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In this two-part series, we will cover the basics of how professional presenters make the most of their speaking engagements to move their audiences to a particular action.
There are times when even the best presenters find themselves overwhelmed. There are instances when even the most experienced speakers feel lightheaded at the thought of going on stage and standing in front of an audience. One reason for this may be that they are speaking to a whole new set of people in a different business environment from what they’re accustomed to.
Every speaker has a different experience in every presentation. One group may be responsive and appreciative, while another may be too uptight to welcome new ideas or standards. Introducing a new learning concept or business idea to various groups may cause some friction and the response received from the audience is likely to affect succeeding presentations or speaking engagements. Here is some advice to prepare for these situations:
This part will cover proven practices used by presenters and thought leaders in the world of business presentations.
Presentations should be appealing and not just lists of bullet points. They can be powerful communication tools if you use your imagination when creating them. Your presentations should summarize the key points of your topic. It should enthrall and excite your audience. The message you intend to send must be clearly stated in your presentation. Most importantly, it should keep the interest and attention of your attendees and participants.
Do away with boring presentations full of bullet points and lists. Start spicing things up a bit. Add a dash of color, an ounce of interaction and a good amount of valuable content. Make your presentation more than just a set of slides.
Presentation slides are conveniently designed to present graphical data and information horizontally. Limit information to what it is really needed. Refrain from filling the white space with unnecessary details. Remember, you’re delivering information and not just pretty designs and color combinations.
This applies both to text and animations. In the early days of Power Point presentations, the tool was primarily used to dissect a topic into subheading points. The common practice was to list everything on slides and just let the audience read and learn on their own. Today, long lists and elaborate animations will kill any presentation if not implemented with a certain degree of restraint.
In terms of content structure, it’s more efficient to focus on three main points of the topic you’re presenting. Summarize the most important information and limit your presentation to three key points to send a concise yet powerful message.
Limit one idea per slide. This is important if you want your audience to really absorb your message. You might end up with many slides in the end, but the goal is to communicate your idea clearly and effectively.
Aaron Weyenberg, a TED in-house expert, states that presenting too much text on your slides is asking your audience to split their focus between listening to what you’re saying and what is listed on the slideshow presentation before them.
A visual theme ensures your slides are consistent and professional-looking. A beginner might simply use the templates that come with a software package, but for a professional business presenter, it is expected that you take the time to create your own presentations so as to brand them or label them to match the topic and appeal to the audience you will be presenting to.
The visual theme is the global template that will determine the font, color, chart styles and objects that will be included in the presentation. Alan Goeman advises to take the time to choose every element of your visual theme wisely so as to provide consistency to your presentation.
Choosing visuals wisely makes for a memorable presentation. Go for professional images that are relevant and clarify the important points in your presentation.
The use of clip art images is outdated and will surely bring your credibility down a notch. Also. do away with so-called slide gluttony. If you want to elicit a positive reaction from senior level officers in your company, take the time to plan a theme, choose an image and create visuals that best communicate your message.
According to Echo Swinford of Echovoice.com, a presentation containing too many unreadable graphs and charts will, at best, be interpreted as a showcase of presentation features and not a presentation of your topic.
Use charts and graphs only when necessary and when you need to highlight differences in values and important statistics.
Use audio and video only when necessary. Visme allows users to embed videos and add audio to their slide presentations. However, these features should only be used when it is extremely necessary to illustrate a key point in the presentation.
The overall design and feel of your presentation is determined by the colors and fonts chosen. When thinking about your visual theme, choose the font and color that will go best together.
In a previous post on color psychology, we covered in detail how colors affect the senses and audience reactions.
Eddie Rice from CustomSpeechWriting.com says that you should use your slide presentation only as supporting material. It should stand out and illustrate your point, but it should not dictate what you present. It is important that you know every aspect of your presentation by heart. You should master your topic before your slide deck is created–not the other way around. Remember, if there are technological problems, you should still be able to deliver your presentation without the visual support.
You don’t need too many words on your presentation slides. Again, the only purpose of visual content is to reinforce, illustrate and elaborate on the message you are delivering to your audience.
Think of GPS system when planning your presentations story, says Dave Paradi of ThinkOutsidetheSlide.com.
An experienced presenter may already have slides ready for each topic covered in previous speaking engagements. The usual practice is to repurpose content from previous presentations in an attempt to shorten the preparation time and with the hope that they will be delivering the same message to another group of people. However, even though your audience may be comprised of people with similar roles across different business settings, their absorption levels may vary.
What is understandable to one group may be hard to grasp for another. The reason? Each company has a different organizational culture.
When preparing slides, think of where you would like your audience to go. Research and anticipate their knowledge and level of appreciation and understanding. Presentations are oftentimes used to promote change or to initiate a transition. If you fail to assess your audience’s knowledge level in a particular subject, you’re most likely to add nothing to what they already know.
Once you have identified what is missing or lacking, determine the best route to take them to an understanding of the transition that will take place. Clearly defining the end destination is very important if you’re giving a mission-oriented presentation.
Even experienced presenters update their presentation skills to ensure their input is cutting edge, appealing and informative. As we grow and evolve in this digital age, so will the manner of presenting information. What works for another presenter may not always work for you, but applying proven tips from seasoned speakers will inspire and equip you to find your own methods for delivering a memorable and effective presentation.