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How to Give a Great Presentation

By: Thomas Muller - Updated: 17 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Presentation Presentation Skills

Being able to give a great presentation is an enviable employee skill that requires effective communication of thoughts and ideas using a sharp combination of public oratory, visual aids and purpose.

Key Message and Presentation Skills

The quality of a presentation rests as much on the substance as the performance. It needs to have clear and concise message that grabs your audience attention from the off - if your message doesn’t hit them within the first 15 seconds then attentions will start to drift - and stays with them when they leave. Everything in between should be consistent and supportive with that key message.

Using Slides and Presentation Software Appropriately

Unless you have a more appropriate visual aid in mind, then it is advisable to use a ‘slideware’ facility such as Apple’s Keynote or Microsoft’s PowerPoint. They are convenient, easy to use and can help provide a clear and concise structure through which to convey your ideas.

However, don’t be tempted to use slideware to formulate your presentation - the world doesn’t need another boring formulaic PowerPoint presentation. A presentation should be drawn up before any visual aids, such as slideware, are selected to support it.

By directly writing a presentation in slideware, it’s easy to allow its templates, outlines and content wizards dictate the content, form and direction of the project. And if you’re not comfortable with public speaking it’s also an easy mistake to make to just write your main text on the screen and then read it out. This is not communicating with your audience. If PowerPoint has got everything under control then why don’t you just sit back and watch like everyone else?

Slideware Presentation Tips

As a guideline your slide visuals should bear these general rules in mind:

  • The first slide should announce the title of the presentation, and include the event and date and your name and position.
  • The second slide should try to grab the attention of the audience by projecting the central idea or inspiration of the project, or an amusing or controversial quote.
  • The third should outline the structure of your presentation.
  • Each slide should have a clear title.
  • Keep text to a minimum. No more than 35 words and 5 bullet points per slide. Too many and your audience will struggle read and listen to you at the same time.
  • Every bullet point should consist of a punchy but intelligible phrase.
  • Convey your ideas with pictures. They’re easier to remember, less distracting and have a greater impact, but remember to keep them simple.
  • Make sure the contrast and font size enable the information to be read at the back of the room. Also check the resolution so that it fits on the screen.

The Art of Narration

The slideshow is there to highlight the most important aspects to your narration and to illustrate some of the points you make. Rather than render your dialogue superfluous it should need your narration in order to make complete sense.

With the visual aids providing a supporting backdrop, it is your role to communicate your message and ideas to the audience using your narration. This is the aspect of giving a presentation that causes the most anxiety.

Many attempt to stem the nerves about public speaking and improvisation by simply preparing a speech and then reading it out word-for-word. This might help eliminate umms and errs and rambling deviations but its difficult to communicate with your audience if your head is stuck in a piece of paper.

It’s better to prepare note cards briefly outlining all the important points you want to make, which can be glanced at occasionally and then expanded on directly with the audience. This method might seem nerve-wracking at first but if you rehearse well beforehand, a quick look at a bullet point on your prompt card on the day should be enough to spark a rush of dialogue.

Communication Presentation Skills

To help make your narration clear and understandable it’s a good idea to try to speak fairly slowly and pause after each key sentence. This should also help eliminate umms and errs and unfinished sentences. As you can’t speak face-to-face with your audience as a whole, try also to focus on individual members of the audience one at a time. Another narration tip is to pepper your set with one or two stories to help bring it to life. A good and amusing story will get your point across better and engage your audience at the same time.

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