It doesn’t matter which sector you work in or what your role is, when you have to give a presentation most people would agree that the main goal is to influence your audience and persuade them to do something.
I think it’s also important to do that in a way that shows you in your best light and makes you feel good about the experience. In order to do that, a little bit of forward planning is necessary. Winging it and hoping for the best is not an option – not if you want to deliver a fantastic presentation and come across as confident and knowledgeable.
Here are five steps that will help you deliver a great presentation:
Clarify Your Goal
This might seem like an obvious point because whether you choose to or are asked to give a presentation, you know what topic you will speak about. However, a common mistake made by many presenters is to miss out the critical step of being absolutely clear about what they want from the audience. If you want them to make a decision, think differently or adopt a new system you need to build your entire talk to point towards that end goal. Spend a bit of time identifying what the outcome of the presentation should be.
Analyse Your Audience
Think about who will be in your audience and what they need to know. Even if you are presenting at work to colleagues you know, it’s good practice to think about what’s important to them and what they may already know. That way you can tailor your content, cut out any fluff and pitch at the right level – not dumbing down or getting bogged down in too much technical detail.
Structure Your Talk
Once you have gone through the above two steps, you are ready to build your talk. Typically, most people have more content than they need, and the trick is to include just enough and no more. If you have analysed your audience and their level of knowledge, you can quickly identify what you need to say in order to reach the logical conclusion of your talk where you invite them to do something with the information you’ve shared. Brainstorm all the points you could include and then pick the strongest ones that support your conclusion. Be ruthless and cut out anything that isn’t absolutely necessary. I find it helpful to use a large sheet of paper and write my ideas on post-it notes – that way I can play around with the structure and refine my content.
Make It Sticky
If you really want to give an engaging presentation, find ways to make your content more interesting as well as memorable – something that makes your point stand out. There are lots of ways to do this. If you are using slides, add in pictures or graphics that support what you are saying – an image is so much better than listing a bunch of bullet points. Try and find stories, case studies or examples that support what you want to say. For example, if you are explaining complex data or a technical concept, see if there a product or technique that people might already know about and can relate to – use that to make a connection to your point by way of an analogy. Don’t be afraid to use relevant stories you read about in the media or elsewhere – just make sure you credit your source.
This is such an important step and yet one that is the most tempting to miss out. There are so many compelling reasons to run through your presentation and rehearse. The first is to nail your timings – there is nothing more unprofessional than someone who rambles on well over the time allowed. Whether you have 5 minutes or 45 minutes, you need to know what that feels like and if your content fits into that slot. The second reason is that you never really know what your presentation will be like unless you say it out loud – by having a dress rehearsal you can test out your material and any slides or props so that you can iron out glitches before the actual presentation. This is also the opportunity to hone your delivery style and familiarise yourself with your material so that you aren’t struggling to remember what to say on the day. If you can, use your phone to video yourself or get someone to listen to you and give feedback – that way you get an insight into how your audience perceives you. Doing all of these things makes for a better experience for your audience but also helps you come across as a more polished and confident speaker.
Even if you are already naturally confident when speaking to groups following these five steps will give you a solid framework to deliver the perfect presentation every time, showcase you in a professional light and help you further enhance your communication skills.
About the author
Jay Surti is a Presentation Coach and author of Ultimate Presentations (published by Kogan Page, 2018)