You’ve been asked to present an update on your project to the Board of Directors. Your manager has suggested you will have about 15 minutes to present and then will field questions from the board. How can you make your presentation appear professional?
With tools like PowerPoint readily available to most people, almost anyone can put together a presentation. These are the tips that will help you to create a professional, top class presentation.
Tip 1 – Consider your audience
This is the first mistake that the majority of presenters make. They know their topic so well that they forget the audience may not have the same knowledge as themselves. Remember, you are presenting on the subject because you are the subject matter expert in this instance. This means your audience may not know or understand what you are presenting if you use jargon or technical language.
Consider who will be in your audience for the presentation. Does the audience consist only of senior managers and Directors of the Company? If so, they will be used to high quality presentations that address their immediate concerns. They will expect a clear, concise message, without too much technical jargon. Management will also be interested in the ‘bottom line’ and the costs of the project, so include this information in your presentation.
If you are presenting to a wider audience, you will need to consider what information everyone in the company really needs to know. Otherwise, you may waste some people’s time in explaining something they do not need to know.
Whatever your audience, the more you know about who they are and what their expectations of the presentation are, the easier it is to adjust the presentation to suit their needs. You may need to create different presentations for different audiences, even if the presentations are on the same subject.
Tip 2 – Make Your Message Clear
Decide what your main message will be for the presentation. What do you want people to remember the most? What do you want to achieve from the presentation? You may want to gain Board approval for your project or to sell a product to a customer. You may want to provide information about where a project is up to. Deciding what you want to achieve from your presentation will help you to make the message clear.
Generally, people can only remember about three points from any presentation. You need to make sure your main message is clear and does not get lost in the rest of the things you will say.
When designing your presentation, start with the main point you want to make. Then provide the details, repeat your main point in a different way at least once in the middle of your presentation of the details and finish with the main point. This will make your overall message very clear.
Tip 3 – Don’t Overload a PowerPoint Screen
This is another common error of the amateur presenter. They want to have everything they will say on the screen. This actually detracts from your presentation, as the audience starts to read for themselves and may stop listening to you.
Choose a subtle coloured background for the PowerPoint presentation and a font size and colour that is easy to read against the background. Ideally, font size should be 20pt or more.
Have no more than three bullet points on any one screen. Each bullet point should be one line if possible. Customise the animation settings so that the bullet points will arrive when you click the mouse button. The bullet points should be simple, clear and easy to understand. They should not contain all of the text you will say about the topic but only provide the key points for the audience.
Don’t use too many pictures, sub-headings and too much text on a PowerPoint screen. Split the text into two and use another screen, if it looks like the screen is getting too busy.
Tip 4 – Practice, Practice, Practice
Since you will not have everything you want to say appearing on the screen, you will need to practice what you want to say. You will not simply be able to read the screen.
Professional presenters rarely even look at the screen; they look towards the audience instead. How do they do this? They have practiced the presentation so they know it well enough not to need to look at the screen.
Write down everything you want to say in the presentation. Check the structure is good and the main message is stated clearly. Practice reading the presentation aloud. Each time you read it, take away some more of your notes. In the end, you should be able to present the information with as few notes as possible.
Professional presenters do not read the information, they ‘present’ it. Add in the use of appropriate gestures and facial expressions when you practice the presentation. Use your body to communicate your message and professionalism as well.
Practice when you need to click on the mouse button too. You need to know when the next screen or next bullet point should appear to add the most impact to what you are saying.
Tip 5 – Slow It Down
Another common error is that people try to say too much in their presentations and because they have a time limit, they will say things quickly to fit everything in.
Write out your presentation and read it aloud in your normal speaking voice. Time yourself as you read it. If you reach your time limit, you have written too much. Take a big red pen and slash away about a third of the presentation material.
You should always present information at least one third slower than your normal speaking voice. Why? It helps to allow the audience to ‘digest’ what you are saying and to think about it. Speaking slower means that people have the chance to understand what you are saying. It also helps you to appear professional rather than rushed or flustered.
A 10 – minute presentation should take about 6 minutes to read straight through in a normal tone, and about 8 minutes to present in practice. It always takes longer when you actually present, especially as the tendency is to ad-lib additional information. If you finish early, you can always ask for questions from the audience.
Use these five tips to make your presentations professional. You will reap the benefits if your presentations are clear, concise and specifically designed for the audience.
By Hayley Hunkin