A marketing guru once said that public presentation was the most fun you can have without taking your clothes off. However, it can be a nightmare – for the speaker – and the audience! Keep short, keep simple, keep to the point and enjoy presentation success.
Ten Things You Should Do
- Start with your objective. Know what you want to say, why you want to say it and what you want the audience to do or think afterwards.
- Know and understand your audience. What is their level of knowledge? What information needs do they have? How attuned are they to different forms of delivery?
- You need to script, review, rewrite, rehearse. Ask a colleague to criticise and rewrite again until you are happy and confident with the content.
- Structure. Remember the sequence: signpost, say and summarise. In simple terms: tell them what you are going to tell them, then you tell them, then you tell them what you have told them. There is a bit more to it than that, but within this framework you can set out your main headings and then build around them.
- Short and simple. Stick to just five key messages and keep the talk to no more than 20 minutes – any longer and they will go to sleep. Use language that is appropriate to the audience – this generally means avoiding all jargon.
- Style. This will depend on the numbers and the venue. A team briefing in the office can be fairly informal – but still needs to give information, have a structure and have an outcome. A theatre style presentation on the other hand needs to be more formal with more in-depth preparation and attention to achieving professional delivery.
- Engage the audience. Eye contact, body language and hand gestures all build rapport. Check at rehearsal that you are not overdoing any gestures.
- Use appropriate AV aids. Flip charts, white boards and OHPs are still fine with small groups, use PowerPoint or similar presentation software as groups get larger, consider bespoke visuals for big formal presentations. Often a tablet such as the IPad can be effective for a one-to-one presentation. Don’t forget the importance of good graphics (large and simple), colour, movement and sound to add drama and interest.
- Provide meaningful handouts. Copies of your speech, prompt cards or screen dumps are the minimum you should provide. Remember writing is a different medium and so style and presentation should reflect this allowing you to develop your case further.
- Summary and action. Always close with a brief summary of what you have said, followed by a call to action or with a question.
Five Things You Should Not Do
- Look smart, stand straight, speak clearly and command attention.
- Don’t be guilty of ‘death by PowerPoint.’ A few bullet-points are acceptable but a whole presentation based on bullet-point text is a bit tedious. Visuals should add value to what you say and not just be an electronic prompt card.
- Don’t skimp on preparation. Script, revise and rehearse thoroughly, then you will have more confidence and this will be reflected in better delivery.
- Don’t forget to review the venue. Make sure there are no distractions such as noise or lights. Check that the audience can see you and your visuals.
- Don’t resent questions. It shows they have been listening!