Written By: Libby Magliolo
Regardless of your industry or role, I can safely guess two things about you: at some point, you've had to communicate to a group of people, and at some point, you've sat through a really bad presentation.
The good news is that a few simple tips will prepare you to give an amazing presentation - whether it's a formal presentation with slides and a Q&A at the end or an informal update to your boss or your team. You'll need to keep 3 things in mind: your audience, your visuals, and your verbal presentation.
Thinking about your audience and what it is like to be an audience member will pay massive dividends. Ask yourself these questions:
What does my audience care most about getting out of this presentation?
What did I like about the last presentation that I sat through? What did I hate?
Honing in on what your audience most wants to get out of your presentation will focus you on the most important, relevant points and will help you avoid content that doesn't support the main objective your audience cares about.
Reflecting back on the last good and bad presentations you sat through is incredibly helpful as it puts you in your audience's shoes. Did you hate the last presentation you sat through because it was dry and wasn't relevant to you? Did you love the last presenter you saw because they told amazing stories and kept the audience's attention the whole time? Keep those things in mind as you prepare to give your own presentation.
Not every presentation will have a PowerPoint deck or other visual aid, but keep in mind that a visual can be hugely beneficial in giving your audience something to focus on. Even a simple agenda slide lets everyone know what you'll be speaking about. Bringing a visual also has the added benefit of making you look polished and prepared for your presentation.
One other tip to keep in mind when putting together slides or other visuals:
Keep it simple! If you overcrowd your slides or fill your slides with text, your audience will tune out. They will automatically start reading what's on your visual rather than listening to you speak. Make sure you keep your visuals simple so that your audience continues to listen rather than just read.
Your verbal presentation:
Now that you've thought about your audience and your visuals, it's time to do some prep work on what you'll actually say. A few best practices:
State your objective. Make sure your audience knows exactly why you're presenting and exactly what you're trying to accomplish. Don't be afraid to be very straightforward here (i.e., "Today, I'll walk you through the performance of our last ad campaign and will be asking for budget approval for our next campaign.")
Don't read your slides. If you have a visual or a slide deck, don't read the slides to your audience - they can already see and read the slides. Your role as a presenter is to tell your audience what is not on the slides. What context can you add to what your audience sees in your visuals?
Wrap up. Once you've reached the end of your presentation, make sure that you answer any questions and take a minute or so to summarize your main points and your objective for the time being.
Getting up in front of a group can seem daunting, but working through these steps above and giving yourself some time to prep will serve you well!
Meet the Author
Simplifying PowerPoint design and presentation skills for busy professionals | Executive Storyteller | PowerPoint Nerd