Many workers will be required to give a presentation at some point in their career, whether it’s to colleagues, clients or other third parties. The key to a successful presentation lies in both the content and delivery of the information you want to communicate; read on for some tips on how to make sure your presentation is engaging and effective.
1) Research, research, research
Knowing the subject of the presentation inside out will help you to talk enthusiastically and knowledgeably about the topic in question, making for a much more compelling presentation. Your audience is more likely to pay attention to and engage with you if you clearly know what you’re talking about, and doing your research will also help you field any questions that may come up.
Just be careful not to slip into jargon when expounding on your chosen topic; this can easily happen when you know the area extremely well, but it can also be incredibly dull for your audience!
2) Only use slides when you need them
It’s all too easy to fill a PowerPoint presentation with the entire text of your speech, but just think about whether this is really an effective use of your slides. No one wants to go to a presentation that simply involves reading along with the presenter’s discourse, so consider whether you can pare back your use of slides to the bare minimum – or even do without them entirely.
Think about using PowerPoint just to display key data and points, and then expounding on them in your speech. If you need reminders of what to talk about, put them in the notes field of the presentation rather than in the slides themselves.
3) Know when to encourage interaction
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking every presentation needs a high level of interaction with the audience; sometimes, you really do have to simply talk at your listeners rather than throw questions at them without any real purpose! It’s sufficient to make it clear at the start of the presentation that people can jump in with questions at any point, or that there will be time for questions and discussion at the end.
Having said that, many presentations are made better with informal interaction points, e.g. calling on someone in the audience who worked with you on a project you’re mentioning to give some extra details, or asking listeners to give their thoughts on specific ideas. It all depends on what you want to communicate to them.
4) Use handouts to reinforce key messages
While no one wants to have yet more paper cluttering up their desk, there are times when a handout can aid the communication of key messages during your presentation, as well as offering a point of reference for the future if needed.
How you go about putting together these documents will depend on your audience and the topic of the presentation; you could get your handouts professionally printed and bound (ideal for client presentations) or use your office’s black and white business printing equipment. Either way, you should clearly lay out all your information and have it proofread to weed out any errors.
Practising your presentation multiple times before you actually have to give it can be helpful for several reasons; it can help you pinpoint any mistakes or sections that aren’t particularly effective (especially if you practise in front of a colleague who can give feedback) and also give you a bit of extra confidence for the real thing.
In addition, you’ll probably end up naturally learning large chunks of it off by heart, improving the delivery of the presentation by minimising the number of times you need to glance at the slides or your notes.