How to deliver an excellent presentation
In this article we’re going to look at how to deliver an excellent presentation. You might need to pitch your business during a network event or pitch to investors or pitch to try and win business. The process I follow is the same each time. I’ve three sections here, the preparation, the golden rules and the delivery of the presentation itself.
I love public speaking, I love the buzz of getting in front of people and speaking about something I care about. The preparation however is not something I’m so keen on. When I have prepared properly, the presentation feels better and has a much better impact so it’s one of those things I’ve accepted I have to get on with.
Who is it for?
The first thing to make sure you’ve covered in the preparation is who the audience is going to be. If you’re pitching, make sure you’ve done your research. If you’re presenting to an audience, again research, find out who and why you’ve been asked to present. Try to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they will want to get from the presentation.
Why should they care?
First and foremost, if you are presenting something, you have to care about it yourself. If you’re not so fussed, it’ll come across when you present. Your audience will sense it too. At the same time, some content can be boring. That doesn’t mean you can’t get excited about it. I once had to present to a group of senior executives about technical aspects of smart meters. The brief given to me was to explain the technical so that they’d understand and commit resources. People had tried and failed, largely because they became too caught up in the technical and didn’t communicate in a way the execs understood. I ended up with a whiteboard, pens and talking about magic boxes and became a little animated. Shortly after resources became available.
Not all content is exciting but also you’re speaking because you’re seen as an expert. Don’t bamboozle, this is a time to educate, enjoy and help your audience enjoy listening.
What will they gain?
It’s not usually the first thing to mind when you start a presentation, but put yourself in the audience’s shoes again. How about when you last sat through someone else’s presentation? You do start to think “what am I getting out of this”. Sometimes you pick up a golden nugget of information. Other times you learn about something you care about too. If you are pitching for something, this is also where you need to tell the audience what they will gain as a result of choosing you or giving you what you are pitching for.
With the preparation started, let’s now consider….
The golden rules:
My mantra for a while when it comes to presenting is to keep it simple. It wasn’t always like that. Once I was asked to bring a printed copy along to an interview. It was 40 pages long and there were 2 people so a copy each. I’m not a major fan of creating a slide-deck but some people are visual so I will create one. It’s ongoing learning there, luckily Canva and I are becoming acquainted so they might improve! In my quest of the simpler presentation, I found that Guy Kawasaki created something called the 30-20-10 rule and I really quite like it so have started to adopt it and recommend you do too.
30 – font size
The recommendation is to use large fonts, with the smallest being 30. I’ll add to that too, the slide should be a visual aid. It should almost highlight the key points you’re making. The focus should be on YOU, not your fancy slides. Many times I’ve seen a huge amount of text on a slide and the presenter simply reads the slide. The audience can do that, you may as well have just sent the words to the audience and bypassed the presenting aspect!
Imagine if you’d scripted the presentation word for word (you can, I’d only recommend as part of the learning the script though, go solo to present). Then highlight the very minimum amount of key words. Those are the things to put on the slide.
20 – minutes long
You might not have much control here, but try to avoid going beyond 20 minutes. It’s an easy thing to try and talk for longer, but if you are able to speak for just 20 mins and make it really impactful, you can do it in an even quicker time. Attention spans are not that long, beyond 20 and the audience is switching off. Even with a 30 min slot, you’re getting set up (remember that the tech is nearly ALWAYS incompatible so have back up plans and arrive early..) warmed up, deliver your 20 mins and then it’ll be 30 mins before you know it. Worst case, you deliver in 20 and have time left. If all the Q&A goes well and there’s still time left, not a single person is going to complain that you gave them time back.
10 – slides in your presentation
It can be tempting to go for a full overload and create a very visual presentation. Rest assured that the best presentations I’ve seen are because of the person delivering them. Fancy slides enhance the experience, but they don’t make it. YOU make the difference! With Guy recommending 20, it comes from the venture capitalist slide and there are 10 specific points he raises. I’d also stick to 10 slides, but below we’ll start to look at the structure of what should be in your presentation.
There are many different ways you can present, but don’t fret too much on trying to be like that TEDx presenter you saw on YouTube. Try and be you, try to be authentic. Don’t worry about trying to speak to every member of your audience either. Some won’t want to be there. Others won’t know why they’re there. Just try to deliver in a way that YOU would enjoy if you were listening. Three more golden delivery tips:
- Rehearse out loud and ideally in front of someone if you’re not a confident presenter
- Time will move WAY more differently when you say things out loud rather than in your head!
- Slow down (but stick to time)
- I have rattled through a presentation waaaay too quickly before, and speak very quickly too, I have to talk super slow in my head!
- Don’t lecture
- Pick your own style, but try to be engaging rather than lecture and send the audience to sleep
The main event:
So you’re getting started with the preparation, what should you include? Using the 10 slide principal, I’ve given a rough agenda which should be easy to adapt in all situations. It’s expanded on the basis of the following which is attributed to Aristotle no less:
- Tell them what you’re going to tell them
- TELL THEM
- Tell them what you told them
The idea is that you set yourself up, deliver, then remind people what it was all about. It sounds a little overkill but my word does it work. People tune in more and listen because you’re using the first part to gain attention.
On to the main agenda, it’s not complicated, and in each one you should consider the audience, as I’ve already talked about above.
- Use this to include a brief part about who you are and that you’re qualified to talk to them
- less is more on this though, a life history can be interesting, but this is more about why you’re qualified for this topic especially
- A brief summary of WHAT you are GOING to tell your audience
- As above, this is the part where people have switched on, likely put their phone away and is your first chance to explain what’s coming
- The main event
- This is it, what you’ve practised for
- Speak clearly, try to engage your audience
- Remember to be very clear about WHAT you are TELLING them
- Remind your audience again WHAT you TOLD them
- It might seem overkill, but it sinks the point home
- Include the ways to find out more
- The Q&A..
So on to the Q&A. I’ve seen it time and again “any questions”. With a tone that almost insists “don’t ask me anything”. Or the best way to set up the Q&A “Right, I’m done, any questions or do you want to get your time back”.
Embrace the Q&A. It is a brilliant opportunity to show you’re not just a show pony who can deliver a presentation. It’s your opportunity to show that you are actually an expert. OK, caveat here, you might not be the expert. But that’s on you, you should have prepared more. In the most part, if you’re asked a decent question about the topic you’ve spoken about and can deliver a response that shows you have a) listened to the question and b) haven’t pre-canned the response, it will work massively in your favour. Worst case scenario, you don’t actually know how to respond so accept it, confirm the question back to the audience and ask to take it away and get back in touch with a response that does justice to the question. Just don’t use that line for every question.
There are a few Q&A scenarios by which you can be caught out though, but any can be overcome. The worst I’ve experienced is when someone has it in for the presenter. They’re either not keen on the topic, or the presenter, or they just want to prove themselves to be incredible clever to the audience. Then they’ll try to trip up the presenter in the Q&A on purpose for their own gain. One recommendation, get over it. When it happens, it’s not pleasant, but you can almost bet that the audience has clocked what is going on too and will side with you.
Hopefully that helps you get ready for your next presentation. Please do get in touch if this has helped. The image is a template to help with the preparation so if you’d like a downloadable copy, please get in touch.
As I said right at the top, I do love speaking. If there is something you would like to hear me talk about, do get in touch.