Secrets of a Great Presentation
At some point in their careers, most business professionals must make presentations.
Presentations come in all forms, from quick five-minute recaps of a project and its outcome, to lengthy, in-depth research results or complex persuasive arguments. Creating a presentation that’s both memorable and effective is an essential leadership skill. Here are five secrets of a great presentation that will help you communicate clearly and connect with your audience, no matter who they are and what your goals might be.
- Start Strong
Grab your audience’s attention with a powerful statistic, question, or anecdote. Then build on it by providing contrast—describe the way things are and how they could change based on the idea behind your presentation. Some topics might not lend themselves to this format, but the important idea here is to reach out and give the audience something tangible to hold on to as the rest of your talk unfolds.
- Tell a Story
For thousands of years in human history, people passed information along to younger generations through word of mouth alone. Oral tradition illustrates the power of storytelling—stories paint a picture in our minds, sticking with us much longer than arguments or statistics. To make a presentation more powerful, include a few pertinent stories, but also look at your entire talk as a plot with its own story line and trajectory. Thinking in this way helps you know where you want to take your audience through the presentation, keeping the destination in mind.
- Use Images and Visual Language
In keeping with the storytelling approach, include visual language such as metaphors, similes, and vivid descriptions to help your words sink in. Similes and metaphors help listeners visualize ideas, and those internal snapshots will remain with them after the talk is over. Visual tools such as slides and video clips can also be compelling—but limit them to a few powerful selections rather than a lengthy deck.
- Connect With Your Audience
There are several ways to connect with the audience, but the first step to doing it successfully is ensuring that you understand who they are. If you are speaking to a group of engineers, for example, take time to research their responsibilities, priorities, and pain points. Then, tailor the presentation to suit your target audience, connecting your ideas with the issues they care most about. Other ways to connect with your audience include making eye contact and using gestures and interactive elements such as an informal poll. Approach the entire presentation as a conversation, rather than a speech. This will immediately disarm and engage your audience.
- Use Repetition
There’s an old saying about public speaking: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.” The rule of repeating your message three times may seem excessive, but it will help your presentation stay with the audience. Most of the time, changing up the wording as you repeat yourself is wise, but in other cases, a single important phrase can be echoed several times through the talk—and having such a signpost will strengthen your message.
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