Presenting Like a Pro Made Easy
Presentation, a word that strikes fear into even the most seasoned executive’s heart. But with the right approach presentations don’t have to be a source of stress or anxiety; it all comes down to preparation.
The first step to being prepared is to know your audience – it doesn’t matter whether you are trying to sell a service or inform colleagues of new processes, you have to know who your audience is before you present. The motivations and needs of a room of HR professionals is going to be very different to that of a finance team, so let the format, style and content of your presentation be dictated by your audience. If it is a mixed group then make sure to consider all the different viewpoints. HR teams, for example, are likely to be interested in the human capital issues, finance will be concerned with figures and statistics, and sales will want to know how it impacts their ability to sell. Make sure that the issues relevant to your audience are addressed and it will ensure a much better reception from all parties.
Step two is to proactively anticipate and address any potential questions that are likely to be asked, within the presentation. If you know your audience you can roughly guess what they are likely to ask you, so if you know what that will be, answer it for them. This will show them that you understand their needs, helping to improve engagement with your material, and will also reduce the chances of being asked questions that you can’t answer.
Once that’s taken care of step three is to get the format right. For a basic guide on how to structure a presentation the 4MAT process by Bernice McCarthy is a very useful approach. The key point is to make sure that your presentation has a clear beginning, middle and end, and that all sections are high impact. Some basic tips include; never put information on a slide that people can’t easily see (e.g. large sets of data), stick to three key points per slide, don’t overburden people with text, and use visual aids as aids, not the main focus of your message. Generally people will remember the beginning and end of a presentation better than the middle, so make sure these are succinct and clear in their message. The first slides should give an outline of what the presentation is about and some of the key points; the middle should offer the more intricate information, and the final slides should summarise what has just been discussed. It may seem like you are repeating yourself, but ensuring people have clearly heard and understood your message is essential, so covering your key points in a number of ways and linking it all together throughout the presentation is the most effective way to ensure your key takeaways are actually taken away.
Following the steps above will help ensure you are able to deliver a coherent, considered and professional presentation that actively engages your audience and conveys your message confidently. The final thing to consider is the use of technology in presentations. Presenting like a pro is all about making sure you tailor your message to your audience and prepare fully before presenting. Using the latest apps to jazz up your content will do nothing to help if this hasn’t been achieved first. Applications such as Tellagami or Videoscribe (animation apps) are great supporting tools to help make a presentation more visually appealing and engaging, but their use shouldn’t overtake the message you are trying to convey. Even basic tools such as Prezi or PowerPoint are arguably redundant if you have a powerful message to tell. Some of the most impactful and engaging presentations are those that don’t involve technology at all and instead focus on the message, and while this may not be the way forward for everyone, anyone presenting should always consider whether the technology they are using is enhancing their presentation or detracting from it.
Presenting like a pro isn’t difficult, but it does take a bit of practice, so if you get a chance rehearse what you’re going to say, and practice responding to questions; as with most things in life, the only way to make it easier is to do it over and over.