Presenting is never solely dependent on the presenter’s delivery technique, although voice and body language certainly help. It’s down to content, content and content.
If that isn’t clear enough, let’s be clearer. An amazing presentation means amazing content presented well. And that’s it.
1. Detail your objectives
You need to detail your objectives. These may range from precisely what you wish to achieve, the messages you wish to convey, to how you wish your audience to respond.
Right up front, you need to analyse what you wish to achieve and to focus on what you need to do to achieve it. We have all attended business presentations which seem to meander all over the place, ignore audience motivations, and miss key points by excruciating miles. This is because the presenter is unclear about what he or she wishes to achieve and how they wish to achieve it. They just think, I’ve got to talk about topic x, let’s get some slides and then talk. The result is what anyone but the presenter would expect. Dullness.
Instead, you need to prepare for your audience. You need to know your audience well and know what will interest, excite and inspire them. You need to test your ideas beforehand with people who are representative of your audience. You need to know their hot buttons – needs, wants and desires – and the things which will have real impact.
2. Set your title
Your objectives should be reflected in the title of your presentation. Spend time on the title, reflect on it, test it with others, and draft the first sentence. Whatever the promise in the title of your presentation, your content needs to fulfil it. The title to the first sentence should be inextricably linked and the presentation structured accordingly. If you need to change the title later, it means that you didn’t think through what you wished to deliver in the first place. Your thoughts were out of step with your words. You need to get it right from the start.
3. Your promise
Your very first sentence – your promise – should be the most interesting, impactful and exciting thing you can possibly say about your topic at that particular time. Its purpose is to motivate people to listen to what is to come next.
The sentence may be about revealing crucial information. It may be about showing your audience something they can get from nowhere else. Whatever it is, you want your audience to think that they are about to receive spectacular value by listening to you.
4. The passion
There is little substitute for passion in anything in life, either from a lover or from a chef. You need to demonstrate your passion – your interest and excitement, if not love, for what you are going to be talking about. Passion is infectious, it is delightful to have around you. It’s important that you demonstrate plenty of it in order to infect your audience.
5. The pain
The pain is the definition of the problem and its implications. You need to take your audience with you from the same starting place, and that’s from defining the problem opportunity. This should be non-contentious. It should mean that someone non-receptive to your proposition would wholeheartedly agree with your analysis. You need to spend time on it and understand it fully from the audience’s angle. Don’t skimp on your analysis of the problem. It is the reason you are putting the presentation together.
6. Rule of three
Divide everything into three, and then divide each third into a third. Create a storyboard with key topics, linking them to a summary of the content you intend to deliver. Ensure that what comes first is the most important thing, and what comes second is the second most important thing and so on. The hierarchy of information must result in a natural storytelling flow. Your whole presentation needs to be well structured – one point flowing into another.
7. Key messages
Your key messages are the core messages you wish to convey and what you wish your audience to remember. They are essentially the skeleton of the presentation on which supporting information is placed. List your key messages and decide which points should be conveyed during the presentation and when. Rather like a good joke, preparation, structure, and timing are key.
8. Create simple slides
Slides should be able to be read at a glance, must look good and carry minimal words. Never have more than one idea per slide. Images are fine. Charts with numbers are not. Slides should provide the audience with signposts, not information. The presenter’s job is to inform.
9. The right words
Words matter. You want to use strong verbs and produce concrete sentences and minimise abstract phrases and sentences. Words that evoke interest and excitement can turn dull sentences into appealing ones. Here are some words which work well in advertising and they work well in presentations too:
10. The benefits
Benefits are advantages of relevance to the buyer. Customers buy benefits. They do not buy features. Make sure that the benefits of your proposition are clear, precise and simple to understand.
Finally, conclude with an easy method to help your audience secure those benefits.
With thanks to Richard Walker, Director at Walkerstone, a company specialising in the delivery of business writing courses. Prior to this, Richard worked in senior marketing roles with Microsoft and EDS (now HP), where he authored numerous reports, business cases, and successful proposals.