A recipe for an excellent presentation

What differentiates an effective presentation from an ineffective one? We remember some presentations for years, while we forget others right after they’re over (or want to forget them as soon as possible). Some presentations make us gasp in awe, while others make us yawn. Here is my subjective recipe for a successful presentation.

Ingredients: 

  • A sheet of paper 
  • A pencil 
  • A well-rested mind 
  • A computer 

 

Research: 

In the beginning, we need to spend a lot of time on research. If we don’t put enough effort into researching the best possible pieces of information to include and ways to present it, we won’t be able to deliver anything innovative, engaging, and surprising to our audience. Without good research, there’s a high chance that we will end up presenting content that is very trivial and valueless. So before you start writing your presentation, make sure to search for as much information as possible. The further you go down the research rabbit hole, the more valuable information you’ll find and be able to present. 

Create a mindmap for your presentation: 

The next step is to start drafting your ideas. Instead of sitting in front of your computer and turning on PowerPoint right away, work with a sheet of paper and a pencil first. Jot down your thoughts about the topic of your presentation! At first, they may seem scattered, but they will become a solid base for a creative presentation. Turn on PowerPoint only after you come up with interesting conclusions and the thesis of your presentation.

Start drafting your presentation: 

Content is the key to every presentation. Words have two layers in a presentation: what you say and what you write on the slides. These two layers need to work well together. They cannot get in each other’s way or exclude each other – they must overlap. What does that mean? 

It means that the texts on the slides need to be short, catchy, terse, and concise. They should contain factual information without emotions and unnecessary adjectives. They should be as raw as a soldier’s instruction rather than an emotional letter to your other half. 

On the other hand, the words spoken by the presenter must be more extensive. The presenter must use the words written on the slides and expand on them with simple sentences creating a straightforward and rapid narrative. Therefore, the words on the slides should only be an outline of what you say. The burden of making the narrative and carrying it on from the beginning to the end rests with the presenter. So while the purpose of the words on the slides is to help the presenter to carry on their speech, what they say is the key to a successful presentation. 

Make it visually appealing: 

PowerPoint presentations are visual. So make sure that your slides contain words and some graphic elements. It can be images, icons, graphs, or charts. Including visual elements in your presentation will help your audience scan the slides fast instead of reading every word. An image, or another graphic element, is much easier to process and remember. The visuals are also a great way to inspire some emotions in your recipients. 

Add a touch of emotion:

Emotions. In widely understood communication, they are of extreme importance. Emotions make whatever they are related to easier to remember. When it comes to presentations, we remember the ones that stood out to us somehow – usually, it’s because they contain a certain emotional element. Coming in contact with such an emotional element – scientifically called ECE (emotionally charged event) – makes the circumstances surrounding it much easier to remember. 

If we want to convince our recipients to take a specific action, it is essential to target them with a credible, coherent, and emotionally charged message. So what elements introduce emotions to the presentation? The most effective and easiest way to inspire emotions is by using photos, multimedia (music, engaging videos), quotes, direct and shocking statements, stories, or unusual events that can surprise the viewers. 

Practice and improve your presentation:

If you want to make an outstanding presentation, you need to practice it. Not only once or twice. If this is a really important presentation, you should rehearse it at least ten times. Take a look at presentations from the best presenters in the world. If you believe that they are natural speakers and speaking comes easily to them –  you are most likely wrong. Most great speakers have practiced their presentation skills heavily. Winston Churchill, considered one of the greatest orators in history, was terrible at public speaking at the beginning of his political career. But he decided to change that. He practiced, practiced, and practiced until he finally became an icon of oratory.

So assume that the first attempt at your presentation is only 10% as good as it can be after ten tries. Turn on your phone’s camera and record yourself. You can also use the recording option in Zoom or Microsoft Teams – and then watch it to see what you’re doing well and what you should work on. Take an objective look at your strengths and become aware of your mistakes. If you don’t do this, you won’t progress.


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