Presentations – Write a Presentation That Won’t Put Them to Sleep

Nearly every professional calling will result in you being called upon at some point to give a presentation. Whether you’re training personnel, presenting results of a project, selling an idea, or making an annual report, the quality of your work will be judged in part by the quality of your presentation of that work. The following three points will help you plan and perfect a presentation that will keep your audience engaged and entertained.

Rivet Them with Content

Absolutely the most important aspect of your presentation is its content. No amount of flashy visual effects can mask or compensate for a lack of relevant, riveting content. Before you map out your presentation, make a few notes for yourself, focusing your own attention on the goals you have in mind for your communication.

• What facts are critical to include? When you’ve completed a first “draft” of your presentation, check it against your list to make sure you’ve covered all the salient points.
• What outcome or effect are you aiming for? Sale of an idea or product? Buy-in for a proposed project? Continued funding? Increased productivity in your workplace? Whatever your desired outcome, check each portion of your presentation to ask whether it will further your goal.
• What context or connections should be drawn so your audience understands how this content is relevant to them? If your presentation is a training session for employees, help them see the “bigger picture” of how they, as individuals, will benefit from the changes being instigated. If your goal is a sale of any sort, help your audience see how they stand to gain from investing in your idea or your product.

By giving your audience a reason to be interested in what you have to offer, your presentation can do a great deal of your work for you. You won’t have to fight for their attention if they want to hear what you have to say.

Entertain them with (Judicious use of) Visual Aids

Perhaps the most common mistake among rookie presenters is the over-use of flashy visual effects. Optimally, the presentation software you choose should be used to make it easier for your audience to follow the ideas you want to convey, and to add interest to your delivery of those ideas–without distracting from the content you wish to communicate. While PowerPoint is an “old standby” among presentation software, you may wish to experiment with some of the formats offered by newer software; a resource like Presentation Magazine can help you sift through your options and choose the platform best suited to the message you want to deliver.

Whatever software you choose, and whatever visual effects you add to it, be sure to become very comfortable with it before your presentation. Almost nothing distracts from a speech more thoroughly than interruptions by “technical difficulties.” Be sure you can navigate through your presentation, be comfortable with your projecting set-up, and do some basic trouble-shooting for any common mishaps that may happen with the software you’re using.

Performing Your Presentation

When it comes time to deliver, you’re bringing two separate assets to your meeting or seminar: the physical presentation (software slides, handouts, etc.) and your active performance of that presentation. You’ll have small hope of finding an engaged audience if you are not, yourself, engaging in your delivery. Be comfortable with your content, be ready to answer questions not covered in your prepared materials, and make a point to be “On” (smiling, enthusiastic, humorous) while you’re in the spotlight. Don’t simply read from your slides; your audience can do that for themselves. Rather, use the slides to highlight important facts or ideas, and to guide you through the delivery of the full presentation.

If you present yourself–and your material–as well put-together, confident and comfortable, your audience will have confidence in what they’re hearing. Make sure the content is relevant to them, and make it enjoyable for them to hear it–you’ll have wide-awake listeners even in the back row.