Giving a Presentation? Consider These 10 Tips

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by Aaron J. Henninger

When deciding whether or not to hold an event-- be it a product reveal, press conference, keynote presentation-- it is critical to understand why you want to hold the event.

This sounds pretty basic, but you would be surprised how many organizations or more specifically leaders decide that they need to have an event, without regard to why or what the content will be. When pushed, many will say the reason why an event is needed is to boost morale, create energy, or to gain attention. To be clear, no event alone, devoid of compelling content, can do this. Rather, it could actually do the opposite-- lower morale, sap energy, cause people to tune out.  What is needed early on is to determine the content and the appropriate audience.

Varying types of content require special consideration with regards to event sizing and scope. For some launches, a small and intimate event would be more adventageous that a convention center hall filled with a mass of people. Moreover, some announcments will get lost in the sea of news created at industry events and conferences and may lend themselves to strategically timed, standalone announcements.

All of these considerations are linked to one of the most important and frequently overlooked considerations-- what is it that the audience needs to hear from you? Presentations should not be constructed as self congratulatory victory laps. What information or revelations can you provide an audience that they could not otherwise gain from a website or a video? By asking people to attend something in person, you are upping the stakes and expectations.

This is not a negative, in fact, it is a great opportunity. It does mean that you want to pay particular attention to the timing of the annoucnement, the relevance to the defined audience, and the manner in which you will reveal and explain the announcement.

Here are some key areas of consideration that should go into your pre-planning. While this is not an exhaustive checklist, it should help develop some momentum with regards to your planning

1. Make it visual. Are you using slides? Are they filled with words or with bold images? If it is filled with words, you may be at risk of using the presentation for your benefit as a speakers aid rather than for the benefit of your audience.

2. Make it memorable. Consider what you want people to walk away with. Not your strategic priorities or marketing slogans, rather the enduring values and aims of the organization.

3. Communicate in themes. Being memorable requires thinking in and reinforcing themes. For your audience to retain and appreciate the full thrust of your presentation, remove the barriers. Don't make your audience connect the dots, provide them with an overarching theme that you reinforce throughout.

4. Make it a story. Include people! Fight the temptation to focus on a product or service without mentioning the people behind it. Provide the background and the lead up to the the success story or announcement. People are drawn to the inspirational stories of others. It also helps make the event memorable.

5. Keep it short. A lot of speakers like to re-reinforce messages throughout a presentation, worried that their main points might not be written about or to make extra special effort to stress how important these bullets are to the presenter. This is a lazy approach. If you give attention to the preeceding points about making your presentation visual, memorable, theme-based, and a story with people at the center-- you should be able to drop the repetition.

6. Find a comfortable rhythmn. Comfortable for the audience and for you. Some speakers have great energy, which can lead to a quick delivery. While energy is wonderful, it is not when it is at the expense of allowing the audience time to digest the information they are receiving. Alternatively, some speakers are robotic in their delivery, reading words off of a teleprompter--or worse the screen. If you don't pay attention to the delivery, the value and benefits of steps 1 through 5 are wasted.

7. Consider the room layout. Will you walk? Are you perched behind a podium? How far are you from the first row of audience members? Are you front of the screen or is it to your side? Do you stay at a fixed microphone or are you wired to be able to move about?

8. Determine your lighting options. Harsh lights? Plan on turning the lights off for the overhead? Are their windows that provide competing natural lighting? Are you able to dim the lights? Does the lectern have a light for an printed out notes you may have?

9. Find the right temperature. Too hot? Too cold? What happens to the temperature when the room is filled to capacity?

10. Consider sound.  Have videos? There is nothing worse than taking the effort to provide a visual only to find out that the codecs are not updating on the computer and there is no sound. Are the speakers undersized for the scale of the room? Too much bass? What is your microphone volume level set at?

In the end, the power of a presentation is delighting your audience and demonstrating that you are in front of them with their interests in mind. While none of these points are revolutionary, considering all of these areas will greatly increase your chances of a successful presentation.

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Aaron HenningerComment