Three Ways to Improve Your Next Presentation

Your typical PowerPoint presentation to your typical audience typically makes everyone wish they were somewhere else, doing something else. The next time you have to give a presentation, see if you can apply one of these three ideas to make everyone’s experience more productive.

Idea #1: Don’t Give a Presentation

Hear me out on this:

  • Is the data easily misunderstood?
  • Do you have to convince anyone of your points?
  • Do your people have 10-15-30-60 minutes where they’re not doing anything really important?

If you answered ‘no’ to all three questions, why are you wasting everyone’s time? Some things can be emailed and understood. Not many of us are that interesting to be giving random presentations for no legitimate reason…

Idea #2: Know What You’re Talking About

It has been studied extensively, and people can not read and listen at the same time. Therefore, putting bullet points on the screen and talking over them will result in less comprehension and retention.

If you want the audience to have your speaking points, don’t put them on the slide – instead put them in your speaker notes and provide a printed copy for your audience members – after the presentation.

Now, I find a lot of people hear this advice and still don’t heed it. When pressed, they can’t give a solid reason why they’re so attached to text on the screen. Here’s the real reason we all love text on the screen:

‘As you can see from the slide, ladies and gentlemen, our revenue rose by 32% because of three factors…’

We love to be able to turn and read the screen, to be reminded of our points.

Very few of us are paid, professional presenters. Most are professionals at other skills, like programming, or accounting, or fundraising. Presenting is a secondary, often terrifying, part of our job. We like the training wheels to stay on if at all possible.

Break that habit, now. If your audience deserves a quality, engaging, persuasive presentation, do whatever is necessary to make that happens. It begins by practicing your presentation.

Idea #3: Be the Center of Attention

It’s interesting what happens in many presentations – the presenter feels like stage dressing, like someone who’s being paid to lead us through a deck of slides. But nothing could be further from the truth. No person in that room came here today because they were going to be shown PowerPoint slides. They came into that room because you, the presenter, were going to communicate something important to them. Own that.

One of the easiest ways to be the center of attention is to, from time to time, cut off the presentation. It’s very simple. Either, on your keyboard, hit the ‘B’ key – for black screen – or actually schedule black screens by having blank slides in your presentation. If you have something important to say, make sure that your audience is paying attention to you – and not thinking about the third column in your chart.

For more presentation tips & tricks, check out our classes on PowerPoint 2003, PowerPoint 2007, PowerPoint 2010, Business Writing or Communication Strategies.