TED Talks are some of the most-watched videos online where expert speakers share inspiration and ideas on a variety of topics such as business, education, science, and technology. While we may not be influential enough to have a place on the TED stage just yet, great communication and presentation skills can still make a world of difference in our corporate lives. Presentations are a way to share your vision, promote an idea, or impart important information. A persuasive presentation can help you attract big-ticket investors, land coveted clients, or achieve that promotion that you have been aiming for. Here are some suggestions on how you can craft that perfect presentation and set yourself apart from your peers.
Simple and Sweet
Thanks to being constantly surrounded by media and advertising, the attention spans of audiences these days are notoriously short. Hence, when planning your presentation, ensure that it is sharp and to the point and consider that nobody wants to hear someone meander around a topic. (We have our elderly relatives for that!) Some of the most powerful and memorable speeches in history such as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Churchill’s We Shall Fight on The Beaches are only about 300 words long. To this effect, try to keep your presentation to a maximum of five impactful main points accompanied by precise information on your slides.
According to research, when people read plain text, they are likely to remember only 10 percent of the information after three days. However, if the material is presented as text paired with a relevant image, people are likely to remember 65 percent of the information. This is referred to as pictorial superiority by scientists, who have found that the brain learns and recalls concepts better when viewing pictures rather than reading text. This is important to keep in mind, particularly when presenting data that could be quite dry, such as financial figures or research results.
A tried and tested way to present data is through the use of diagrams and charts, many of which can be easily created in PowerPoint. Using infographics instead of text is also a good way to get your point across concisely and compellingly. Clean and minimalist design is the current trend and it helps your audience to focus on pertinent content. By using visually appealing PowerPoint templates with classic color schemes and elegant gradients, you can capture the attention of the audience without overwhelming them. The center of the presentation should be you—the speaker—with the slides as a supporting visual aid, and not the other way around.
Speaker of the House
Speaking of the speaker, there are many things that you can do to prepare yourself for delivering a winning presentation. The first thing is to determine who your target audience is and tailor your presentation to their area of business. This is essential because busy corporate audiences do not have time to sift through irrelevant information. And you cannot possibly engage your audience if you do not know who they are to begin with. Connecting with your audience is a proven way to hold their attention and keep their interest. Switch on your storytelling skills and take your audience on a captivating—albeit brief—journey.
Another reason why we avoid having wordy slides is to prevent speakers from reading directly off the screen. Reading off the screen or from speaker cards can result in an unnatural and monotonous speaking style that affects your rapport with the audience. Try to speak in a conversational yet confident tone and communicate your points clearly. To do this, you need to practice your presentation so that you know the material and concepts like the back of your hand. Bear in mind that you may have to answer questions at the end of the presentation, so you need to know your stuff and be able to explain it in a professional and friendly fashion.
Rehearsing the presentation and knowing the pertinent information thoroughly not only helps you to address any queries but also makes you more confident while you present. Practice in front of a mirror or with friends and family to test your presentation time and pacing and to receive constructive criticism. Studies have shown that over half of what we say is conveyed through non-verbal communication. Thus having self-assured body language is integral to a successful presentation. When speakers are stiff or nervous, audiences feel awkward and alienated. But when speakers are relaxed and make regular eye contact, audiences perceive them as more positive and trustworthy.
As we move out from behind our Zoom screens back into real-life meeting rooms, the idea of giving a presentation to business associates can be daunting. Luckily, we now have a myriad of skills and tools that can help us create appealing and interactive presentations that capture the minds of our audiences. With the right amount of preparation and practice, we will all be able to give a presentation fit for the grand stage.