We are excited to share with our audience a blog post by Marshall Makstein of eSlide. As a longtime presentation evangelist Marshall believes that presentations are a critical corporate communications tool and promotes the idea that effective PowerPoint can bring LIFE to ideas and organizations. Having felt strongly about well-designed presentations Marshall started eSlide, specializing in PowerPoint design and production. You can find out more at www.eslide.com.
Guest Blog: Lessons From The Top
How managers effectively use presentations
For many managers, PowerPoint presentations are all in a day’s work. Yet, not all organizational leaders are created equal when it comes to effectively delivering a message via a presentation. While a small number are naturally talented like the late Steve Jobs – who consistently captivated large audiences through words and images – many are not.
If you’re a manager who doesn’t consider presenting one of your top skills, don’t despair. There are some simple tricks and tips to dramatically improve your ability to bring your information to life through PowerPoint slides and jumpstart your confidence during presentations. Ok, so you might not become the next Steve Jobs, but by using the following professional presentation strategies, you can ramp up your success the next time you’re in front of an audience.
Write a Script First
The old axiom “measure twice, and cut once” certainly applies to creating a PowerPoint presentation. Jumping into creating slides before fleshing out what you’re going to say is a recipe for creating a confusing, unfocused presentation. So, your first step should be to carefully outline your message. Incorporate good storytelling technique by creating a beginning, middle, and end that culminates in a compelling call to action that will be remembered after the presentation is over.
Less Words, More Images
Whether you’re using PowerPoint to create slides for a product launch, investor pitch, or to share your capabilities with a new client, you should take a cue from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who always goes light on text and heavy on images. In fact, many of the top business leaders around the world are choosing to use a much more image-rich style for their PowerPoint slides. This type of presentation is more memorable, impactful, and therefore more effective in connecting with your audience.
For most people, the brain processes information more efficiently when it is presented visually in a combination of words and images. Neuroscientists have even concluded that images on the left side of a slide and words on the right are the best placement. This is exactly what Bezos does. Yes, image-rich PowerPoint presentations work because they directly stimulate the right hemisphere of the brain which controls emotions. And to effectively connect with your audience, you need to incorporate emotion with your information.
Use Video and Audio
Dynamic content can take your presentation power up an additional notch. A short video that illustrates a key point or audio clip of a customer testimonial can pique your audience’s interest and help break up a lengthy presentation. Thanks to improvements with PowerPoint, video can now be embedded within the slide file so you don’t have to include multiple files when sharing a presentation electronically.
Brand Your PowerPoint Slides
Businesses place a great deal of emphasis on the specific design elements (color scheme, fonts, logos) of their print collateral and online marketing. However, these same elements are often forgotten when it comes to PowerPoint slides. A presentation should reinforce your brand’s image – particularly when you’re pitching to prospects or existing customers. Slides should be as professional as any other component of a marketing campaign. Don’t overlook this opportunity to communicate your brand!
Give Your Audience a Break
According to a study from the University of Tennessee, the average adult attention span during a presentation is a mere 20 minutes. Therefore you should always try to keep your presentations concise. However complex topics often require more than 20 minutes to explain. If you will be presenting longer than this amount of time, it’s a smart idea to give your audience a few minutes to rest and regain focus. This can be achieved through simple steps like dividing your information into chapters, inserting summary slides throughout your deck, or periodically asking the audience for questions. You’ll be rewarded with greater impact and better results from your presentations.
Budget Lots of Time for Rehearsal and Refinement
A presentation is only as good as a speaker’s ability to grab and keep an audience’s attention. The best speakers do not look down at notes or read from PowerPoint slides. This requires practice – often lots of it. Budget ample time for rehearsal, and practice presenting key points and selling your idea until it flows naturally without reading from a script. However, don’t get hung up in memorizing minutia. Details can be shared in handouts after the presentation.
As well, you may sometimes find that certain slides feel awkward to present, or they might not seem to fit the key point you’re trying to convey. A rehearsal is often the best way to uncover places where slides need a little rework, and you want to ensure that you have time to make necessary tweaks. Don’t hesitate to have a few trusted colleagues watch you rehearse so that you can get feedback on your delivery and the clarity of your message.
Time spent with an audience represents a great opportunity, and is often the culmination of a significant investment of time and effort. Presenting may not be your strong suit, but your meetings can be much more successful with some planning and practice. Start with a great outline, build your PowerPoint slides with your audience in mind, and then rehearse your presentation until it flows with ease. When you have well-designed slides and can present them with confidence, you’ll have the best opportunity to communicate your message clearly and effectively – and get great results from your presentations.