At some point in your career, whether your company seals the deal on a million-dollar contract could rest on how skillfully you deliver a presentation. What characteristics make a good presenter? According to Well Said Inc., a company that studied 237 responses from senior leaders in Fortune 100 companies, it’s clarity, conciseness, and credibility.
The same study by Well Said Inc found that a bad presenter gives too much information, rambles, shows a lack of confidence and enthusiasm, looks unprofessional and hasn't done their homework.
Ouch! This guide shows you how thorough preparation, headlining, and practice can build your confidence and hone your presentation skills. Follow this guide and your next performance will be worthy of a Ted Talk.
Many presenters fail to prepare for their presentations correctly because they overlook so many of the critical factors. A presentation will require the creation of slides or visuals, that’s true, but key points and graphs are not the main features. You are, and there is so much more to consider when preparing a presentation.
Specifically, there is the headline that you must deliver to engage your audience, preferably before they have fallen asleep at slide 2. There is the content flow, language and rhythm, tone, and pitch. Lastly, there is the delivery, which includes non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions and gestures.
For a presentation to be compelling, all these factors need to be part of your preparation, not just the PowerPoint slides.
Delivering too much information, rambling, and generally failing to get the point across is a common fault of presenters. But it can be avoided if you learn how to headline. Before you go into the nitty-gritty of your presentation and delve into the argument, begin your presentation with a compelling headline to get your audience’s attention.
To come up with a headline, consider what you want your audience to remember at the end of the presentation? What is your message? Also, try to engage your audience by setting them some sort of challenge. It might be to challenge you and your reasoning. It might be to change how they think about what you are presenting.
Here’s an example of a headline as an opener to a presentation.
“Good morning, everyone. I’m here to save your bottom line. I will tell you how Verifi by Visa will save you thousands each year. More than that, I will challenge your sensibilities and tell you that your investment will be practically nil in terms of time and resources. Don’t believe me? You will.”
This opener gets everyone’s attention because you are promising something, making you vulnerable. Your audience will want to listen in order to challenge you. Ultimately, your point has been delivered clearly and concisely.
Another type of opener is to tell an anecdote that your audience can relate to and that gets their attention. If it appeals to your audience’s emotions, it will be effective.
“Good morning, everyone. I want to share a quick story. I met an e-commerce entrepreneur last week who had been in business for five years. He had just started to turn a profit, but supply chain issues and customer chargebacks meant facing Chapter 11. I’m going to tell you how Verifi by Visa saved his business.”
Don’t feel that you need to use a meaningful statistic in your headline. People remember stories much more than statistics, so they are much more effective for marketing purposes.
Now that you have everyone’s attention, gain the trust of your audience by backing up what you are going to say with valid arguments and facts. Here’s how to establish credibility.
Now that you have a headline and clear message, you can focus on the meat of your argument and the slides. This is where you convince your audience that you know what you're talking about.
Slides for a successful Powerpoint presentation should look professional. They should follow a style that is consistent with your brand. They should not be cluttered. Use bullet points because too much text is distracting, and only provide information that directly supports your headline.
Your goal is to establish trust with your audience. So, follow up your headline with your most convincing argument. This will encourage your audience to believe that there is merit in what you stated in your headline. Your subsequent slides will serve to further support your claims and build your credibility.
Limit the points that you make. More is not better. In fact, just providing three or four solid points can have more impact. You can always provide more details in handouts.
At the end of your presentation, reiterate the most convincing argument and restate your headline to reinforce the message.
Nerves are a problem if you experience fear of public speaking. But nerves do abate with practice, and some amount of adrenaline will keep you on your toes. Still, if you are visibly nervous, it will detract from your delivery and will prevent you from connecting with your audience.
To overcome your anxiety, pretend that you are speaking to just one person in the audience. Choose a friendly face and speak confidently to that one person. Everyone will hear your confident voice even though it is directed at one person.
Pretend that you are speaking to a friend so that your language and tone are approachable and not stilted.
Don’t read from your slides when giving presentations. Use slides as a reminder of what you are to talk about next but know the material well enough that you can talk about it clearly and naturally.
It’s fine to pause to remember what you want to say or to rephrase what you have said. We all do that when we talk with friends, and it is natural in communication to want to choose our words carefully.
Nothing will ruin a great presentation more than a presenter who does not know the material. To gain the trust of your audience, you have to look and sound credible. To sound credible, you have to know your material.
Most presenters allow their audience members an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the presentation. In fact, in the headliner example I gave, the presenter almost challenges the audience. So, the presenter must have full command of their content and deliver convincing answers.
You don’t need to memorize a script or search for the right slide when responding. Just remember your headline and main points that back it up. It will take practice to be eloquent in spontaneous delivery, but here are some tips that will help you to feel confident answering questions in front of an audience.
Anticipate the questions that your audience might ask.
Practice answering them without any visual aids.
Rehearsing is crucial. Practice your delivery with a friend or family member.
Video yourself to check your body language and polish your delivery.
This guide describes the fundamentals of public speaking skills and the important points to consider for a successful presentation. If you are new to public speaking, consider taking a presentation skills training course with a career coach or organization. Public speaking and communication skills are tools you will need throughout your career.
Here are some final presentation tips for public speakers.
Check your technology before your presentation. Check your mic, volume settings, internet connections, slideshow, and equipment.
Check that your audience can all hear you before you begin.
Take your time, and don’t talk too fast.
Pause after you make a dramatic statement to give your audience time to absorb what you have said. Repeat a statement for dramatic effect.
Use confident body language and make eye contact with people in the audience.
Don’t forget to smile and thank your audience.