The success of any presentation relies on a few factors: great content
an engaging presenter, and a seamless technical performance. Here's a
primer on how to combine all three for a knockout presentation.
Study the masters.
Before you even start building your presentation (or "deck"), study
the masters: Steve Jobs and Al Gore. They're both famous for turning a
potentially dry format -- a slide show on a stage -- into a powerful
and inspiring performance.
Just cue up a video on the web of Jobs or Gore presenting.
Within a few minutes, you'll understand why both are known as "rock
star" presenters. They move around the stage, making eye contact and
speaking directly to attendees. They speed up their vocal delivery to
build momentum, and slow it down to drive emphasis. Their slides are
full of impressive graphics and facts that illustrate their points.
They're passionate. They're confident. They're funny. Watch them work
and analyze why they're so good. It's a great tool for creating your
Ditch the podium
Here's your new mantra: walk, talk, and engage. Pay attention to the
way Jobs and Gore walk across the stage as they address the crowd.
They're dynamic. They use hand gestures. They stop, make a point,
deliver a slide, and move on. They're constantly engaging the audience.
Design, design, design
Don't rush to the computer to start writing your presentation; design it
offline first. Work out the main message of your talk and build your
presentation around it. Using one piece of paper per slide, write some
quick notes on what the audience should know after that slide has been
presented. Once you have decided what the audience should know, you can
go back and design how
you are going to tell them. Engaging
talks make use of stories, images and restraint. Weaving your set of
slides into a logical narrative will fix your ideas in the minds of the
audience long after the talk has finished. Images are more easily
consumed than lists of text. In this experiment
two groups of students saw equivalent presentations and the group that
saw more slides, with less text per slide, retained twice as much
information as the other group. Knowing what to leave out is key. What
is not on a slide is as important as what is. Restrain yourself. Less
is definitely more.
Another great way to plan and design your presentation is
creating a MindMap first. There is a lot of great open source/freeware
software around to do just that (Freemind, Cmap Tools, iMndmap, yED,
It'll help you make up your mind about WHAT you actually want to say in your presentation and HOW to deliver it.
Practice, practice, practice
Once you've built your deck of slides
it's time to practice. Sit in front of a mirror with your laptop at
your side. Start from the beginning and work through your deck,
presenting to yourself in the mirror. Make clear statements, but don't
simply read what's on the slide -- this is a presentation, not a
read-along. Create transitions that lead the audience into your next
subject. Maintain a conversational and natural, yet confident tone. Be
yourself -- don't speak or act like you think a presenter should.
Imagine making eye contact with people in the audience when you're
making a key statement.
Once you're comfortable in front of the mirror, ask your family
if they will act as your audience. Use your laptop and a pocket
projector to project your slides on a wall. Act as you would on stage:
walk across the living room "stage," make eye contact, and speak
directly to your audience. Then ask for feedback. Your wife may notice
you're speaking too quickly; your son may point out that your slides
are difficult to read. Though it may be slightly embarrassing, this
kind of practice saves you from making bigger mistakes in front of a
much larger, less sympathetic crowd.
Find out what the allotted time is for your presentation. Then use a
watch, or other timer, you when practice. And do it every time you
practice. Set an agenda so you know what time you need to be at certain
slides; this lets you micro-adjust during your delivery. If you go
consistently over—or significantly under—your time limit, adjust your
content or your delivery accordingly. Keep practicing and adjusting
until you can deliver on target.
Start and end with a contact slide
The first and last slide in your deck should always have your name,
e-mail address, phone number and appropriate web addresses. People
should be able to contact you easily.
Technical difficulties can drag down even the best presentations --
a projector isn't working, the client's laptop is on the fritz, or the
file you sent via e-mail was "lost."
Be self-sufficient. Bring your own laptop, a USB stick or SD
card with your presentation on it, and carry a pocket projector. They
are small and light enough to not weigh you down, and you can plug a
USB stick directly into one and present without a laptop if you need
With all those elements in place, you can plug in, fire up
your presentation, and project it without any additional assistance.
(Remember to practice with the same gear you take to the presentation.
This isn't the time for last-minute surprises.)