Five (very, very) simple steps to delivering a powerful presentation
I used to be a civil servant, and when I started in the civil service, back in 2000, PowerPoint was still very new. Everyone was a bit suspicious of it and a tad overwhelmed. I sat through a lot of training sessions with the old OHPs and acetates. Then PowerPoint really caught on, and there was no escape. Then everyone found the animation tool and things got really exciting. So, I’m writing this blog not as an expert on presentation skills, but simply as someone who has had to sit through A LOT of presentations, and who has seen PowerPoint used to great effect… and used incredibly badly.
On that basis, my personal top 5 tips are:
Get off to a good start
Introduce yourself at the beginning. So many people seem to forget this. When you start your presentation, you need to say who you are and where you are from. Better still, have a slide with your name, job title and email address on. This is obviously very important if you are presenting to a room full of people you have never met before. But even if you already know everyone in the audience by name, you still need to say hello and why you are there. Why have you been asked to present on employment law, or marketing strategies, or how to be happy, or how to look after a goldfish? Or whatever. Why you?
Have a clear message
Before you even start writing your presentation, decide what your message is. What do you want the audience to take away with them (in their heads, not physically)? You don’t need to explicitly spell it out to your audience, but you need to know what it is yourself. Do you want them to learn something from you? Do you want them to go away and take action? Do you want them to want to hear more from your business? Do you want to share some ideas and start a conversation? You might have a few different messages, but I’d suggest no more than three.
Ditch the animation and complicated graphics
I personally find it very painful when the letters in the title fly in one by one. Or when pictures fade in. Or spin. Or when slides slowly fade and reappear. Argh… migraine. I know PowerPoint animation can be used to great effect, but more often it just looks (to me anyway) as though you have too much time on your hands. Graphics can work and be very effective. But I’ve seen some very complicated charts and graphs that have been squished so much to fit onto a slide that they are unreadable. Stats can be great and can really illustrate your point, but keep them as stats, don’t overcomplicate things.
Be concise and snappy
I was once told that each slide should have a maximum of:
- 2 pictures, or
- 3 stats, or
- 3 bullet points with five words in each line, or
- 5 bullet points with three words in each line
I like these rules; they prevent slides from being too ‘busy’. Slides should not be your notes, they should just be prompts with key points, or a couple of pictures or simple graphics to illustrate your point.
Make it personal
The best presentations that I have seen have made some sort of personal connection with the audience or delegates. Give some (anonymised) examples of things you’ve tried, challenges you’ve faced, people you’ve had to deal with, conversations you’ve had. Talk from your own experiences.
For example, if I was talking to a group of people about what to look for when buying a used car, I could have a slide with 3 top tips, including checking the tyres and I could tell everyone, “when buying a used car, always remember to check the condition of tyres…” Or I could say “okay, the last time I bought a used car, I completely forgot to check the tread on the tyres. One of the tyres burst on my journey home from the garage, and another needed replacing two weeks later. I can’t believe I didn’t check them. What a muppet.” A much more memorable message, I think. But, just to be clear, I would NEVER EVER be asked to do a presentation on buying a used car.