How To Absolutely Nail A Presentation

Whether you’re pitching for new business, hosting an internal meeting, or prepping for an interview, creating and delivering a presentation is seen as something that ‘has to be done’.

It’s rarely an opportunity to make a serious business impact.

And this is because most presentations are painfully dull. And this is now accepted as the status quo. Think about it.

When was the last time you sat through a good presentation?

In fact… forget good, when was the last time you sat through one that didn’t make a frontal lobotomy seem a viable option?

Delivering a great presentation is a good thing to be known for. Your company will look to you when they need to pitch to a client. It means more face time and more hours outside the office.

Or it could mean smashing a proposal to switch to a more lucrative market. Or landing the job of your dreams.

It’s not something you want to be naff at, basically.

But too often, prepping for and delivering a presentation gets put on the back burner. Actually recruiting’s always more crucial. Fortunately, getting better at presenting is a doddle.

Choose a platform

There’s lots decent programs to use for presenting. PowerPoint is obviously the most common. If your company won’t spring for MS Office or you’re working from home, Google Slides does the job too. And Slidebean is another decent alternative.

They all save to the same standard formats (PPT & PDF) so it’s mainly a case of picking a program with a user interface you get on with.

Try them out. If you find PowerPoint clunky, try Slidebean. It’s all about making your life as easy as possible.

Create a base template

There’s nothing worse than a ten page presentation where the slides look totally different. It just isn’t slick.

Templating your background creates solid continuity throughout, particularly if you’re using transitions. A base template can be as simple as sticking your agency’s logo in the corner of the page and colouring the borders in the company colours.

Or you can go nuts with the design, but less is usually more. Keep the background white, regardless. It’ll make your content pop.

Be clever with your content

Chances are you’ll be presenting on a large screen. So while the ratios you’re seeing on your monitor will be the same, the scale will be upped.

It’s also likely the increased resolution could make the display look fuzzy and the blinds in the room won’t keep the light out. Standard.

Simplicity, or sparsity, is key.

Too many details will blur, even if it all looks tidy on the computer. Keep any text restricted to the key points you’re going to elaborate on – four or five lines works fine – and unless you’re comparing or collating images, one will draw the eye better than several.

Answer why you’re here before introducing who you are

The tendency is usually to kick off with a few slides about your agency’s history and core values. Would you approach any other type of business development activity in this way?

“Of course not!” you chortle.

You’d start by building a rapport based on which common traits bind you and your audience. You’d probably also highlight your client’s pain points before introducing your service as a solution.

This should form the content of your first few slides. From the off, they need to know why you’re standing there, and not just because they invited you. Then you can get onto why the notion of ‘integrity’ is so important to your company.

TED Talks Blank Title

Visuals > words

65% of people are visual learners and your brain processes images about 60,000 times faster than text. Background images with overlaid text will make your slides busy. But they’re a good way of capturing attention and articulating information simultaneously.

Statistics are much easier to illustrate visually than verbally. And precise statistics help demonstrate that you’re being truthful.

A study at Cornell University found that people are more likely to believe information if it “looks and smells” scientific. As in, if it’s accompanied by a graph or a chart.

Another study also found that subjects presented with a business strategy not only paid more attention and remembered it better, but were actually more inclined to agree with it, if it’s presented to them in visual terms. As opposed to the same information, written down.

Remember: you’re there to do the talking. Try to avoid excessive use of text when you can and for the love of all things holy…

Don’t read from the slides!

Please. Just don’t.

Being informative is one thing. Being forced to digest the same information written down as well as read out is about as appetising as eating a cardboard sandwich.

You’re there to add colour and depth; not to recite what’s on the screen.

Allow your audience to hear from their peers

The vast majority of consumers trust what they’ve heard about a product or service, rather than what they’re told through advertising. Our brains want stories, not just facts. Stories are easier to remember and a relatable experience makes the gubbins you’re touting seem a whole lot ‘realer’.

If you’ve got ‘em, named testimonials from clients work wonders for social proof behind your brand. Ones from competitors work the best.

Timing

There’s an old school of thought in Hollywood that your average audience member’s attention span taps out at about the 11 minute mark. I don’t know if that’s true but watch any major blockbuster and the main dramatic points in the narrative will have been established within that timeframe.

Ten slides’ll do ya.

Spend 60 seconds on each one and you’ll have a presentation the length of which your audience will be grateful for.

Practice

This is always the one tip that people read and then never action.

If you were learning a piece of music, it’s unlikely you’d settle for making sure you had the right notes and then just winging the performance on the night.

The same concept applies here.

Ask yourself how much sleep you’ll lose if the presentation fails? Or how much time you’d have to invest in recreating a similar opportunity if this one goes south? Take that time to practice your pitch beforehand and you’ll sleep like a bairn later.

Dress for it

Clothes maketh the consultant. And no one needs to be told to smarten up for a client meeting. But overdoing it can make you feel awkward and distract your audience.

When you’re in front of them, you’re in control.

What you’re wearing should reflect that. Sometimes control is your top button undone and no jacket. Sometimes it’s jeans. You’re presenting yourself, just as much as the slides.

Cover your backside against technical issues

Save your presentation in a few different formats. On a USB. On Google Drive. Email it to yourself. And to the people you’re meeting.

Go full analogue and print enough physical copies to hand out. This in itself can actually be a nice touch and a key differentiator.

Body Language Example

Body language

Sounds obvious but you may have to actively remind yourself not to stand in front of the slides. Park yourself on one side of the screen if you can.

And bear in mind, the eyes of the people you’re presenting to will follow their natural reading direction. So unless you’re presenting in Farsi, Arabic or Urdu, this will likely be from left to right. Use this to your advantage.

If you need the attention to flow from you to the slide, say if you’re introducing concepts that the screen backs up, stand to the left of the it. Likewise, if you’re elaborating on some showcase data you’ve got on screen, stand to it’s right. Just don’t get caught chopping and changing sides too much. You’ll look nervous.

Nerves attract the wrong kind of attention and will cause distractions. If you need to recapture attention, animate your body language. Cool it and withdraw again if you need your audience to focus.

Use your voice effectively

Spend six and a bit minutes reading How to Talk So People Really Listen and you’re pretty much good to go.

Whether you’ve brought backup along with you or not, as far as the room’s concerned, when you’re delivering your presentation you’re up there on your own.

You need to own it, adding personality and expression to your delivery. It’s fine to work off of notes to add structure to your presentation, but a recital is best avoided.

And have fun with it. I’ve never met anyone that’s looked forward to a 9am presentation. If it’s at least moderately enjoyable you’ll have left a pleasant, lasting impression.