by saying that, then the pressure will be relieved. Don’t fall into the “Now I’m going to give everyone an energy boost and not show that I’m in the least nervous” trap.
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