Here is the second of my posts about how to prepare and deliver a great presentation.
Keep the audience’s attention
It is essential to hold the audience’s attention during most of the presentation.
That’s challenging. Supposedly the average person thinks at the rate of 800 words per minute, and the average presenter speaks at the rate of 150 words per minute. That leaves lots of time for the mind to wander.
To keep your audience’s attention, plan to disrupt the flow every 10 to 15 minutes. How? You could:
- Change the media (e.g., show a short video)
- Invite participation
- Move from one side of the room to the other
- Turn off the slides
- Tell a story
- Give an example, or
- Change the subject.
“Pattern disruption” is an effective way to bring the audience’s attention back to you, where it belongs.
Have a good closing
In closing, summarize your main points and, if appropriate, issue a “call to action.”
Also consider the “big finish.” This oft-ignored tool is much more effective than simply saying “thank you” and leaving the podium. The big finish is the wrap-up story or point you make after the Q&A is finished.
Jane Goodall, who studied the behavior of chimps, used this technique to great advantage. At the end of her presentation years ago, she told the story of some female gorillas that attacked a gamekeeper. Fortunately, a male gorilla rescued the man and guarded him until he got to safety. Her ending: “If a gorilla can make the connection between them and us, why can’t we make the connection between us and them?” That statement has stayed with me for more than 20 years.
According to the Wharton School of Business, people are 43 percent more likely to be persuaded if the presentation includes visuals. Not surprisingly, color presentations are more persuasive than black and white.
However, visuals for their own sake are meaningless. Have a purpose for the visuals and remember that they are tools. PowerPoint does not give the presentation. You do.
In preparing visuals, put only a few talking points per slide. A good guideline is no more than 20 words or six lines. Better yet, use a diagram or other visual. Do not fill every square inch of the slide. Less is more.
Use a clear, easy-to-read typeface such as Tahoma or Arial. Make your typeface at least 18 point. Use the same size font for items of equal importance and vary the size for items of lesser importance.
Put your name, company and contact information on the last slide. Keep that slide up while you take questions.
When you are basically finished, have someone review the presentation. It’s amazing how many typos or inconsistencies can crop up during the process.
Write your introduction
Write a short introduction (50 words or less), highlighting your relevant experience.
Don’t be surprised if this process is time-consuming. As Mark Twain said: “It takes three weeks to prepare a good ad-lib speech.”
If preparing a presentation seems too daunting to do by yourself, consider getting professional training or joining a Toastmasters’ Club.
I’ll discuss making the presentation in my next post.