Whether you’re in a meeting room or at a large congress – when you are listening to a presentation, you want to be inspired. Right? You want to hear something new. If it becomes boring, your thoughts will drift away or you’ll check your smartphone for new mail. I’m sure you know what I mean. So what if you are giving one? You’d want your audience’s full attention. You’d want them to remember what you said, leave the room with a ‘Wow’ effect, and tell others about it. What it takes? Firework storytelling.
Some time ago, Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten posted a great list on LinkedIn with things NOT to do for any speaker. And boy, was it recognizable. Point 6 in particular was spot-on:
‘Never ever ever ever in a million years add so much text on a slide that people will spend time reading it. And if you do, make damn sure you don’t read it out loud for them.’
Why is that so important? People should be focusing on your story, and not be distracted by slides. They want to be entertained and will get tired of reading long chunks of text. Presentations simply have to be visually attractive.
Now that we know the don’ts, it would be good to know some do’s as well. On Slideshare you will find a deck titled: ‘What would Steve Jobs do? – 10 lessons from the world’s most captivating-presenters’. What it all comes down to in this deck is that you must have a well thought out plan and a thorough preparation.
In his inspiring appearance for TED, Simon Sinek made very clear that ‘People don’t buy what you do – people buy why you do it’. In other words: products don’t sell – passions do.
From my own experience, I learned that the bottom line is clear and simple: come prepared. Below I drafted my personal guidelines which have helped me to captivate my audience time and again. These simple rules apply to small settings as well as large conference rooms.
10 Tips For Delivering Great Presentations
1. Be vivid
Be positive and show your enthusiasm – it will reflect on your audience. Let them feel your energy. However, don’t over-do it by acting eager, hyper or insistent. Your audience will decide for themselves if they want to listen.
2. Stand up
In smaller settings, some speakers prefer to remain seated. That may be suitable for sharing an idea with one or two colleagues, but otherwise, don’t. When standing, you’ll transfer more energy.
3. Use a remote
Using a remote looks more professional. It also allows you to move around and use body language, which adds up to keeping the attention of your audience. It’s like the difference between a teacher walking around in a class room, and the one glued to his desk.
4. No agenda please
Tell a story with a beginning and an end. Don’t be predictable. When you’re reading a detective, you don’t want to know who did it in advance either, do you?
5. Be brief and clear
Stick to your key message and do not dwell on side stories and boring details. If you loose track, so will your audience.
6. One message per slide
A single line of text works best, so minimize the use of bullets. If you need bullets to memorize what you wanted to tell, you didn’t come prepared. Know your topic thoroughly.
7. Use great images
Don’t underestimate the power of a good image. A picture tells a thousand words, and many slides don’t need text at all. Take your time to select or create those images that help getting your message across best. Avoid complex diagrams since they’ll usually need a lot of explanation. Ensure pixel perfect alignment of images on follow-up slides. This creates a visual anchor which is easier on the eyes.
8. Know the next slide
Put your slides in logical order to support your storytelling. Each slide should build on the previous one. Your story should be fluent and connecting the slides. It looks kinda silly if the next slide comes as much as a surprise to you as it does for the audience.
9. Keep a good pace
Sticking to a single message per slide, it is better to have 10 slides with one word or image, than one slide with 10 bullets. New slides will renew the attention. However, go too fast and you’ll loose your public – go too slow, and they’ll get bored.
10. Use humor
A good laugh ensures attention and positive vibes.
Bonus 1 : Try something different, like Prezi.
Bonus 2 : Start with a breathtaking video, if applicable.
Bonus 3 : Visualize your thoughts with great examples.
Bonus 4 : Be honest about your challenges and lessons learned.
Update September 2015:
Here’s a great blog about the secret of a successful TEDx talk.