“Great presentation! We’ve been talking about it for weeks!”
Ever been on the receiving end of this praise? It’s actually easier to get there than you might think. We’ve boiled it down to six easy steps. Grab a pen and paper (not your presentation software!) and let’s get started.
1. What’s your goal?
Or rather, your goal for the audience. What’s the change you want your audience to experience as a result of your presentation? Where do you want them to be at the end of the presentation versus the beginning? Is there something you want your audience to know, do, or feel? What’s in it for them? When you can answer these questions – when you know where you want to take your audience and why they should care – you’ve laid the foundation for a focused and audience-friendly presentation.
2. What’s your story?
Presentations are stories, not collections of data and facts. Focus on the story you want to share with the audience first, not the information you want to provide them with. That will come later. Great stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, with some conflict and drama thrown in for good measure. You’ve already got your ending – that’s your goal – so start with “once upon a time…” and throw in a few barriers or some conflict that must be overcome before you can deliver the audience to their happy ending.
Turning your presentation into a story does a couple of helpful things. First from the presenter’s perspective, the concept of telling a story to an audience can be less daunting than GIVING A BIG PRESENTATION. Second, stories resonate with audiences. Who doesn’t love a good story?
Believe it or not, two to five main points in a presentation is about all an audience can be expected to handle. A typical audience will walk away learning just 2-3 things from a presentation, so if you can edit your information to a handful of key points, you will ensure your audience walks away learning the content you feel is most important.
Packing your presentation with too much information makes it difficult for the audience to figure out what they should be paying attention to and what they should be taking away.
4. Spice things up with a story, example, or analogy.
Examples, stories and analogies give your audience a window into the real world of your topic, and they are a great way to make your information stick. In an hour long presentation, the 5 minute story is often the only thing the audience members remember. Stories also give meaning and context to numbers.
Similar to constructing your ‘presentation story’ in Step 2, be sure to describe your protagonist’s barriers and transformation. Tell the story of someone who stretches regularly and how they made that change. News stations regularly tell the story of a person experiencing the highlighted issue in order to personalize the data. Tune in to see this concept in action.
Analogies are comparisons between unlike things that have some particular elements in common and can be very helpful for making sense of complex topics.
Sitting for long periods of time is like letting a car sit in the driveway over the winter without running it. In order to stay in good working order things need to move and be used.
5. Bye-bye bullet points. It’s time to ditch the text-based slides.
Instead match your material with images, videos, and photos that will bring life to the information and reinforce your spoken words. Reserve all the text for your notes. Websites like Life of Pix, PhotoPin, Stocksnap, and Pexels have some wonderful (not cheesy) stock photos. Find free icons and symbols at The Noun Project, or draw your own.
Powerpoint and Keynote make it to easy insert fully customizable simple shapes, charts, and graphs. Read our blog post, “Beginner’s Guide to Displaying Data,” for some ideas on getting started.
6. Don’t “wing it”.
Amazing presentations don’t just happen. They are carefully planned. Give yourself time to create something amazing and practice – lots – before you present. The work you’ve done will ensure that your audience knows exactly where the presentation is headed and why it should matter to them. The time you spend preparing will produce a huge return on investment when presentation day arrives. You’ll get the outcome you want, a rave review, and people asking you to teach them your tricks.