03 May How to deliver an excellent presentation
No matter how excellent you are at presenting, if you haven’t set the stage for yourself and readied your material correctly, you will never live up to your full potential when presenting. Too often people focus on improving their presentation skills alone, and while this is certainly essential for your overall performance, it means that less focus is placed on improving how you prepare before a presentation.
Imagine that you are watching a fantastic presenter. She knows her topic inside and out, and she is enthusiastic about everything she says. She is creating a dialog with the audience, asking questions, engaging the crowd, and developing a real stage presence. However, her slides are dense with text, and you find yourself getting distracted by trying to read everything that’s on them. The presenter also hasn’t timed her presentation correctly and goes 20 minutes over her time limit, continuing to talk over the audience’s growing restlessness. As you and your colleagues are leaving after the presentation, all everyone can talk about is how late her talk went. It almost seems like everything the presenter actually talked about has just been forgotten.
This is an example where preparing well was the missing piece in the presentation. While being an exciting and engaging speaker is an important part of an overall performance, practice is the key for delivering an excellent presentation. For instance, making sure that your presentation is the right length, and the effort you put into your slides and material can make or break your presentation.
Set one clear goal for your presentation and build your presentation around your core message
To prepare for a presentation, you must remember the reason you’re doing one. Is your goal going to be to educate or inspire your audience about the significance of particular development in their industry for instance? Whatever your goal is, align the whole presentation around that element and its consequences. Analyze every slide and piece of information to make sure that you include only material that directly relates to your goal. This goal should be immediately and unmistakably recognizable for your audience. Repeat your core message in a natural way throughout your presentation to further emphasize your point. However, try to avoid sounding robotic with your repetition.
Time your presentation
Make sure that your presentation is the right length while you are practicing. Time yourself, and then leave yourself a couple extra minutes at the end just to be on the safe side. Going over your allotted time makes it seem like you don’t have respect for your audience’s time, as they may need to be somewhere else. Also, you will start to lose people’s attention as you go further and further over time, simply because they are thinking about what they need to do after the presentation. This restlessness in the crowd will really cost you a lot of momentum in your presentation, and drag down the rest of the presentation in the memory and regard of your audience. You also don’t want to be the person who runs out of time at the end of a presentation and ends up rushing through the last 15 minutes of information in 2 minutes.
Practice, practice, practice. Focus on your core messages, not exact words
Practice as much as you possibly can. This is an obvious part of preparing, but it cannot be overstated. You should know your information by heart, allowing you to feel relaxed and confident while you are onstage – you should even be able to improvise with your stories and information. Try to remember ideas and core messages and not exact words. Otherwise, you may run into the problem of sounding robotic. Go through your presentation fully until you honestly feel ready, and then relax and trust your abilities.
Keep your slides and visuals concise and efficient
Your slides should be brief and, if possible, you should include effective and relevant visuals. Extra information and unnecessary words are opposite of helpful – they distract your audience and make it hard for them to listen to everything you have to say. Since you shouldn’t need to read off your slides, keep only relevant words and figures that reinforce your key points on each slide. A good rule is 5 to 8 words per slide and try to include a visual that complements and enhances your message.
By keeping these key points in mind, you can create a great presentation and ready yourself to give an excellent performance.
In short, remember
1. Set one clear goal for your presentation and, for optimized effectiveness, align it with the audience’s take-away.
2. Build your presentation around your core message and repeat it.
3. Practice, practice, practice. Remember ideas and core messages, not exact words.
4. Time your presentation.
5. Keep your slides and visuals concise and efficient.