In the world of presentations, content is everything! Your presentation content includes the way you plan, prepare and create what you are saying and how you say it. It is the foundation to successful communication.
The design and delivery of your presentation are not the main factors that will determine if your presentation hits the mark and delivers on your objective– it’s actually your content. It relies on how you define your purpose for presenting, how your message resonates with the audience, the words you are using to transfer that message, and your images that will present it.
Pick your purpose
Consider why are you presenting and what is at the heart of what you want to communicate? Your purpose will help you decide what content is included. It will also help you with all the other steps that follow – from designing your slides, to delivering your presentation and sharing it with the world. Think about the behaviour of your audience way before you start talking. To identify your purpose, ask yourself:
What is your main message?
You should have only one. Less than 10 percent of a presentation is remembered so if you start jamming in many messages then you will lose your audience.
What is your objective?
Are you trying to educate your audience, share results or sell them something? Again, you should only be doing one of these.
What are your audience’s needs?
Do you have a clear understanding of who you are presenting to? What do you want them to think, act or feel after you present? You must assess their beliefs, values and motivations. What makes them tick. Get into their shoes at the start, listen to them as you walk through the presentation and gather feedback at the end.
The world is competitive and it is harder than ever to stand out and be noticed. The one thing that is not going to help you is business or corporate jargon.
What your customers, clients, stakeholders and team members want is human to human, a natural connection through compelling visuals and emotional stories.
In business, we’ve been taught to stick to the facts, to leave out any hint of emotion. Yet research proves that our decisions – whether we buy or buy-in to something – are influenced by our emotions. Remember, people buy from people they like. So you need to make your audience feel something toward you other than the urge to flee the room.
The best presenters are those who can use a combination of facts and emotion to explain a future place that everyone wants to work towards.
Use images and video to create sadness, excitement, inspiration or even anger if it’s appropriate to your cause. Pair these with infographics and diagrams that sum up your main points and data. I’ve also seen people use videos successfully to create something that moves the heart strings and lingers for a long time in everyone’s memory.
When you share your vision and goals through compelling stories and slides, you reduce fear and instill confidence in your audience. That’s when they will connect to a future they want to be a part of.
Many of us believe that sharing everything and anything, blinding our audience with numbers is the best way to be transparent and open when it comes to a presentation – that couldn’t be further from the truth. This will only put the people you are trying to engage off and make them lose interest faster.
It’s more than important than ever to cut out all the clutter from your presentation.
A powerful presentation has content that is clear, easy to understand and uses simple language and images that connect and engage your audience through a balance of emotion and analytics. Your audience will leave the presentation feeling different – e.g. inspired or excited to act on what you want them to do.
A poor presentation has content that is overloaded with facts, stats, numbers, corporate jargon and dense text. It leaves the audience feeling confused, turned off and disengaged. They will leave the room with no idea of what to do next – except never attend one of your presentations again.
You must be clear and honest in your presentation. It’s also important not to try and hide or cover up negative information or numbers. Nothing turns your clients or customers off more than when you lie about your financial position.
Bad slides and presentations are used like a security blanket to hide things under. So start with small changes to your content and attitude, and stop hiding and hoping for the best. Your customers, clients and team members will respect you for that.
Use visuals to support your words
Your slides are there to support what you are saying as a speaker – they are not a teleprompt. Your visuals are aids to help your audience understand what you are saying. Use icons to summarise main points and infographics to show key bits of data. This is how you make the material useful, easy to read and understand, as well as provide clear actionable insights that add value and impact for shareholders and stakeholders.
An influential presentation needs to have a solid structure that is easy to follow. It must have lots of signposts that lead your audience all the way through, on a journey. The structure of your content, the order of your ideas, must support you as you speak and help your audience understand the information you are telling them.
You must always remember to have a call to action at the end of your presentation. Once you have shown your audience the need for change and how it will benefit them, you then need to tell them how they can be part of the change. This closing call-to-action slide is the last step in achieving your objective. Make sure your audience clearly understands what is needed from them to make this happen. Do you need to show them a link to a website? Can they follow you on social media to find more information about you? Do you want them to share the results with clients, customers or stakeholders?
Prepare to present
Preparing a presentation also involves preparing to present it. Practice your presentation out loud. This will give you an accurate idea of timing. Let your personality and passion shine, give the audience more than a report. Don’t try and memorise the script. Be prepared to deliver on the spot with no speaker notes, just a clear consistent message and idea of what you want your audience to do at the end.
You can only claim that you have a winning presentation if your presentation achieves what you wanted it to achieve and that the audience responds in the way you want them to. That is how you measure whether your presentation has been successful or not.
Emma Bannister is passionate about presenting big, bold and beautiful ideas. She is the founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC’s largest presentation communication agency, and author of Visual Thinking: How to transform the way you think, communicate and influence with presentations. Contact via www.presentationstudio.com