Small Business Services

5 Tips for Creating Effective Presentations

You’ve sat through them. Presentations where speakers:

  • Drone on so long that you miss the message.
  • Overload the screen with way too many words and graphics, causing sensory overload. You miss the message.
  • Deliver an effective presentation, but can’t answer any follow-up questions.

While it’s true that the style and pace and content will vary depending on your purpose, there are some universal rules that can be applied to any presentation.

If you’ve searched for presentation tips on the web, you’ve probably learned a lot about PowerPoint. In reality, you can learn all you need to know by going through one basic tutorial. PowerPoint is a tool that can help you present your ideas by reinforcing the key concepts in your message, but it shouldn’t be the centerpiece of your presentation. You are.

Finding a Balance

If that makes you nervous, consider this: Many people prepare too much for presentations. They reach their allotted time before they get to the second page of their notes, and the audience is left wondering why there was so little real content. The presenters have done much more work than they needed to, and they didn’t succeed in getting their core message(s) across.

So be smart when you’re getting a presentation ready. Think of the five points you’d most like people to absorb. Then narrow it down to three. Then say it in a sentence. Be very clear on what your mission is before you start drafting text. Are you offering solutions to a problem? Trying to sell something? Teaching? Looking for funding for a nonprofit? If you can’t state your goal simply, your plans are too ambitious. Dial it back and simplify.

Be sure you know who your audience is. This is absolutely crucial, especially if you’re going to share anecdotes or try to inject humor into your presentation.

How fast do you talk? A typical rate is 75-100 words per minute, though your pace may vary. Find out what your speaking speed is before you start creating your presentation. If you get anxious in front of a crowd, assume that you may talk a little faster. Read a draft of your speech to your spouse or a co-worker or your dog and see how long it takes. Then reduce it by 30 percent. You’re not going to read it word for word, and you want to make sure to leave time for interruptions – and for questions.

Speaking of which, plan ahead for questions. You probably had to cut some content when you were reading it to your cat, but if it’s important, have additional slides or handouts or FAQs ready to go. Have those pages loaded so you can access them quickly. Back everything up to a USB drive.

Only after you have a good speaking outline or draft or stack of index cards should you start creating slides. Don’t go overboard with text or graphics. Use bullet points, and make sure the font is large enough to read. If you look at your slides constantly during your presentation, your audience will, too. Only refer to the slides as you emphasize the messages displayed there.

Some speakers make it look so easy. They stand up front looking confident. They don’t sweat or stutter, and they never seem at a loss for words. Maybe you can’t be that smooth, but you can be better than you think with the right preparation.


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