Preparing for presentations is tough, tedious and time-consuming, and the cardinal rule once you’re in the room is to engage those in your audience—not put them to sleep.
You don’t have to be the next Steve Jobs or Tony Robbins, but a better version of yourself when presenting your hard work, thoughts and ideas.
As a senior account manager and adjunct instructor in digital marketing, I have seen and participated in my share of presentations. It takes practice and experience to know your audience and learn to quickly pivot if things aren’t going well during a presentation.
So, let’s get down to the seven phases of making an effective presentation:
1. Knowing your audience
The most important thing to do before preparing your presentation is to research your audience. Find out what they expect to gain from you. The more you can connect with them, the more engaged they will be.
Your presentation should cater to the background and needs of your audience. For example, if I’m presenting to a group of accountants, I would include hard numbers and objective data. On the other hand, if my audience is a team of creatives, I would include more visual and interactive content.
Write an outline telling your story in a clear and concise manner. Each section should flow and tell a story. Think about the outline carefully, as it will become the foundation of your presentation.
For example, if I’m meeting with a client for a business review, my outline flow would consist of past performance, competitor analysis, opportunities and a road map of what’s next.
Here is where things can go horribly wrong. PowerPoint should be used as a guide, not a crutch.
When creating your slides, make sure your graphs and text are easy to view when they’re projected onto a screen. All too often, I can barely read or see what is depicted on a presentation slide because of small type or tiny graphs.
As a rule, keep words to a minimum, especially if you’re showing charts or graphs. Keep in mind that your audience should grasp your slide’s content quickly and easily.
I once was advised to record myself with a video or voice recorder when practicing a presentation. That approach was a game-changer for me, when I realized I speak in a monotone and can sound detached. Now, I make sure to speak loudly and with enthusiasm.
With a video recorder you can also check out your overall demeanor. Considering that 60 to 90 percent of communication is nonverbal, body language is crucial.
5. The pre-game
Before your presentation:
- Take five minutes for yourself to breathe and adopt some power poses. You want to be relaxed and confident before making a presentation. Your body language will say it all to your audience.
- Check the equipment to make sure your laptop can project properly and your presentation is being displayed properly.
6. Game time
You’ve spent hours on your outline, on PowerPoint and on practicing; now is the time to shine.
Here are some key suggestions:
- Start strong and be assertive; make your presence known with a full, resonant voice and confident body language.
- Starting off with a short story or surprising fact doesn’t hurt.
- If sitting, sit up straight and use hand gestures.
- If standing, walk a bit and point at important content on the screen. Doing so will keep your audience engaged, because they will clearly see and hear you.
- Do not read off your slides. Use PowerPoint as a guide, not a crutch, and never, ever, read word for word off your slides.
- It’s easy to get off track, so don’t talk too much and keep it to the point. You want to keep them engaged and keep what you’re saying relevant to the topic at hand.
- Keep your umms to a minimum. I hear those all the time, and they can be maddening.
- End strong with clear action items and takeaways for the audience. Summarize your main points and the audience’s next steps.
If the situation requires it, send a quick recap email with a PDF of your presentation to attendees. Include your contact information so they can follow up with questions and feedback.
Creating and delivering an effective presentation will take time and practice, with lots of trial and error. It’s an endeavor that never stops evolving, whether you’re fresh out of college or you’re an experienced professional improving your style.
The key is to make it engaging, relevant and to the point.
A version of this article first appeared on the MarketingProfs website.