Three Keys to Making Effective & Interesting Presentations

Most of the people I watch doing sample presentations in workshops and coaching do very well in the technical aspects of presenting. But one area where nearly everyone could improve is in the basic foundations that hold the presentation up;

You can still take care to master techniques like how to point correctly, but you can make a much greater difference by mastering three key concepts that will define the direction of the presentation and its alignment with your goals. Learn to manage these basic concepts effectively and all the rest will either come by itself or be easy to add. Without them you risk making a superficially elegant show that doesn't have any impact.

These key concepts are: Purpose, Focus and Structure

1. PURPOSE: EVERY PRESENTATION MUST HAVE ONE. Like any other communication, a presentation should start with a purpose. If you don't know what you want yourself how will your audience know? Even if you do have a clear idea it can be hard to communicate it, but without one you have no hope. Always take the time to define a purpose for each presentation, make sure that it is feasible and aligned with your overall goals. Sometimes you need to proceed in steps so you might have a limited goal for the next presentation. Or your goal might just be to learn more about what the others think, so your presentation is more a stimulus to generate feedback. But whatever your purpose you have to have one, and you should craft your messages to address this purpose.

2. FOCUS: STAY ON TOPIC AND MINIMIZE THE NOISE.  Once you have defined your goal and your key messages be ruthless in eliminating distractions. Use only the words you need, the illustrations you need, the examples you need, the arguments you need and eliminate everything else. Keep slides simple and keep it as short as possible. It is tempting to show some extra content that is interesting or that you are proud of, but if it isn't really needed cut it out.  Short, focused presentations are easier to remember, easier to deliver and more effective. Say 21 different messages and maybe your audience doesn't retain anything; focus on two or three messages and you have more chance they will cut through the noise.

3. STRUCTURE: ORGANIZE YOUR CONTENT INTO A FEW KEY IDEAS.  Take your messages, your data points, your examples and your anecdotes and group them together into a small number of sections where everything is related in some way. An easy way to do this is to write all your points on post-it notes and move them around until they are arranged in coherent groups. When you have done this you can give your presentation a simple, robust structure that makes it easier to remember, deliver and understand  There  will always be more than one way to structure your content but just pick one that works for you. If you have time try testing a presentation with 21 ideas and another with three key sections each with seven ideas. The structured version will always be easier to follow. People like structured content and it will also make your delivery more confident, making your message more compelling.

Once you have the basic foundations of a presentation you can then improve it by using all the other tips and techniques you have heard of, but at least you are building on a solid base that will keep you on the right track. And remember always that once the presentation is prepared you have to practice the delivery, even if only for five minutes. It makes a difference.

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