Being a successful, compelling presenter is not something that comes naturally for most, but that doesn’t mean it has to hold you back from growing your presentation potential. Developing the skills to be seen as authentic and captivating by audiences is just like developing a muscle—you have to work on it and fuel your presentation with the right things.
From preparation to performance, we’ve got you covered on the best tips and tricks to help you create a presentation that stands above the rest.
Design that drives engagement
“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” — Blaise Pascal
Keeping your PowerPoint presentation concise and to the point will take more time and effort than piling every bit of information that you can on to each slide. Good editing is the foundation of good writing, and this practice applies to your presentations, too.
While you should keep your text simple, don’t shy away from getting creative with the design! Below are key design aspects to think about with every PowerPoint presentation.
Psychology studies say that in general, people absorb information quickly and for a longer period when they see something rather than simply hearing it. When it comes to PowerPoint presentations, we retain about 55% of the visuals we see, 38% of the words we hear and merely 7% of the text we see.
Your visuals should always complement what you say. If you’re talking about a specific diagram, you may want to add that in on a slide to show to your audience. But what about visuals that just help get the point across? Short videos, graphics or memes are mentally digested faster than words and increase meaning for your audience.
Guy Kawasaki, marketing guru, coined the 10/20/30 rule. If you’ve never heard of Kawasaki, reading up on this past advisor for Google and Motorola and chief evangelist for Canva should be your next stop after this blog post. The 10/20/30 rule was originally for pitch decks, but it applies well to all presentations you’re giving.
Your PowerPoint presentation should have no more than 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes and should contain no font smaller than 30 points. Keep it simple!
Use color with purpose and don’t be default
While it might be easy to simply use default settings on graphs and visuals, you should always spend the extra few minutes it takes to change the colors and settings.
In addition, avoid picking colors arbitrarily. Every piece of your presentation is placed with purpose. Choose colors that align with the emotions or focal points you are trying to emphasize.
Just as visual choices matter in your branding, choose colors and fonts that agree with the overall goal of the presentation and personality.
Create an engaging environment
There’s more to engaging your audience than just the visuals and design of your presentation deck. In fact, there are many instances in which creating a deck might not be a good idea at all. These next couple of tips will help you think about how to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and keep their attention honed in on your message, start to finish.
Never give out copies of your presentation
Want to give people a reason to check out mentally during your entire presentation? Give them copies of each slide.
To keep your audience engaged and give them something beneficial to take away, create a pamphlet or brochure that complements your presentation.
Your presentation hand-out should include key talking points and a few details bulleted under each. This will help jumpstart your audience’s memory about what you talked about after the presentation and give them something valuable to reference in the coming days or weeks.
When NOT to use a PowerPoint
You don’t actually need a PowerPoint deck to accompany your speaking in order to give an engaging presentation.
Many thought leaders and experienced executives don’t use PowerPoints behind them when they are presenting. They keep the audience engaged with they’re saying, because everything that they are saying is valuable, eye-opening and profitable.
However, this obviously isn’t reasonable for every presentation, especially when you are referencing graphs, charts or other visual data. Be stingy with the amount of data you include, though—is the data itself important, or is the story behind the data more impactful?
Powerful presenting skills
The way your PowerPoint presentation is designed is less than half of what your presentation should be all about. To become a dynamic and engaging speaker, follow these best practices.
“Body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we had speech, and apparently, 80% of what you understand in a conversation is read through the body, not the words.” – Deborah Bull
Your body language as a presenter will make a difference in the way your audience perceives you and stays engaged. Standing in ways that closes off the front of your body to your audience dismantles the connection to your audience you want to keep them engaged.
If you’re specifically referencing graphs or visuals behind you on a screen, be sure you’re standing at an angle to the screen to keep at least one side of your body open to your audience as well. Never turn your entire back to your audience because this sends a signal that you are disengaging and indifferent.
Before stepping onto the stage or in front of your group, take a minute to stand in your power stance – chest open, hands on hips, feet spaced as wide as your hips or even wider, and your head held tall. Just standing in this stance for 20 seconds can give you more confidence, reassurance and help you shake off those pre-presenting nerves.
Practice, practice and then practice some more
Expert speakers and consultants to the best will all tell you the same thing – to perform your best, make every word you’re saying muscle memory.
Know where you’re going to stand during each slide, how you will move around the room or stage. Memorize each slide transition and where those transitions line up in your speaking.
Most importantly, know your speech word for word. This way you have the comfortability to add in those personalized remarks and still hit every talking point you already had planned.
Let your audience do a bit of the talking
Not only will inviting your audience to answer and ask questions give you a quick breather, it will also keep your audience more engaged throughout your presentation. Audience engagement levels are highest at 92% when the attendees do most of the talking, and lowest at 78% if the presenter does most of the talking.
Some great questions to throw in to your presentation to engage your audience:
- What do you expect to see when X + Y happens?
- How many of you have done/experienced/heard of Z?
- Someone tell me a time when…
- How does this surprise you?
Add in a joke, or three
Remember the last time you went to a presentation and the presenter was stagnant, unanimated and you were wishing you had brought coffee because you were falling asleep in your chair? What did you retain from that presentation?
The answer is probably not much. Studies have shown that audience attention levels peak after the presenter has used humor or began talking off script. Throw a few jokes into your line up and if you’re not a natural comedian, tell a personal story that ties in to the theme of your presentation.
Break the “fourth wall” between you and your audience by reminding them that you’re just as human as they are. You’ll get a more attentive audience and they’ll retain more from the experience.