General Information

High-impact presentations

asterixMost managers get asked to make presentations from time to time. For many, it can be nerve-wracking. But it's a great way of engaging a group of colleagues.

 

KEEP IT SIMPLE

Follow the “less is more” principle and don't try to cram too much into your presentation. Decide what your key messages are (three is a good number to aim for) and concentrate on getting these across clearly.

PREPARE

Take time to prepare what you're going to say and any visual aids or handouts. Don't joke about completing slides over breakfast that morning, especially if the material is sensitive or difficult. It shows a lack of professionalism and commitment.

REHEARSE

There aren't many presenters who can make a good presentation without rehearsing it. And rehearsal is vital if the subject or event is really important. So practise what you're going to say in full and ideally with one or two other people (colleagues, friends or family members) there to make it as real as possible and to give you feedback. Even in rehearsals, carry on if you make a mistake. By the time you've finished rehearsing, you should be able to deliver your presentation with only occasional glances at your notes. And remember to time yourself so you can be sure you'll be able to finish on time.

PRACTICE YOUR ADLIB LINES

Leave nothing to chance. Think through every eventuality and have your ad-lib lines ready.

IT’S A TWO-WAY STREET

Some presenters try to cram too much into their presentation and forget to leave time for audience interaction, such as questions and feedback. Consider breaking the presentation into chunks and creating space to stop and take questions. Alternatively, allow ten minutes at the end for a Q&A session.

HUMOUR

Consider the appropriateness of any humour you might be thinking of using. You might like to go for a laugh to settle you in and win over the audience, but be ready for the consequences if no one does laugh. And go for chuckles, not belly laughs.

SLIDES ARE NOT THE SCRIPT

Visual aids are just that – they're there to reinforce your key messages, not to replicate what you're saying. It should be possible for someone to get full value from your presentation even if they didn't pay attention to the slides. It's up to you to get your message across – not your slides.

AVOID BUSY SLIDES

Your audience may be sitting at the back of a long room. If your slides are too complex and hold too much information, your audience will disengage and your key messages will not get through. A good guide is to print the slide off, place it on the floor in front of you and see if you can read it standing up. If you can't read it clearly, neither will your audience! Keep your slides simple – if it looks like a wiring diagram it won't be engaging.

CREATE THE RIGHT IMPRESSION

If your slides look professional, you'll look professional. Slides made up of different fonts, sizes, bad grammar and fuzzy images portray muddled thinking and a sloppy approach. Take your time and get it right. First impressions count.

CHECK THE KIT WORKS

The speaker's platform can be a lonely place when the technology fails. Avoid microphones unless you can't be heard without one, and check all technology in advance. Be sure to have a plan B up your sleeve (e.g. handouts in case the projector fails). And a plan C if that fails. Belt, braces and string in your pocket. Just in case.

TALK TO THE AUDIENCE, NOT THE SCREEN

Some speakers spend an entire presentation with their backs to the audience looking at their own slides. Careful positioning of your laptop screen can give you a screen you can see, and still allow you to maintain contact with the audience.

MIND YOUR BODY LANGUAGE

Stillness, pauses and eye contact will help you hold the attention of your audience. When you do use gestures, make them bold and emphatic. Try not to fidget and don't wander about unnecessarily unless it comes naturally.