Everyone can distinguish between a good presenter and a poor presenter...
- Do they read their slides or speak from their heart?
- Do they engage the audience or put them to sleep?
- Do they speak with passion or are they having a hard time speaking at all?
- Do they look at their audience or are they too busy looking at their notes?
...but fewer people actually think about the fact that the slides someone presents can be equally important. Really good public speakers often have no slides at all…or their slides show pictures that help them tell a story. But most people aren’t comfortable without a crutch, so they err on the side of putting too much information on the page, hoping their audience equates good speaking with a high word count. There is a happy medium—a nirvana for the average presenter that provides them with the cues they need, without all the eyesore charts, graphs, colors and dense bullets. Keeping a few pointers in mind, everyone can step up their game…which frankly will make it easier on all of us, especially those that are trying to focus more on what you are saying and less on how you are presenting it.
Insight #1 – If you have to apologize for the amount of information on the page, you have too much information on the page. Any presenter that starts to speak about a slide by saying “I know this is hard to read but…” has already lost his audience who is now focusing more on figuring out what is on the slide. A good rule of thumb is to consider how the presentation is being delivered. If it’s a leave-behind and not something you are actually presenting, the detail may be necessary. But if you are formally presenting the information using an overhead screen, LESS IS MORE.
Insight #2 – What looks good on your computer, may not display well on “the big screen.” That pretty gold color against a black background may seem like a good idea at the time, but try it out projected from a distance before you commit. It may not be as easy to read as you thought.
Insight #3 – No two LCD projectors are equal. What displays well on one, may not look great on another, so pick color pairings wisely.
Insight #4 – Too many bullets are, well, in a word BORING. Change it up. Use pictures, graphics and other ways to display your information so people stay engaged.
Insight #5 – Pictures speak a thousand words. A well-placed and meaningful graphic can help you tell a story, but…
Insight #6 – Don’t add a graphic if it doesn’t supplement the words on the page. A picture that doesn’t relate to the message on the page simply detracts from the presentation, so don’t use a picture just to use a picture.
Insight #7 – Enough is enough. When you have a lot to say, it is hard to refrain from sharing it…ALL of it. But when planning your presentation, make sure that you keep in mind the amount of time you are allocated. Eighty slides are not easy to cover in 45-minutes unless the slides are content-light and graphic-heavy. A good rule of thumb is that you will need about 2 minutes to cover the information on any one slide.
Insight # 8 – The beginning of your presentation is the most important part. No matter why your audience is attending your presentation (because they are genuinely interested in what you have to say, because they are waiting for the next speaker, because lunch was offered, etc.), the minute you start your presentation is the time to reel them in. Be provocative with your ideas and hook them with your first sentence. In the end, the presentation still doesn’t make itself, so you have to be able to speak to it commandingly. See article on speaking tips for more thoughts on how to pack a room and keep them engaged. In the meantime, think about your audience and write a presentation that people will remember as a model for great content!