Write more engaging presentations
PowerPoint presentations have the reputation of being boring, but as with jokes or stories, the secret to a great presentation is how you tell it. Entertaining people is an art that few possess however with these tips you can become a master at presenting.
Blocking the outline
Too often people rush into writing a presentation without any plan. They pour out everything they know about the subject and call the presentation done. That’s the wrong way to do it. Your presentation is like a story and should be crafted as such. Engaging stories have a beginning, middle and end. Usually this can be broken down into:
- Set the scene
- Describe the problem
- Describe the solution
Hook your audience in by opening with something intriguing or surprising. The best hooks are things that appeal to the emotions. Say something scary or awesome about what you’re talking about that will shock your audience. In the final section you will describe how the awesome thing will happen or the scary thing won’t happen.
Keep it Simple
Tell your story slowly. Don’t try to fit everything on one page. Your audience will naturally read what’s in front of them. You don’t want them to be several steps ahead of you. If this means breaking down bullet points to one per page, do that.
This is a more specialized tip. One man’s good design is another man’s garbage. But there are a few tips that can make your presentations a little easier on the eye:
- Your font should be easy to read. Sans serif fonts like Calibri or Arial are easier to read. Fancy fonts should be used as little as possible such as on slide headers.
- Use dark text on a light background as it’s easier to read.
- Align text to the left or right side. Centered text is harder to read and doesn’t look as professional.
- Keep your slides as simple as possible. An image, headline and bullet points is about as much as an audience can handle.
Repeat important points
People naturally have a limited attention span so expect your audience to tune in and out during your presentation at some point. Don’t take it personally buy understand that you’ll need to repeat important points throughout your presentation. Don’t do it more than three times and try to do it at natural points in the presentation; e.g. A summary/conclusion section.
Some people say that images serve as a distraction but I think they add some visual interest to a presentation. It’s up to you to find decide which is best for your presentation. You should know your audience when it comes to this. If you’re talking to a crowd of PHD professors, then images may not be needed. But if your audience is students, images may make the presentation more interesting and help you to hammer the point home.
Try not to use stock images or clip art within PowerPoint. Everyone uses them and you want to stand out from the crowd. There are many free original stock image sites online such as www.pixabay.com
Expand on points
Your audience is there to listen to you. They don’t want to read a novel on the screen. What’s on the screen should be a summary of what you want to talk about next. Also, try not to read what’s on the screen. The audience has already read it so all they need to hear about is you expanding on it. Large blocks of text can be put in the notes section but you should use that only for practicing. During the presentation you should know it off by heart.
It’s natural to be nervous standing in front of a crowd of people. Public speaking is difficult for everyone but with practice you can become this. There’s a saying; “Fake it till you make it”. If you pretend to be confident, smile and enjoy the presentation you will project this to your audience and they will enjoy the presentation much more. Here are some tips to help you speak well:
- Wear comfortable, respectable and appropriate clothing that will help you hold your head up high.
- Sleep and eat well before the day of presentation. You need to be healthy and strong.
- Try to vary your voice pitch like you’re making conversation with a good friend.
- Try to engage the audience by asking them questions. Nothing wakes an audience up more than participation and it takes the focus off you for a while.
- Take a public speaking course.
Proof Read and Edit
It’s important to re-read your presentation several times for clarity, duplication, spelling, and grammar errors. There’s nothing worse than spotting an error when you’re giving your presentation. It puts you off your stride and certainly doesn’t instill confidence in your audience. If you can’t make an error free presentation, why should they buy in to what you’re saying? It’s about as professional as wearing trainers to your presentation. Finally you need to be ruthless and cut slides that aren’t really necessary. Don’t waste time with filler slides. Each slide should contribute to your story in a meaningful way.
Of course, the above are just guidelines. It’s up to you to know when and when not to follow them. Let us know below in the comments if you have any other tips to add.