If you are like me, then you have been forced to suffer through your share of presentations given by uninspired, uninterested and disorganized people. “I can do better than that. Much better!” One might say. But one might also find that when the time comes to collaborate on one’s own presentation, that creating an experience of oratory (plus visuals!) that will wake up the back row is more difficult than it might initially seem.
That being said, as I have already said, going into a business presentation, people are not necessarily expecting anything amazing – so use that to your advantage by providing the audience with something amazing. And here are a few ways to do so.
– Don’t use Powerpoint. Simple as that. Don’t use Powerpoint. This could be your first and greatest decision in developing your presentation. The reality of the situation is that Powerpoint has been around for years and, by now, even the most exciting Powerpoints just are not, well, exciting. Using bullets, kills the audience. Might I recommend Prezi? Prezi is a cool presentation software that essentially does all that Powerpoint does, but allows you to create a presentation that is flashy, different and infinitely more attention-grabbing than even the best Powerpoint could be in 2012. And perhaps even better than all that, Prezis can be stored in the cloud. Visit www.prezi.com to check it out.
– Don’t read from your presentation’s slides. In fact, have little to no text on the slides at all! I prefer to think of presentation slides as the pictures that some live bands put up on screens behind them while they are performing. The pictures can help you to set a tone for what you are talking about. Keeping text to a minimum – or off the screen entirely – keeps people’s focus where you want it: on you and what you are saying. A few good rules to keep in mind when you’re making sure that your presentation has as much oomph as possible is to use no more than three words on each slide and to use as many pictures as possible.
– Be funny. Even if you aren’t, try to be. And even if nobody laughs, people will probably laugh at the fact that nobody laughed. People don’t want to be forced to learn things, even if it’s something that they would typically enjoy learning. Just the fact that they are a sort of captive audience can shut down an audience. In most circumstances, audiences are expecting a presentation to be boring, so simply saying or doing anything during the presentation that is said or done just for the fun of it, that the momentary lapse of seriousness makes anything and everything else that you might be talking about much more palatable. At the very least, try to make them smile as you appeal to their emotions.
How do you get better? Let me give you 3 suggestions. I have been a Toastmaster for around 20 years, and always give them a plug. They usually have a chapter in every city, and they can become your learning lab as you test out material. Then there are several books on the topics. The two I recommend the most are Presenting Like Steve Jobs and the Zen of Presentations. Then look at Youtube for presentations by Steve Jobs. Lastly, watch videos on Ted.com – Ideas Worth Spreading. They are usually 18 minutes long, and the presenters are world class. As an extra suggestion, practice, practice and practice.
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