The vast majority of efforts for achieving a good presentation are not noticed by the audience. Make sure that you consider the 4 “S” before you are doing a presentation and plan enough time for the preparation of content, design of the presentation and rehearsal before you actually do the presentation.

Significance or why do you present?

What’s the subject and why it matters to you?

Make sure that your topic (also known as the key message) is significant for your audience and adapt the presentation to their needs. Significance creates passion, passion will attract attention and attention leads to action.

Of course we can‘t always choose the topic of our presentation, but always ask yourself what is the benefit for the people paying their attention to me (WIIFM?… translates to „What’s in it for me?“). Try to find the benefit from their point of view and build your presentation around that.

But you‘ve to ask yourself: Are you passionate about the topic of your presentation? Your audience will notice immediately if you stand behind your words, just remember that the majority of communication is non-verbal.

Structure

Structure is how you place the building blocks of your story. A story gives the big picture and helps to digest and retain the information transmitted during the presentation. It also helps yourself thinking about the presentation – what is your story and why does it matter?

It is important that you help your audience with a presentation that has a clear structure. A structure will help to make the presentation memorable and convincing and it also helps to make it scalable. Use 3 to 4 reasons to support your point (the key message), they will not remember more anyway.

Simplicity

Try to create your own style of presentation. Forget about common rules to design slides (just remember the “7 lines per slide or less and 7 words per line or less” rule). It’s far better to reduce and minimize written information wherever possible. Use big fonts, making it easy to read even for those sitting in the back. And support that point with a high-resolution photo, not a clip art.

There is a lot of advice about designing outstanding presentations so if you‘re interested it‘s worth checking out books like Slideology from Nancy Duarte or Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. Pay attention that you don’t overload your audience. It is simply not effective to speak the same words that are written. It’s far better to show a picture to create emotions or chart that illustrate your point.

Just take a look how commercials or billboard ads are designed and how they work:

If you pass a billboard when driving a car they need to grab attention within seconds. They know that they have about 3 seconds to transmit the relevant information. Adopting these experiences can also help you to create a presentation which grabs attention immediately and creates long lasting impressions.

Is there a right number of slides in a presentation? No, you need as many as you need. It‘s far better to have five slides with big images and little text than a single slide with too much text on it.

What about a handout? Can you use slides as a handout? Not really, in fact you have three different documents. You have your slides, you have your notes and you should have a handout for the audience. If you want to minimise work you can also use the notes from Powerpoint and print the notes together with the slides. Not the most elegant solution, but really efficient. And way better than having loads of texts on the slide itself.

Shakedown

A shake down is done by pilots, captains or as a preparation for a rally. They train and practice to get better and better because it‘s crucial for their job. How crucial is the next presentation for you? Anyhow, presentations done for the first time will never turn out perfect.

Be yourself and be authentic. Rehearse until you feel confident delivering the content of your presentation. If you don’t have a test audience present it to the furniture, but aloud. Try to find a memorable entry and exit, because these are the most important parts of your presentation.

Presentation Checklist

The last part of your preparation is shortly before you do the presentation. Arrive early and make sure you have enough time to check out the room and the equipment. Always have a back plan just in case something is not like you have expected. I have my presentation on a USB-stick so I can handle a crash of my PC easily. And as another option I have a printed version. Together with the Visualizer for instance that‘s all I need.

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