I recently spent 2 days at Ad-Tech, an international conference on Interactive Marketing. Whilst the majority of content was excellent, the quality of the actual presentations varied greatly. Reflecting on this, I came up with a list of tips that could improve your presentations.
1. Personality – Try and be yourself. The speakers that engage you, show you some of their personality. By the end of the presentation the audience should feel like they know you a little. In the panel style sessions where the speakers were interacting with each other and the audience this was easier, however a good speakers will also achieve this throughout stand up presentations.
2. Concise & Simple – The quality presenters were able to take a complex idea and break it down to a simple set of consise and coherent points within the allocated time. With some of the bigger panels this was only 5 minutes. Giving a 5 minute presentation is a skill that should be practiced and is often harder than giving a longer presentation. Don’t try and fit too much in, just stick to one or two points.
1. Death by PowerPoint – PowerPoint or other visual aids are unfortunately used as a ‘crutch’ by many speakers. It bullet points every item in their speech and substitutes for the speakers notes. A good speaker will be able to captivate the audience with the tone of their voice, body language and content of their presentation. Only a few PowerPoint presentation should be used to show diagram or illustrate concepts that cant be easily described in words alone.
2. Death by Statistics – The only thing worse than too many PowerPoint slides is too many PowerPoint slides full of statistics. Statistics should only be used to support an argument, and then only a summary of the statistics should be used. Showing slide after slide of stats, just disengages the audience and you will find it hard to get them back. Stats should be given out as hand outs if there is a need for them at all.
1. The need to finish no matter what – One session I visited had a pannel of 5 speakers that had to present the 5 presentations within an hour and take questions. The first speaker was on time, the second speaker was over by about 5 minutes (on a 10 minute presentation and the third speaker was on time. The fourth speaker who knew they were already behind, insisted on going through 15 PowerPoint slides for a 10 minute presentation. Despite the obvious boredom from the audience and people sighing each time a new slide came up they had to finish all parts of their presentation no matter what. This left a pretty disengaged audience for the fifth speaker that was starting his presentation after the entire session was meant to have finished.
Newspaper articles are written with the most import content at the start so the reader can read as little or as much of the article as they like and still get the gist of the story. Presentations should be constructed in the same way, so that if you are running over time, you can skip straight to the conclusion without sacrificing the main messages that you are trying to get across.