The goal of any presentation is to introduce or promote an idea to an audience. In the course of the presentation, the structure of the material is designed to:
- Lead the audience to ‘see’ your information from your perspective
- Understand what you intended to deliver
- Ensure your information transmits from your brain to the audience’s brain, keeping the integrity of the message intact
- Move people’s minds
- Inspire the audience along the way
How do you go from making a good presentation to making a great presentation, one that is so memorable that people talk about it long after it’s over? To do that effectively, here are two checklists to help you create the best presentation possible to drive audience engagement.
Presentation Checklist: Part 1 – The Mechanics
- Develop the presentation storyboard – with a roadmap to outline the presentation journey
- Create great visuals for your presentation, your visual billboard, with the audience in mind
- Practice the delivery of your presentation so your brain is comfortable and not stressed with your message
- Work on the physical and vocal elements of your presentation to ensure that those non-verbal signals are synchronized with your verbal and visual billboard
- Control all the distractions that can get in the way, such as talking to your visual billboard, delivering to the ceiling or mid-air (safe but not effective)
The Mechanics Checklist details the requirements for any presentation – the things you must do just to show up. All by themselves, they do not ensure presentation greatness. However, very often, most people stop at that point and consider the job done. They show up to present, and maybe, just maybe, they deliver a good presentation.
However, if you are presenting, you should always strive for greatness. Here’s what differentiates good presentations from great presentations. When I attended my first presentation skills class, attendees asked how they could make an interesting presentation when their material was so boring. Fair enough, I thought, because my material was boring, as well. I remember the instructor’s reply, which has resonated with me ever since.
“There is no such thing as a boring presentation – there is just a boring speaker. It’s up to you to figure out the hook and breathe life into any presentation.”
In the course of my career teaching the art of great presentations, I have repeated that challenge to people innumerable times. Your data, your story, and your visual billboard are secondary to you, the presenter. Only you can bring the passion, nuance, analogies, and examples that bring your story to life. You, the presenter, need to be the center of the message. Everything else is your tool to complement and enhance you and your message. But never forget – if you are not the human center of it all, you may just as well use a videotape and save yourself the trouble.
So, here are some tips to take you from good to great!
Presentation Checklist: Part 2 – The Soul and Passion of the Presentation and You, the Presenter
- Make a personal connection with the audience: Use eye contact to speak to either one person or a group of people. Your eye contact can be one of the most powerful tools you have. Remember, your audience is human and will easily connect with you on a human basis. Eye contact provides that connection. I remember being in an audience of 2,000 people and feeling like that message was being directed to me.
- Tell a story: All too often, our visual billboard is filled with data. Data is ‘what’ information. It is flat and one-dimensional. Take the data and tell the story and context surrounding the data. Provide the ‘color’. Make the data come alive in examples. This is the ‘why’ information. Stories and examples provide the ‘why’, connect with the audience, and provide the memorable takeaways that people will talk about after the presentation is over.
- Use Rhetorical Questions: It shows people you are thinking about them and about what they must be thinking at this point in your presentation. It reinforces your personal connection. It is empathetic and very human.
- Create tangibility so people can ‘see’ it: Many times, we run through information at a very conceptual level. The audience is thinking, “Where is this going, and what does this really mean?” Bring concepts in ‘for a landing’. No presentation should be firmly planted in mid-air. By providing a presentation hook, you give the audience a mental hook to hang information on.
- Be passionate: If you aren’t passionate or appear passionate about your presentation, why should anyone else be? Once you have your presentation grounded in stories and tangible references, you should have the confidence to speak passionately because you know your presentation works on all levels.
After all your preparation, let go and let your passion flow. And enjoy the sweet sound of applause.