Newsletter - Learning Matters - No.8

Making Great Presentations

Presentations have become a necessary part of business life and their success often depends upon the skill of the presenter.

Learning Curve offers the following ten top tips for making your presentations informative, memorable and creative.

  1. Prepare thoroughly
  2. The best way to prepare is to write out your key messages on post-it notes and then put them into order. Take out any repeated messages and work out the logical flow of information.

    As part of your preparation think about your audience - what do they already know? What technical knowledge do they have? Are they attending voluntarily or are they being 'sent?' How many people are likely to attend?

    On a practical note, have you booked a room? Are there enough chairs? Do you need to organise refreshments?

  3. Structure your presentation
  4. There are five stages to your presentation:

    • Introduction and opening
    • Main messages
    • Summary
    • Questions and answers
    • Closing statement

  5. Open your presentation with impact
  6. This is the stage where you need to engage your audience and make a statement or ask a question that will grab their attention. A quotation is a good way of opening, provided that it is relevant to your subject.

  7. Use visuals wisely
  8. We have all experienced 'death by powerpoint'. Presenters often make the mistake of clicking through numerous slides and reading from them word for word. If you are using powerpoint make your slides colourful and focus on pictures rather than words. Use your slides to talk around, i.e. as a support, and keep them brief. During a 15 minute presentation 6 slides is plenty.

    If using handouts be aware that people will look at the notes rather than looking at and listening to you. Hand them out at the end as a reference.

  9. Make your key points concisely and logically
  10. People generally need time to think about what you have said, so don't rush your key points. An effective format is to use past-present-future, e.g. 'This is what we have done in the past / this is the way we do things now / these are our plans for the future.'

  11. Use your voice to create authority
  12. Slow down, keep your voice tone varied and use pauses powerfully. Speaking more slowly than normal will make you appear more confident and pauses make you appear to be in control. Altering the volume occasionally will also add variety.

  13. Body language can make or break your presentation
  14. The question we are asked most often in presentation skills courses is 'where should I put my hands?' It is, of course, best to leave them on the end of your arms!

    Keep your hands above waist level (not clasped) and use them naturally to support your points. Move around as you speak but not to the point where it becomes distracting to the group.

    You may not feel much like smiling but it really does help. You will find that if you smile at your group they will smile back and put you more at ease.

  15. Handle questions confidently
  16. When asked a question thank the questioner and make sure everyone in the group has heard the question. Then clarify the question to make sure you have understood. This also gives you valuable thinking time. If the question is regarding something you will be covering later on, say so and promise to answer it later. If you don't know the answer to a question tell the questioner you will get back to them at a specified time / date with the answer.

    After answering the question check that the questioner is satisfied with your answer before moving on.

  17. Close your presentation effectively
  18. Your closing statement needs to leave the group with an overall message, thought or feeling. This is the moment where you encapsulate the 'flavour' of the presentation in a short message or by asking the group a thought - provoking question.

  19. Don't let nerves hinder your performance
  20. Being well-prepared will alleviate nerves, as will rehearsal. By rehearsing we mean actually standing up and saying your presentation out loud. It helps to rehearse in front of someone who will give you some balanced feedback.

    If you do get nervous beforehand take some deep breaths and slow everything down. Remember - everyone is rooting for you.

Learning Curve - Reading, Berkshire, England: +44 (0)118 987 5683

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