Giving a presentation could be one of the most nerve-wracking tasks ever. No matter how well-prepared you are, having to present to your boss or to a meeting is always stressful. If you somehow get it right though, one 5-minute presentation could be enough to make you ‘the man’ in the room.
Presentation skills are becoming more and more important in today’s world, especially with the rapid developments in technology. You may need to give briefings to the directors, suppliers, a team leader, or to your organization as a whole. Presentations provide the means to help stakeholders understand the company’s ongoing projects. In a prospering career, there’s no way to avoid giving them forever. Hence, we’ve gathered 13 of the most important points to keep in mind before your next presentation.
1. Arrive Early
A presentation is useless without functional supporting equipment. Gone are the days of giving presentations through flipping over paper charts; technology has taken over. Due to this, it’s always advisable to arrive early! Make sure you have enough time to test out everything. Check and ensure that everything has been arranged and placed where you want it. You’ll need a perfectly functioning mic, laptop (for the PowerPoint file), projector and remote. Checking it all yourself also has an added benefit of inspiring confidence within you; sending messages to your mind that you’re all set and ready.
People with stage fright could also make great use of arriving at the venue earlier. Just the thought of getting up to a stage in front of hundreds of people, and being flooded in lights, could absolutely petrify some people. You could help this situation by getting up to the stage a few times before the actual presentation so that you create a comfort zone around it. If you arrive early, you’ll get a chance to hold the mic, climb up that stage and greet the non-existent crowd to gain familiarity beforehand. Remember, familiarity is a direct counter to nervousness.
2. Plan Your Presentation
An effective presentation is well-structured and designed carefully from start to finish. The goal is to fit chunks of easily digestible knowledge in a concise manner. The entire presentation must have a ‘flow’ that connects one dot to another naturally, as this makes it much easier for the recipients to comprehend and understand information. A preemptively thought-out structure would also help you address every point without forgetting anything in between. Achieving all of this only becomes possible only through precisely planning out vital aspects of your presentation.
From a broader perspective, the following is an example of what most presentation structures look like;
- Introduction – Make recipients aware of the context and put forward your ideas. Urge your audience to get involved and start thinking about the subject you have in mind.
- Body – Draft a few effective steps that work well towards achieving the ‘ideas’ discussed above. Communicate these to the audience and address any challenges to be faced with proposed solutions.
- Summary – Signify the crux of your entire presentation to the audience. Reiterate the main concept of your presentation and the steps needed to work towards it.
Make sure the structure you end up finalizing isn’t too complex. Put yourself in a recipient’s shoes and deeply analyze the parts of the presentation that could be improved.
3. Practice The Presentation
Giving a presentation brings a unique set of fears, and we’ve all thought about them just before it starts. However, the way you plan out and do things ahead of time could literally change the entire game. As a starting point, identify which thoughts scare you the most about the presentation. Really question yourself what it is you can do to eliminate these fears? Amazingly, you’ll find that there’s a common one-word answer to this question for most of your presentation related worries; practice. For example, your mind may be imagining scenarios like these;
- “What if I stutter and just can’t get the words out properly?”
- “What if I forget where I’m getting at?”
- “What if a certain question totally throws me off?”
To address these issues, give yourself time to walk through the entire thing several times. Talk the whole presentation out and get super familiar with the delivery. Actively consider the tone of your voice, your speed and other parts that you may want to work on.
Way too many presentations fail to hit home simply because of a lack of practice on the presenter’s end. You could have the most informative and immersive presentation planned out, but it could all be in vain without practice. Just because you’ve done your research, created an outline, and prepared all your slides, doesn’t mean you’re foolproof. Practice, practice, and practice!
4. Prepare For Any Questions In Advance And Standby Backup Slides
You must expect various questions during or at the end of your presentation.
In fact, rising questions will help you gauge your audience’s concentration
Before the presentation:
- List all possible questions and practice how to answer them. You want to consider practicing the toughest questions possible.
- You may also gather all the stakeholder’s questions beforehand and include the right feedbacks in your presentation. More so, if you’re presenting to large room or remotely based audience.
- Prepare your own staged question. Entice your audience by picking an individual with a predetermined question, to encourage other stakeholders to present their questions.
Prepare backup slides:
When structuring your PowerPoint slides, you’ll have your opening slide, in-between, final, then summary. It’s advisable to add back up slides below the summary slide.
Things to include in your slide;
- Those unreadable graphs or charts in small print.
- The presentation is unrelated to other slides.
- You’ll stretch your short presentation further.
- Display those graphs that wouldn’t fit in your main presentation.
- you’ll have impressed your viewers who will notice your shear effort on what you are saying.
5. Interact With The Audience
Don’t let your audience get bored.
- Ask them questions and listen to theirs too.
- Laughter is the best medicine. Make your presentation appropriately hilarious. You could open the presentation with funny notation. Connect with audience.
- Share your slides with the audience- allow them to save it on their devices during the presentation.
- Connect with their emotions. Use videos or short clips to drive your points.
It is important to engage your audience as they will keep focusing on your presentation and enjoy the presentation from start to the end. Remember your focus is the audience so whatever presentation you do should be gear towards attracting the attention of the audience at large.
6. Control The Meeting Flow And Show You Are Well Prepared
You need to know what you’re saying, don’t just follow the slides. Moreover, take control of the meeting. Set;
This will enable you to control every aspect of the meeting and ensure that you deliver the best presentation to your audience.
7. Present Project Status With Facts and Figures
Spent time on project status
Show a chart of each project phase in the percentage of each project phase on a milestone.
You could present a table of the milestone with;
- Planned dates.
- Actual completion
- Percentage Progress.
- Tasks remaining to complete the milestone and specific members assigned the task.
You’ll have to convey a bar graph with a cost variable on the y-axis.
- Actual cost
- Planned cost
- Budgeted cost
Use a different color for different variables bars.
Show the percentage completed, to know the exact progress of the project.
Present a graph of created versus completed tasks.
Chart representation of tasks completed, not started and on-going.
Show the workload completed, remaining and overdue.
8. Present Project Issues And Risks With Detailed Explanations And Proposed Recommendation
There are Predetermined risks and unexpected risks.
Present your heading
- Have a heading for every risk or issue.
- Give a detailed update on early and newly identified issues/risks.
- Present bullet lists or tables:
- Talk of the project risks and issue elements under the subheadings.
- Tell the audience how you’ve agreed to deal with the issues.
Give a short update on the way forward
- Any recommendation on the project must be approved by everyone.
- Present your approved possible action or any request for change.
9. Make Eye Contact
A conversational technique of presenting works wonders to keep the recipients immersed. The more you interact with the people you’re talking to, the more they’ll want to listen to your words. Many successful presenters like to incorporate a Q &A style to allow the audience to personally clear out their queries.
Luckily though, interaction isn’t just achieved through words. Even by looking straight at a certain person for a few moments, you’d have grabbed his attention for at least the next fifteen seconds. As you’re speaking your mind in a presentation, make confident and direct eye contact different from people. Surveys suggest that 3 to 5 seconds is the most appropriate span for these glances to work effectively. Directly seeing your audience nod to your ideas is a confidence booster in itself! Build this habit, you’ll make leaps of progress just by this little improvement.
10. Use Visuals
If used effectively, visuals could literally increase the impact of your presentation tenfold. A book could be written about this section and it still wouldn’t do justice to the importance of visual aids. A presentation isn’t just meaningful because of the words you choose. Your recipients aren’t going to remember and retain all of it anyway. However, their pictorial memory (visual recognition) enables them to retain much of what they see, rather than what they hear.
Using visual aid as a support to your speech, your message could travel way further! Be careful though, misuse of visual aids could actually work against you too, e.g. forgetting to switch slides while you move on to the next point, or an over-filled slide. Some commonly used visual aids include flip charts (slightly outdated), whiteboards, use of projectors and sliders, or some props!
The following are a few benefits of using visuals;
The catchier your presentation is, the easier will it be for listeners to digest the information. Visuals help a great deal in making a presentation more interesting, leading to a better comprehension of your words.
Surveys and studies suggest that humans only retain 10% through their auditory recognition (listening), as compared to a 66% retention rate of visual recognition. If a presenter considers information retention to be vital, visual aids are a must.
Supports the Presenter
Through the use of visual aids, you’re basically protected against the possibility of forgetting stuff. Visuals create a sequential flow of the presentation, and the speaker could refer to them at any time. If you suffer from nervousness, a visual aid may prove to be a reliable friend!
11. Keep Your Slides Simple
As mentioned above, a cluttered slide could actually play an adverse role in your presentation. Instead of improving the presentation, it might drive the attention of the audience away from the speaker. You never want your audience to be too busy working out all the arrows and jumbled up words in your slide. They wouldn’t be listening to you while they figure that mess out. Instead, split the information over more slides to display them and talk over them peacefully.
In presentations, it’s the little things that count. Even the choice of colors in some slides could throw off a few particular recipients, so it’s best to exercise simplicity when it comes to slides. After all, the slides are there to supplement what you’ve got to say, instead of the other way around.
12. Use Stories And Analogies
Understandably, drowning anyone in stats and numbers is the quickest way to lose their interest. No one comes to the presentation excited to hear about statistical data, right? Alternatively, the use of stories has proven to be incredibly effective as a means to gain the audience’s complete attention. We naturally look to relate ourselves to a story someone tells, and there’s an intrinsic desire to know what happens next. This constitutes a strong, impeccable focus.
Apart from this, it works wonders for the retention rate as well. We’ve discussed the importance of this factor above, and many presenters would love for their message to be retained by listeners. Stories help us create a context to the underlying message, and we associate characters along with it. This helps us recall information in a much more effective manner. Remember those childhood stories that had a moral at the end? Of course, you do, that’s the power of stories.
13. Provide A Copy Of Your Presentation
At the end of your presentation, you could always announce that copies containing key points would be handed out to recipients. This helps the interested parties refer to it later on when they need to recall a certain point. Anything that aids their memory for remembering the crux of the presentation is a win-win for the presenter, so why not?
Planning and practice are arguably two of the most important aspects of delivering an extraordinary presentation. Planning tells you what to do, and practice teaches you how to carry it out. With experience, you’ll also learn new ways to maintain the immersion of your audience, which has also been discussed in detail above. Some tips to keep in mind are to find ways to interact with your audience more and more. You could achieve that through eye contact and a conversational style, where the speaker asks and welcomes questions.
Many stressful scenarios could be transformed into positive occurrences just by changing the way we perceive them. If you’ve got a presentation coming up, there’s no need to be nervous. Alternatively, look at it as an opportunity to grow yourself and to expand your comfort zone. Once you’re ready to take this challenge on, you’ll need guidance to get it right. This article has introduced you to ten of the most important presentation tips and techniques to absolutely nail it. All the best!