My quick answers to people’s FAQs about presentation – PART I

8th September 2015

People ask me loads of questions about presentations. So I thought it’d be useful to share these with you, plus my quick answers to them. I’ll answer half this week, and the rest next Tuesday…

#1 How do I engage audiences immediately?

By doing something engaging at the start. For example:

  • Use intriguing words/phrases – “I want to share a secret with you – something that nobody outside this room knows”
  • Use an emotive adjective – “We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”
  • Use an emotive verb – “I’m really excited to be speaking to you today. Why? Because…”
  • Teach them something – “Did you know that [fact]?”
  • Ask a question – “I have a question for you: [question]”
  • Tell a story – “In 1955, Walt Disney discovered something that would change all our lives. He found that…”

#2 How do I keep them engaged?

Keep doing engaging things.

Think of all the things audiences like – stories, humour, impressive visuals , and so on. And ensure you do at least one of them every 1-2 minutes.

#3 What’s the most important thing about presentations?

There are two – the start and the end.

The start must engage – use one of the starts suggested in #1 above, deliver it with lots of energy, have a good title (so, not “Update”), ensure Slide One looks impressive etc.

And the end must contain a Call To Action. If it doesn’t, your audience won’t act. For example, if your last slide says “thank you”, they’ll merely say “you’re welcome” and then leave. If it says “Next steps”, there’ll be some.

#4 What’s the best way to structure a presentation?

The answer to #3 showed how to start and end. But what about everything in between?

Well, here are two structures that work well:

Firstly, to build a logical argument, use the 4Ps:

  • Position – the world currently looks like X
  • Problem – and the problem with Position X is…
  • Possibilities – 2-3 solutions to this Problem are…
  • Propose – I suggest we do option Y because…

Or use this second structure to build buy-in to change:

  • Why it’s needed – explain the problems with the current situation
  • Future vision – the ideal future we want to get to
  • How we’ll get there – everyone’s actions, to move from the current situation to the desired future
  • How we’ll overcome our barriers – the things that might get in the way, and how we’ll remove them

#5 How do I stop people looking at my slides?

One excellent way: don’t use them.

Or, minimise the words on them, so there’s nothing to read.

And/or press “B” or “W” to black/white the screen, so they can’t see them.

#6 How do I improve my slides?

The key rule: avoid bullet points. Trust me on this: nobody loves them. There’s always a better way to present information.

For example, click on the PowerPoint tool SmartArt (in the Insert tab) and you’ll see loads of formats – barcharts, flowcharts etc – you can drop your points into.

Also, high-quality images work well. Go to Google images, type in your keywords and you’ll find hundreds of them.

Action point

For your next presentation, identify which of these tips will make the biggest difference. And then do them. Both you and your audience will be pleased you did!

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