5 Principles for great presentations: More than PowerPoint

presentation chaosThose who are less than expert at PowerPoint may be relieved to know that you need not be a whiz at presentation software to give a great presentation. In fact, I have attended some presentations that would have been much better without any “slides” at all.

Don’t get me wrong, PowerPoint is an excellent tool when used for the right purposes. However, while working for a corporation where PowerPoint was widely used, I once received an interoffice memo in PowerPoint format (I’m not kidding)!

Set objectives: Why are you giving this presentation anyway? Even if “my boss told me to”, there must be some sort of goal. Ask yourself, what do I want my audience to be talking about as they walk away? Now, write that down and keep it in front of you while you prepare.

Less information is more: To quote Shakespeare, “Brevity is the soul of wit”. Try the exercise of limiting yourself to 20 slides for each hour you are presenting. And make sure your text covers no more than 30% of any slide. The rest should be white space or graphics. The impact of your presentation will increase dramatically.

PowerPoint is a visual aid: It is not intended to convey the information. It should help you convey the information. If you want folks to read, give them a handout or do a blog post.

Consider your audience: Whom are you speaking to? Why did they come to listen? What matters to them? How will they benefit from your presentation? Keep these in mind and you will truly have their attention.

Engage your audience: Unless you were specifically asked to lecture, don’t. No one really enjoys being “talked at”. Ask them questions and encourage them to do the same. Better yet, get them interacting with each other.

So you don’t need to be an impresario, a PowerPoint whiz or a comedian(ienne). Keep these in mind and you are well on the way to being that “great speaker”.

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