In the previous post, we talked about using your voice and body to your advantage when you are presenting. But that’s not the whole story! Once you have found your voice and presentation style, you need to focus on the content of your presentation.
Being able to structure and tailor your presentations is an incredibly useful skill to have – it will serve you well in job interviews, academic presentations and whenever you want to engage with and inspire others. We hope that the tips and ideas below will encourage you to practise creating varied and exciting presentations that hook your audiences and keep them listening!
To use PowerPoint or not to use PowerPoint…
Let’s face it – PowerPoint is a bit of a Marmite-thing in the world of public speaking. Some people love it, some hate it. However, slides can be very helpful if you use them well to grab your audience’s attention. Or if you want to distill your message to a few bullet points. So, our advice is not to avoid using PowerPoint, but making sure that you use it for a good reason. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your presentations:
- Avoid overcrowding your slides with lots of text: they will be hard to read and instead of listening to you, your audience will be busy trying to decipher the tiny text.
- Have a strong image or a couple of strong bullet points and expand on them in your speech
- Use a simple font such as Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman (no special effects!) and make sure it is legible (font size 24-32 at least)
- Don’t just read out what’s on the slides – they are the icing on the cake. Remember that your speech is the cake!
- Have a backup plan – technology is fantastic but it can fail you a few seconds before you go on stage. So, always have a backup plan. In the worst case scenario, you can always share your slides with the participants via email later.
The power of three
Rehearse delivering your message in three key points. If there was just one thing you wanted your audience to remember, what would it be?
To learn how to do this, try this exercise:
- Draft a one-minute speech about something you are passionate about and include the following:
- Introduction: who you are and what you want to speak about
- Your key message: three main points
- Finish: summarise and include a call to action/ include a practical outcome
- Stay focussed on your message!
2. Record yourself, note what went well, and what you could improve on.
3. Do it again! Do it better.
Hook your audience
Ask yourself why you are doing your presentation and for whom, then adapt it to your audience. There is no such thing as boring content, and there are lots of ways in which you can make statistics and facts exciting. Here are our tips and don’t forget to check out the additional resources at the end of this post:
- Have a strong opening: tell us a story, use a great image, a chart or graph, or ask a thought-provoking question. Behind every statistic, there is a fascinating story waiting to get out. For example, if you need to deliver a presentation about levels of water pollution in a specific area, tell us what its impact is on the individuals and wildlife. Tell us what this area might look like 50 years from now if we do not take action. Then incorporate numbers and statistics into your presentation.
- There are many ways to tell a story: you can take your audience on a journey towards resolving a problem or overcoming a difficulty or you can ask them to imagine a different world or way of doing things.
- Positive language: do not put yourself down. Never begin a presentation by saying: ‘ I know this is boring, but…’
- Whatever style and story you choose: keep it relevant to your audience.
- Stick to your main points and do not overrun!
- Give your audience something to take away: a call to action, an interesting fact or idea.
Even if your first attempt at presenting does not go well, do not despair. We think it is good to be bad at something because it gives you an opportunity to get feedback and learn from your mistakes.
Now practise re-drafting your content. Go back to your basic one-minute speech and try to improve it:
- Introduction: who you are and what you want to speak about; find a hook (an interesting ‘Did you know that…’ fact, or ‘Imagine a world where…’)
- Your key message: three main points; expand each point with no more than three additional ideas, and take your audience on a journey. For example, this was the issue, this is what I have tried/done, this is the outcome.
- Finish: summarise and include a call to action/ include a practical outcome. Leave your audience with something to remember.
Now, compare this content with the previous one and see which one is more engaging. Next, make it a three-minute speech and try to use images or quotes. By building on your content slowly and re-working it, you will become more confident about your topic and create a memorable experience for your audience.
Listen to this: Viv Groskop’s podcast How to Own The Room. All you need to know about brilliant public speaking.
- Get inspired by comics
- The clues to a great story
- How to open and close presentations
- Presentations in English – for learners of English
- How to avoid death by PowerPoint
- 7 ways to structure your presentation to keep your audience wanting more
- Create memorable visual presentations
- 5 quick ways to structure a presentation
- Structuring a presentation
- 7 storytelling structures to improve your presentations (Infographic):
Reflect: now that you have read this article, take a few minutes and jot down answers to the questions below. This will help you remember the most insightful points and put together an action plan that works for you:
- What inspired you?
- As a result, what do you want to do more of?
- And what do you want to do less of?
- What will you do next to achieve these goals?