Hard Work is the Secret of Convincing Presentations


How do I make a presentation convincing? This is a question that keeps coming up in coaching sessions and speaking workshops. I suspect that some people are hoping that there is some magical secret known only to the experts. But there is no magical secret. There are many techniques that you can use to make your presentations more convincing but all of them involve hard work. There are no short cuts.
What exactly are these techniques? To begin with you have to test all your ideas before you even start to create the presentation. You might have an idea in your head that you are sure is very convincing but it might not work with your audience. Perhaps they view it in a different context or there might be a step in the logic that is not clear. Test your ideas in conversations with colleagues and watch their reaction. Did they look unconvinced? Did they raise any objections? Did they disagree? Use this feedback to polish your ideas and keep testing.
When your ideas pass this first, basic test try presenting a draft version of your presentation to a test audience. Listen to verbal feedback and watch for any signs that people are puzzled or lost. Rework your content based on their feedback until you have a draft that works with test audiences.
After testing the ideas it is time to design the presentation itself. Create a presentation that is driven by stories and messages, not by the slides. Define your messages from the start and use the presentation to illustrate them, rather then presenting the content of the slides. Be ruthless in pruning unnecessary information, too, especially examples and stories that might be interesting but are not relevant. Building your presentation around a hidden structure is also a good idea. It helps you to remember where your are and it helps the audience to follow your logic.
There are some other practical techniques to keep the attention of people. Focus on your the words you say and not the slides. Just say your points and illustrate them with selected images on the screen. Never talk about the slides or, worse, simply comment them. Speak from memory and avoid looking at the screen. Look instead at the audience, maintaining eye contact. Make it easier for you to know what is on the screen behind you by placing a laptop somewhere in front of you and always use a clicker. Practice speaking using this arrangement until you can deliver the presentation without hesitation. If you have trouble memorizing your content perhaps it is too long and unstructured. Prune and restructure it until it is simple enough to memorize.
A convincing presentation is always the result of hard work. Put in the hours of preparation and practice, listen to feedback and you will always be more effective.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching and Writing

Andrew Hennigan does lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about speaking and other communication skills. If you would like him to coach you or deliver a speaking workshop for your organization you can contact him at speaker@andrewhennigan.com or 0046 730 894 475.

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