You have an upcoming presentation. Your goals?
Create compelling content;
Deliver with confidence;
Connect with your audience;
Handle visual aids and Q&A like a pro
Here are 50 ways to make your next presentation zing!
1. Start with your audience in mind.
Ask yourself: what’s on their minds? How do they think? What’s their level of familiarity with my topic—and do they have opinions about it? Your message will be more targeted and concise by starting with your audience in mind.
2. Be clear on desired outcomes.
Why are you presenting? What do you want people to do, think, or feel as a result of hearing you? As you clarify your objective, you’ll find it easier to choose which information is essential and which is not.
3. Craft specific action steps.
Craft your action step to be specific and measurable. “Please give me your support” is vague. “Next Tuesday, when the polls open at 7 am, I want you to be there, to cast your vote for me, and then join the celebration that night” is specific and clear.
4. Integrate levels of action.
Try to include multi-levels of action. Example: “I hope you are as excited (feeling) as I am about this new initiative. I am asking each of you to demonstrate the simulation package (doing) and reflect on what could make it even better (thinking). I will be in touch with you individually on your thoughts at the end of next week.
5. Create a Core Message.
Once you have determined the Action Step, you can “reverse engineer” and develop your Core Message. The Core Message is a simple declarative statement that conveys the essence of your talk. That sentence serves as a memory hook for the entire presentation.
6. Repeat your Core Message.
Repeat your Core Message in the opening, in the middle, and at the end of your presentation.
7. State and recap your agenda simply and clearly.
Your agenda (tell ‘em what you’re going to tell them) and your agenda recap (tell them what you told them) focus the listeners. For example: “Today I’ll outline the problem we faced and the solution we chose.”
8. Present key points and evidence.
Key Points are the central statements from your agenda which you use to reinforce your Core Message. Evidence is data or information that supports or helps to prove a Key Point. There are two kinds of evidence a speaker can use.
9. Include both analytical and anecdotal evidence.
You engage both sides of your listeners’ brains if you include both data and stories. Facts and figures are important, of course, but often not enough to convince others of your point of view. Technically dense information can be brought to life through analogies and stories. Show the human side of a policy or procedure through a case study.
10. Be message-driven, not-data driven.
Instead of drowning listeners in data, elevate the discussion to the meaning of the data. If your audience needs to go deeper into the content, have an appendix with data slides for greater analysis.
11. Try the 4Cs story model.
Think of four elements when crafting short stories.
- Context: Set the scene. Where and when is the story happening?
- Conflict: What problem needs to be resolved? Is there a clash of ideas? Are there obstacles to overcome?
- Characters: Describe the people in your story with visual detail. Give them voice with direct quotations.
- Conclusion: Why are you telling this story? In business, every story needs a point. Say something like, “What this story illustrates is ....”
12. Disrupt patterns to re-engage listeners’ attention.
Predictable patterns of delivery can dull listeners’ attention. To continually re-engage your audience, mix it up a bit. Vary your pace and tone of voice, display some slides for a longer time than others, break for discussion in between key points (instead of only at the end), ask a rhetorical question, illustrate a technical point with an analogy.
13. Transitions provide a road map for your audience.
Transition Words are short phrases which bridge from one part of the Presentation Plan to another. By announcing the structure of the talk with Transition Words, you help the audience follow the presentation.
14. Create an attention-getting opening.
An engaging opening will draw listeners into your speech. You could start with a problem statement, some attention-grabbing data, a story or analogy, an audience poll, or simply by setting some context. It’s worth the effort to make your first words so compelling, everyone will want to keep listening.
15. Allow enough time for Q&A.
Have you planned out the time you need for your talk including Questions and Answers (Q&A)? Q&A can often be the most productive time for communication, so plan for it, either between sections of your talk or at the end.
16. Use the PREP Template to Answer Opinion Questions.
P is your Position or your opinion. Try to state it in one sentence.
R is your Reason. Why do you have this opinion?
E is your Evidence or your Example. This explains or justifies your reasoning, and can be analytical or anecdotal.
P is your Position, stated again, just as it was in the beginning.
17. Create a brief Wrap Up for after Q&A.
Have the last word. Prepare a quotation, a prediction, a quick story, or analogy that conveys the essence of your message in a unique way. After Q&A, you can say, “Let me leave you with this final thought...” to help listeners remember your message — not the issue brought up by the last question.
18. Stand tall.
An easy way to adjust your posture is to a) raise your shoulders straight up, then b) press them straight back, then c) drop them down. A tall posture makes you look and feel more alert, more confident.
19. Take a stand.
Balance your weight over your feet with your feet under your hips. Avoid a wider “macho” stance or the tight rope walker stance, with feet close together. Release any tension in your knees to get grounded.
You can use your body as a visual aid. Make lists, show time progression, illustrate scale (large and small numbers, for example) with your hands. Be sure to get your arms up and away from your body so your descriptive gestures will be seen.
21. Get into Zone 2 with your body language.
- You are in Zone 1 if your hands and arms are close to your body, perhaps below the belt. Zone 3 is the opposite: your arms are hyperextended, perhaps above your head. Stay out of Zones 1 and 3. Stay in Zone 2, where your arm is away from your body and moves from your shoulder, and your elbow is naturally flexed.
- Holding your hands in front of you, clasping them in the “fig leaf” position, crossing your arms — all these “cover up” gestures make you look scared. Relax your arms when you are not gesturing to look confident and be free to make gestures.
- When should you move about the room during your presentation? Anytime you want to literally show a transition from one point to another. Otherwise, stand still. Be easy to focus on. Start and end your talk in the middle of the presentation space.
24. Boost your confidence with the Power Pose
Amy Cuddy’s research at the Harvard Business School suggests that if you stand for 2 minutes in a “power pose”, stretching out into all your personal space, you’ll lower the stress hormone cortisol in your system and feel more courageous. Try it.
25. Open your mouth.
- If you are holding stress in a clenched jaw, you may be inhibiting your ability to articulate. So loosen up before you speak. Stretch out your jaw as if you are yawning. Your vowels will sound rounder and richer as a result.
- Speakers who pronounce consonants crisply may be rated as smarter. Listen to a recording of yourself speaking, so you can identify sounds you are not pronouncing well. Then exaggerate those sounds when you are practicing on your own (in the car?). Soon your muscles will be trained, and you’ll have crisper articulation without even thinking about it.
- If you want to communicate and gain credibility, it’s not enough just to look at your audience, or worse, at the back wall. You must interact, with your eyes. Look steadily at one person at a time until you complete a thought. Try to include as many of your listeners as possible, in a natural, non-systematic way.
- The sound of your voice is unique to you. Variation of your voice is the key to keeping listeners interested and engaged.
- Tempo or Rate: Speak faster to convey excitement; more slowly to add gravity to your words.
- Pitch: As in music, pitch indicates the range of notes you sound as you speak.
- Volume: Remember that you sound louder to yourself than you do to others. Project your voice to be heard throughout the room, and vary your volume to change the emotional tone of your words.
- Don’t let your opening words be your warm up. Vocalize low-pitched sounds (privately) before it’s your turn to speak. Your voice will immediately sound more resonant, and you’ll find it easier to project without screeching.
- A routine status report devoid of emotion falls flat. Who cares? If you want to create a sense of importance or urgency, you must include vocal emphasis and variety.
Pause before and after your Core Message, after a provocative statement or question, at transitions between key points, when you reference your notes, and in place of filler words. As you pause, breathe and think. And remember, pauses feel much longer to you than to the audience.
32. Use your face.
- A variety of facial expressions can nonverbally communicate the feelings associated with your words. What’s more, when your listeners mirror your facial expression, they’ll begin to feel the emotion you are projecting. Wiggle your face around as a warm up, so facial expression will come easily to you.
- To replace a bad habit with a better one, you need repetitive practice of the new behavior. That takes focus. So even though you may want to make many changes in your presentation style (remember to pause, for example, or to stabilize your stance), work on just one at a time. That’s the way to establish lasting muscle memory.
- The time to begin rehearsing is when you are about 80% finished developing your content. A test run with a colleague listening may reveal gaps in explanation and you’ll get some feedback on how you are coming across. Refine your talk, then rehearse again.
- Encourage yourself with positive self-talk and not too much criticism. Notice your strengths and give yourself credit for incremental improvement. Remind yourself that perfection is not the goal. It’s all about communication.
- Don’t feel you must keep talking as you check your notes. Instead, leverage your short-term memory. Pause to look at just one section of your notes at a time, and hold that content in your mind just long enough to deliver it. Talk to the people, not to the paper.
Listen for key words, then use similar words to reflect back what you heard the questioner say. Check to see if your reflection was accurate. If it wasn’t, try again. This process gets to agreement on what the questioner really needs to know.
- Especially if someone is upset, a deeper level of listening is required. Reflect back both the content and the feeling tone (skeptical, concerned, frustrated, etc.) of the question as best you can. Ask, “Did I get that right?” Never say, “I know how you feel,” because you actually don’t.
- Ask for people’s participation by name. Require frequent use of the interactive features (chat, polling, whiteboarding, etc.) of your online platform. Asking everyone to turn on their webcam has a surprisingly humanizing effect.
Effective Visual Aids
40. Blank the screen at strategic points to encourage interaction.
- Pressing the B key on your keyboard, or using a remote with a blank-screen feature, can prevent your listeners from falling asleep from your slides. It’s a good technique to use when you want to encourage discussion of the ideas you’ve presented.
- Display your slides in clusters that represent your subtopics. Pause between each cluster to let your listeners think or ask questions. Consider which of your slides warrant a longer view and which can be clicked through quickly for reference. Not every slide deserves equal attention.
42. Set up your laptop as a Confidence Monitor.
Set up your laptop with the screen facing you, so you can stay oriented to the audience while you glance down to the monitor to see your slides. Turn off the mirror function so you can see the slide currently projected as well as the next one in the deck. No need to turn your body toward the projected image (away from the audience) to check.
43. Remind yourself of the true purpose of Visual Aids.
- As the term Visual Aids suggests, the purpose of your slides, props, or your demonstrations is to offer visual images that complement your words. Use more images, fewer words.
- Prepare your talk first. Figure out which slides you need by asking yourself, “What content needs to be illustrated?”
- Notes to yourself go in the Notes field. Aim for fewer words and plenty of white space on your slides so listeners can quickly and easily read them. Better yet, use images that illustrate and complement what you are saying.
- Slides meant to be read when you are not present can be text heavy. But slides that complement your speaking should be image-laden, so people will not be reading as you speak. Prepare two different decks.
- Here’s how you know if your animations are ovedone: a listener comments on them, but not on your message. Builds are good for step-by-step explanations. But keep transitions between slides simple and clean.
48. Use a remote to advance your slides.
Untether yourself from your laptop. Give yourself the freedom to move around the room. Own your own remote control. Get one with a very strong laser light and a button to blank the screen, as well as to advance your slides.
49. Label slides with a Sentence-Assertion Headline rather than just a title.
- Research indicates people understand and remember more if you label each slide with a sentence rather than a title. Ask yourself: what is the point of this slide? That is your Sentence-assertion headline.
- Walk back to the screen, point your feet toward the audience, get your back on the same plane as the screen, and then point to the image.
Related Blog Posts: Care and Feeding of Your Voice, 10 Proven Tips to Handel Question and Answer Sessions,"A Shining City on the Hill" How A Metapho Can Touch Your Audience, and Dealing with Challenging Questions