A couple of years ago I was asked to participate in an important presentation. I had presented in the past, usually to groups of 20-40 people, however this pitch was much more serious and had to be absolutely perfect! I thought that I could use my usual preparation skills to get me ready for this one but I was wrong, I needed some expert advice! Fortunately, a presentation coach was sent to help me and for 3 full days he did just that. We prepared an awesome presentation which I was able to execute with perfection!
Now I have this knowledge, I would like to share those tips on presenting here with you.
The first step in your preparation should be the content. If you are going to talk about how great your product is then you need to make sure the content of your presentation reflects that! I’m sure we all believe that what we do / sell / offer is the best but you will require some evidence of this! Think about the overall message and how you want to reach out to your audience. For example, is your audience interested in statistics and numbers or are they a group who will be more impressed with images? In some cases they will be a mixture of these people so it’s very important to get the right balance. Be clear on the message you wish to get across to your listeners.
You need to grab their attention!
To prepare your presentation, it is very useful if you first research a little bit about your audience. This way you will be able to understand how to direct your content to them.
Usually you will know what position the key people hold in their company, however, you can dig a little deeper and read their personal profiles on the company website for example. This may give you an insight into the different personalities you will be presenting to. If you read on a profile that they love to work on design projects in their spare time, you will have an insight into what interests them and know that some images will more than likely grab this persons attention. For example, read the below profile:
I have been working for XYZ for 2 years and have to say that the people I work with are like family to me, we are such a strong team! Working here has given me the opportunity to develop my online marketing skills and I am delighted to continue my journey with this fantastic company. In my spare time I love to go to the gym as keeping fit is very important to me! I also like to travel as much as possible and I am quite addicted to sudoku!
So you’ve done your research, you have now established that the Marketing Manager is someone who enjoys her job very much. She’s a team player and she will also probably be interested in images relating to travel. There is also the hint that she’s a numbers person as she plays Sudoku! Once you’ve profiled each of your audience this way you can begin to prepare the slideshow. This doesn’t need to be too time consuming.
You first need to decide on your template (if you are not working for a company that already has one pre-designed). Prezi is a good platform for building professional presentations. Once you’ve selected your theme for layout and colours be sure to continue this throughout the slides. Continuity displays professionalism and will also show that you have put thought into the design.
You also need to consider how long you have been given to present. Think about how long you will need to talk about each slide and base the number of slides on that.
Keep the slides simple. You do not want to distract your audience with what’s on the screen. Use images and bullet points to deliver your facts where possible. Avoid lengthy pieces of writing otherwise while you are talking I guarantee they will be reading the text and not listening to you!
Have a clear beginning, middle and end. This will help you to structure the presentation well when you are talking though the slides and will keep your audience engaged.
Now you have created a great slideshow, you have included all the facts, images and information that you can and now it’s time to present!
The most important thing now is lots and lots of preparation time.
First you will need to rehearse your presentation. This is best if you have a group of people to practice with so you feel like you are presenting for real.
Ask someone in your audience to time you and if you go over they need to make a note of which point you were at when your time was up! This will help you when you cut down the presentation to make it the correct length.
In rehearsal ask your audience to take notes of anything that you do repeatedly without noticing. For example, when I was presenting, I would always play with my hands or a pen! I never even realised I was doing it but this actually can be very off-putting for the audience!
Try to avoid holding anything in your hands, other than your cue-cards or presentation pointer if you are using them. Also avoid folding your arms or putting them in your pockets. Stand with a relaxed but good posture so you appear to be calm and confident throughout.
Also ask them to pay attention to the speed at which you talk and also if there are any pauses.
Sometimes, when we are nervous we tend to rush through the presentation but this is not going to help your audience get the message. It’s good to take a short pause where there is something that the audience can reflect on for a moment. You can also take a pause to have a sip of water should you need it. But do make sure the water is in front of you and not in a sealed bottle. Otherwise you will be distracted trying to open it!
After lots of rehearsals you will now be ready to present. You know what to say with every slide, you know when to pause and you know that you have timed it perfectly.
One last thing to remember is do not look at the screen whilst you are presenting, look only at your audience.
If you continually turn to the screen they too will focus there and not on you. Even if you have a wonderful slideshow, you are still the most important part of this presentation. The audience will believe in you if you get their attention.
Also, don’t worry if the audience sometimes appear to be uninterested, it’s quite normal for people to remain straight-faced during meetings or presentations. Don’t be put off, continue with your confidence and smile and they will be impressed.
Remember to leave some time for questions at the end of your presentation. You want your audience to be engaged and this is another great opportunity to show them how great you and your product are!
And lastly, relax and smile throughout! People will believe in you much more if you look genuinely happy and calm!
I hope you find these tips helpful and I’d be happy to hear in the comments if you have any presentation tips of your own to share.