(This is an excerpt from my free eBook, “Ten Tips and Techniques For More Effective Presentations”.)
All of the hard work you’ve put into developing your presentation has finally come down to this. It’s presentation day, and you know you’re ready. You’ve followed simple design principles and you’ve practiced for hours on end. Here are a few tips to help you nail that live performance.
Do Not Read Your Slides
Your PowerPoint is not a script. It’s not even your notes. Your PowerPoint presentation is a visual backdrop to present your themes and main points. PLEASE don’t treat it as script.
If you read your slides, your audience will immediately know that you don’t know what you’re talking about and that you didn’t care enough to prepare for them. Not to mention, turning your back and reading your slides creates an impersonal wall between you and your audience. You’re speaking at them, instead of with them. It’s crucial that you design a presentation with slides that support your message, not repeat it. If you do this correctly, you won’t have any words to read!
Use Black Slides
I know this seems like it applies more to design than delivery, but the advantage of using black slides is that those slides will bring the attention of the audience back to you, the presenter. Keep in mind that your visuals are a backdrop to your presentation. Since you are the star, you want to make sure the attention will be on you as often as possible. This means that all the eyes will turn to you, so your delivery skills are important. It also gives you no chance to look back at your slides, and certainly no chance to read them. You will be able to reconnect, both literally (eyes, emotion) and figuratively. This is also a great way to help your audience recognize that you’re moving to a new topic.
Connect with the Audience
A presentation is a two-way communication. Although you’re doing most of the speaking, it’s a conversation with the audience. You want to speak with them, not at them. You’re connecting with them on a certain level, bringing them through any number of emotions. I’ve seen presentations that have the audience laughing themselves off their seats and others that bring them to tears.
There are numerous ways to achieve this connection. It starts with body language, and more importantly, eye contact. When you have a conversation with a friend, you look at their eyes as you speak. Too many times the presenter’s eyes are directed at the screen, their laptop, or down at their notes. This creates a huge disconnect and gives the audience an uneasy feeling. They wonder, “Does the presenter even want to be here? Does he/she care that I’m here?” Along with visual contact, interaction with the audience is key. Ask them questions. Get their immediate input/feedback. Get them involved in the conversation you’re having.
One final way is to share a personal story. Talking in a personal way makes the audience feel that you’re comfortable enough to let them in your own world. Stories like this may not always be applicable to what you’re talking about (so don’t try to crowbar one in), but if the opportunity presents itself, seize it.
What do you find troubling about delivering a presentation? What methods have you used to deliver more effectively?