Presentations are a key part of the planning professional’s skill set, says Rachel Miller. Done well, they can win the hearts and minds of your audience, whether you are presenting to clients, addressing a conference, or speaking at a local community hall
6. Engage your audience
Anything that engages your audience emotionally will get attention and be remembered. Try to tell stories. Use examples from real-life and include surprise, humour, or suspense. Show some passion for your subject and tell everyone how excited you are to be there.
Interaction between speaker and audience also improves engagement. Ask and answer questions and find simple ways for audience members to participate. This is especially useful at training sessions.
7. Create visual appeal
Research proves that visual material is absorbed more quickly than words and remembered for longer. And visuals are absolutely critical when it comes to presenting development proposals, for example. Good-quality photography, plans and illustrations can all bring your presentation to life.
Make sure visuals are strong and bold. Avoid using anything that is hard to decipher. Spend time devising a clear ‘look’ for your entire presentation using typefaces, colours and icons – it will look more professional and cohesive.
8. Use your own words
The words that you say are certainly important, but the words you project on-screen are also powerful. And too many PowerPoint headings are full of dull corporate-speak or jargon.
Don’t assume that everyone you are addressing is ‘in the know’; create easy-to-understand headings that pose questions, arouse curiosity or promise interesting insights.
9. Focus on the outcome
And finally, think about what you want your audience to do afterwards and make sure your conclusion contains a call to action.
Rachel Miller is a freelance journalist and editor of the Marketing Donut small business website
Expert Q&A: Simon Raybould
Q. What's the biggest mistake people normally make with PowerPoint?
A. It’s thinking that PowerPoint is for you, when it should be there for the audience. It’s not a crutch. You have to think about what the audience needs to see. Never use PowerPoint slides simply as a prompt or a script for your presentation.
Q. How can you make your presentation more polished?
A. Use PowerPoint’s Presenter View. It gives you a place to put easy-to-read notes so you don’t forget key points, but the audience only sees the slide. It also means you can introduce the next topic just before you bring the slide up – giving the impression you are totally on top of your game.
Q. How important are visuals?
A. They are vital. We process visual information up to 35,000 times faster than text – but all your graphics must be well-designed and must tell the story of the data. Complex data should be provided in a handout at the end. Before you begin your presentation, tell your audience there will be a handout and it will build trust.
Q How do you make sure nothing goes wrong?
A. You can reduce the risk of failure by making sure all the logistics are right on the day – everything from the technology and handouts to your own appearance. The best way to do this is with a comprehensive checklist. Draw this up in advance; on the day, the simple act of checking the list will give you more confidence before you go on. It’s also critical to practice – you must really know your material.
Q. How do you cope with nerves?
A. Trying to go from being scared to being calm is a big ask. Your adrenaline has to go somewhere. Research has proved that channelling that energy into excitement – literally by saying the words “I am excited” – improves confidence considerably.
Dr Simon Raybould is the founder of Aware Plus, specialists in soft skills training and presentations. He is the author of Presentation Genius
Image | iStock