Presentations play a central role in business development and marketing activities. Whether used for conferences, business pitches, client meetings, or webinars, they can make a huge difference in the delivery and communication of business objectives. As important as they are, however, they are often treated as an afterthought and lack effectiveness or persuasion.
Whether you’re one of those people who dread presentations or the select few who relish the experience, giving presentations is a vital component of professional life. And even if you don’t think you will present much in your career, the truth is everyone does it from time to time. Companies and individuals even invest in communication coaching to improve their presentation and delivery skills.
No matter the kind of event or project you’re preparing for, becoming a better presenter is something you can learn and master – and not necessarily something you need to be naturally skilled at. Here is some of the best professional advice that will help you create and deliver more compelling and effective presentations.
Spend Some Time Practicing
Although you will prepare some materials to illustrate your points, you will be the one guiding your audience through the presentation. That is why your body language, tone, and flow are crucial for effective delivery. Although this is a common fear among professionals who dislike public speaking, it shouldn’t be a cause for concern. You may not be as effective the first time around, but the key to success is to keep practicing until you can master a smooth delivery.
Sometimes, the best way to spot your mistakes or learn from others’ successes is to practice your skills in a group setting. Organizing a group coaching program for your team or company can offer a unique platform for feedback, encouragement, and sharing ideas, thus helping everyone progress faster. It can also be quite flexible as there are many models to choose from, all of which are highly engaging.
If you’ve gone over your content for the presentation more than a few times, you’re already familiar with even the more complex concepts. However, no matter how well-versed other professionals are in the topic, they may not be able to follow the presentation as smoothly if they’re hearing it for the first time. That is why you should always ask yourself how to simplify the information.
To improve clarity and retention, some professionals use specific presentation structures, including:
- The Problem, Solution, Benefit;
- Cause and effect;
- Comparison (similarities and differences); and
- Chronological order.
Having a clear structure helps the audience grasp complex solutions, instills confidence in your approach, and allows them to understand all aspects of the issue. It can also help you deliver your presentation better since you will have an easy and logical framework to follow.
Some professionals may gravitate towards using facts and statistics in their presentations, but this often leaves them unable to tell a compelling story. Naturally, that puts them at a disadvantage because although these facts are essential for demonstrating the importance and specifics of an issue, they might fail to engage the audience. As a result, instead of telling your audience what you’ve gathered, try to spark some curiosity by using surprise or pondering techniques.
Curiosity can improve memory by activating the brain’s reward system, meaning that it will help your audience retain more of the information. You can try to spark curiosity by revealing facts gradually, asking the audience to guess some of the results, or adding trivia questions before the start of each section. This way, you will not only keep the room active but will also have a better chance of making the material stick even after your audience has left the room. All in all, the more you can grab their attention, the better your chances are of leaving an impression.
Presentation style varies from person to person, meaning that some people rely only on their storytelling, while others choose to add slides or visual aids. Most people, however, do prepare some visual materials – and with good reason. Studies show that images, graphs, and charts can increase memory retention, a phenomenon known as the picture superiority effect. Visuals can, therefore, help you get your point across – but as long as you use them wisely.
For example, you should avoid using too much text or overcrowding your slides with unnecessary graphs, as your audience will have a hard time going scanning all the information. You should also incorporate more color into your design – a method that can increase readership by 80%. No matter the kind of visuals you decide to use, focus on the ones most important to your story; you essentially want them to enhance the meaning of the presentation – not add unnecessary clutter.
There are many ways to create and deliver effective presentations, but some of the best advice you can follow is to practice, simplify the structure, spark curiosity, and use your visual aids wisely. And, if you pay attention to your audience’s reactions, you will probably be able to tell which ones you should work on more.
However, the key takeaway is that you shouldn’t treat presentations as an afterthought. If you adequately prepare and follow this simple advice, you will likely have presentations that are far more compelling and effective.