There’s an old saying, ‘Power corrupts but PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.’ Well, don’t blame the tools, blame the workman. A good presentation can make the difference between winning a deal and wasting an afternoon in a meeting room. It’s worth doing it well. These tips and resources should help turn you into a presentation hero.
1. Study the best
TED is a great place to watch people at the top of their game give interesting and effective presentations.
2. Get good advice
I like slidelogy by Nancy Duarte (who worked with Al Gore on his Inconvenient Truth presentation) and Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. Read and inwardly absorb.
3. Get training
I learned a lot by doing a day’s training with Butterfly, a theatre company that also does corporate training. They use acting techniques to help people connect with their audience more effectively. (Full disclosure: my wife is artistic director.) But even a rehearsal in front of a constructively-critical friend can be useful.
4. Keep it short
I like Guy Kawasaki’s advice: stick to the 10:20:30 rule. Ten slide, 20 minutes, 30-point text (and no smaller).
5. Less text, more image
Cartoonbank, Shutterstock, iStockphoto, Open Stock Photography, are all good sources of pictures for presentations. A well-chosen image with a few words can have more impact than a page full of bullet points.
6. Slides are for illumination, not support
The audience came to hear you speak. If they wanted to read off a slide deck, you could have just emailed it to them. Never, ever read text off a slide. Keep your attention on the audience.
7. Ask questions
For small groups, stop regularly – every few minutes – and ask questions to keep the audience engaged. Even with larger groups you can use a show of hands to get feedback and tailor your talk to their needs.
8. Tell a story
Show what the problem is and how you will solve it, using Barbara Minto’s Pyramid Principle.
9. Focus on what’s important
You don’t need to cover every single fact or detail in your presentation. In fact, the more you select and focus the presentation and the more you add your own expert analysis, the more effective it will be. If you try to say everything, you end up saying nothing.
10. Be yourself
Prepare. Then forget preparing. Just relax. Imagine you were talking to friends or family in an environment you find comfortable and friendly. Like dogs, audiences respond to nerves with nerves and friendliness with friendliness. Trust me. It’ll be fine.