According to audience surveys, 82% of presentations are mediocre at best – which means a good presentation stands out. Making a good presentation is not rocket science – but it does take forethought and effort.
I recently attended a conference and jotted down these notes as I watched the presentations. These tips are designed to help you be one of the 18% of speakers that stand out in a positive way. There is nothing earth shattering here but some good tips to help you get your message across.
Some of these things are so obvious they should not need to be said. Sadly though, they do.
- Assume you must use PowerPoint.
- Read your slides.
- Use text in your PowerPoint. People want to see pictures and hear words.
- Show complex graphs and charts – simplify graphs and charts to help the audience understand the meaning, not the detail.
- Assume the audience cares about your topic – it is your job to tell them how your topic is relevant to them.
- End your talk by saying “questions?” or “that is all I have to say”.
- Start your talk with the lights on. Take time to build a relationship with your audience before you show your slides.
- Turn the lights up fully after your slides and then give your conclusion.
- Breathe. Smile. Make eye contact. Relax. Tell a joke.
- Use periods and pauses in your talk. Avoid run-on sentences and paragraphs.
- Have a clear idea of what you want your audience to know when you are through speaking
- If you use handouts, bring enough for everyone. (Seriously, I saw a speaker who brought a single handout to pass around the room).
- Have a strong closing statement that emphasizes your message.
Some good phrases to avoid:
- “I will be brief” – people that say this never are.
- “Joe was supposed to give this talk but couldn’t make it so I am here instead” – You have just lost the audience
- “I am NOT going to talk about…” – tell us what you ARE going to talk about
- “I am happy to be here” – This is just filler. The audience wants to hear your message, this means very little to them.
- “I am not a good public speaker” – again, you have lost your audience.
Here a few tips on things TO DO to look good:
- Have some one ready to operate the lights for you – make sure they know what they are doing.
- Provide your host with a good bio of you and your topic prior to the conference.
- Bring a copy of the bio with you just in case.
- Practice using the remote control before you speak.
- Turn your laptop so it is between you and the audience facing you – this allows you to see the slides while looking at the audience.
- Predict the questions you will be asked and practice the answers.
- Have a back-up plan for “technical problems”
- Bring a glass of water to the lectern.
- If a microphone is provided, use it.
If you are the conference organizer
- Watch for problems and fix them so other speakers don’t have to deal with the same issue.
- Be ready to help the speakers as needed.
- Make sure speakers know what is expected of them in advance.
- Have a system to signal speakers as they approach the end of their allotted time.
- If the agenda runs late, do not make up for lost time by making the breaks shorter.
- Offer ample and frequent breaks. Audiences that sit too long get uncomfortable, bored, and they stop paying attention.
The purpose of presentation is to change a behavior, belief or attitude. Successful presenters take time to plan their talk. The content of what you have to say is important. Match that with good delivery and you have a winner.