Presentation Do’s and Don’ts

Presentations are funny things.  We have all been to countless underwhelming presentations, you know the kind, the ones in which you walk out of the door afterwards and if someone offered you cash to summarise the 3 key points you would stand there with a dumbstruck look on your face and you would try your best to stumble though the fog of the past hour.  However, there are those few presentations that stick out in our minds, the ones in which you can vividly remember the stories, speakers or products in great detail.  What makes a memorable presentation? What are some of the secrets of a good presentation?

Many people who are wiser than I have written many books, created training videos, and taught courses on presentation tactics, but I will use some of my extensive real world observations, made of more than 10 years working in and around corporate presentations.  These are merely observations that I have made, and by no means a formula to a perfect presentation.

  1. Know your audience.  There is nothing more awkward than watching a professional speaker walk into a room full of people and watch them talk to the crowd and treating them like they know nothing.  I once witnessed a business speaker addressing a room full of cardiologists and he proceeded to explain to them how blood flows through the body and how the heart works.  Looking around the room you could watch these brilliant doctors snicker at the 5th grade science lesson that was also full of mistakes!  This speaker instantly lost all credibility with his audience because he did not change his ‘stock’ presentation to suit the audience.
  2. Be dynamic. Anyone can stand up in front of a group of people and read off a PowerPoint presentation, but the best presentations are the ones in which the presenter barley references the presentation material, yet still managed to weave a tale and cover all the material in an engaging manner.  To make this seem effortless takes practice, but most of all comprehensive knowledge of your topic.  Don’t let the data cover up your passion for the topic!  If you know that your widgets are the best around and innovative, focus on why they are better, what makes you more relevant than your competition.  If you need to touch on sales figures display they key figures on the screen, but tell a story about some of your new clients and why they switched to your product, this will be way more effective than reading out the raw data. People love to laugh, there are countless studies that show laughing is healthy, fun, release endorphins and can help you remember content.
  3. Use technology to your advantage, but don’t let it overshadow the message that you are communicating. We all like to be wowed, with lights, sound, video, fancy animations and the like, and all of these things have their time and place, but make sure that people remember why they are there, and don’t just remember the dazzling rotating pictures.  That being said, if you are launching a new and exciting product you may want to control the lighting, have exciting music and lots of souvenirs to give out. 
  4. Keep on schedule. Let people know in advance your projected start and end times, and stick to them!  Start no more than 5 minutes late, and try and end at least 10 minutes early.  Respect your audience, every one has a hectic schedule, and if you allow people to have a little extra time in their day, they will appreciate it!  If you are having a productive discussion when you are approaching your end time, inform the group of the time and either let them know they are welcome to leave if necessary, let them know of an upcoming time when the discussion can continue, or move the conversation to a more informal one-on-one setting.
  5. Be confident in your presentation.  Everyone can tell when a presenter is nervous or unprepared.  If you are not good at presentations have someone else in your organization do most of the talking.  If you are the only person available, relax.  If you find speaking challenging or terrifying consider joining a group like Toastmasters or take a course at a community college on public speaking.  It just takes practice, and if you know your material it makes everything easier!

There are many other things to keep in mind while presenting.  I will touch on more in future posts, but in the mean time if you have stories about fantastic presentations, or fantastically awful presentations, let us know by commenting on this post! 

Remember that a great way to ensure a fantastic presentation is to get help in the areas that you are not strong in.  You should focus on your presentation, let others, like us, help organize the details of the event.

This entry was posted by Adam Kouwenberg on Thursday, October 14th, 2010 at 10:48 pm and is filed under Events. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.