Presentations - some of us excel at them, others dread holding them. Here's an overview of what you need to up the ante for your next presentation, as well as how to make good slides.
Where does a good presentation start?
On a trip to Nairobi, Kenya, TED expert Chris Anderson came across Richard Turere, a 12-year-old boy who developed a system that turns lights on and off in sequence to protect livestock from lion attacks. To get the extremely shy boy ready to present his invention in front of over a thousand people at a TED conference (which ended with standing ovations), Anderson and his colleagues prepared Richard months in advance, cycling through framing, rehearsing and fine tuning.
While you might not need or have that time, the same tips and tricks used to get the pre-teen ready for his speech can help you master your next presentation.
Giving your story a journey-type framework will help make the presentation more compelling. This means setting explicit start and end points, chosen with the audience in mind. Consider what they know, what they need to know and how you will introduce this knowledge concisely.
According to Andersen, a lot of great presentations have an 'aha!' moment, where, after presenting an issue, the audience experiences Aristotle's concept of catharsis (or relief) by finding a solution. To guide people to this point, try to make them engage with you by including anecdotes or little jokes. This will make the overall energy of the presentation flow more easily and help achieve more learning, compared to just reciting plain facts.
Anderson suggests there are three ways to present: read from a script, have bullet point notes as prompts, or learn your presentation off by heart. Depending on how much time you have to practise the presentation, you should either memorise the speech or have bullet point notes, the TED expert suggests.
He also stresses the point of not repeating the exact words from your slides, as this will feel repetitive to your audience. Overall, well-designed slides can frame your presentation and aid in maintaining a consistent pace.
So what do good slides look like?
Aaron Weyenberg is the User Experience lead and creator of Keynote presentations at TED talks. Sharing his knowledge about what makes a great slide show, he points out that thinking about the design layout last will help make the presentation effective and tailored to the audience. Frame your presentation, think about the main message and structure its supporting points before starting on slides.
To create consistency across the presentation, Weyenberg says to use the same or related typography, colours and imagery for all design elements. His tip for putting future presentations together with ease is to make templates with your favourite graphics.
Once you have decided on the general design of your slides, you need to consider how you will avoid every page looking the same. Work with contrasts (main slides one colour, transitions another) to keep consistency and levels of audience engagement high - a tip also emphasised by Garr Reynolds, a coach on presenting.
As a general rule, both Weyenberg and Reynolds suggest less text is more. Lengthy writing causes attention loss and compromises the overall effectiveness of the presentation. To stop boredom setting in due to an overload of information, Reynolds further mentions the usefulness of images when conveying a point. The key is to choose images relevant to the topic which are not overly complex, to make it easier to relate to what you're saying.
To ensure your slides tie in with the overall presentation, thus increasing the effectiveness of the message conveyed, refer to the details of transitions and graphs. You don't want to go too crazy with page transitions, as that suggests the rest of your presentation is dull. Keynote and PowerPoint offer various effects, so choose those that enhance your point rather than distracting from it.
Weyenberg also says that if you have extra time to fully pull together your presentation's design, re-draw simple graphs and charts with the native tool kit. This, while not essential, will add to the consistency of your entire presentation.
How can you apply this?
In a Forbes article, Ken Krogue, president and founder of InsideSales.com, published a checklist for presentations. Compiled below are some of the questions Krogue suggests you ask yourself:
- Is what I'm presenting important to the audience?
- Have I designed my slides well?
- Have I set an agenda for the presentation?
- Have I checked all my research?
- What do I want the audience to think, feel and do?
- Can I answer potential questions?
Ultimately, the success or failure of your presentation comes down to the substance and authenticity of the topic rather than the design. Always remember: the more you practise, the better you'll get.
To discover how you can make the most your presentations, get in touch with us today.