Do you remember being in a presentation waiting for it to get done with? Unfortunately, most presentations end up exactly that way.
With slides filled with a pile of content and a presenter going through one slide after another, the audience ends up bored to death. When the presenter reaches the final slide and says thank you, everyone claps. Little did the presenter know that the audience clapped thinking, thank you for winding up.
The routine style of presentation worked long ago. The business world has come a long way since. Those were the days when accessing information was not easy. Today, anyone can gather facts online. With the internet filled with content, the attention span of humans has reduced as well.
Today, to land a killer presentation, you need to buck the trend and touch the human side of the audience. Making your presentations engaging will make you stand out. To learn how to give a presentation in office to maximum effect, you need to tweak your approach with minor changes.
Here are 15 tips to help you learn how to give a presentation in office that stands out.
The first section consists of tips for delivering the presentation. The second half consists of tips for preparing the presentation. Some of these tips are from the book 201 Presentation Skills by William Steele.
Delivering the presentation
1. Leave the first slide blank
Imagine a team ready for an important meeting. After everyone settles down, what does the presenter do first? He turns on the presentation and up comes the first slide as he begins talking.
As soon as the first slide displays on the screen, every participant looks at the screen as if Scarlett Johansson just showed up. The focus on the presenter is lost and no one is listening to what he has to say. To make this worse, the first slide usually contains the title, which people know already.
Leave the first slide blank and start talking. Yes, just blank. No title, no team name, no watermark, no colors. Plain freaking white. You now have the audience listening to you. After you make your initial message clear, you can go to an actual title or the intro slide.
One caveat here though is, people expect the title on the first slide and assume you faced a technical problem. In such cases, you can strike a lighter note saying, “I thought all of you should get the opportunity to look at me first instead of the slides.” Guage the audience and purpose to decide what kind of funny statement fits best.
2. Give a killer intro before your slides
Though people know the purpose of the meeting, not everyone is clear on what you are looking for from the presentation. You must clear the air first and a story does that effectively.
Start with a story that captures the attention of the audience. Everyone loves stories and you cannot go wrong with this. As a part of the story, convey your ask or message too.
Like a curious kid in bed waiting to hear what happens next in the story, your audience will look forward to what you have to say next.
You do not have to craft a story from history. You can present a business story.
For example, if you are presenting the increase in sales for the last few months asking for a budget to scale marketing, you can start with, “Jan 2019. That was the month when our sales had flatlined… ” Though not exactly a story, you are taking the audience on a journey.
Ideally, your story should not take more than 60-90 seconds. But, you can increase the duration based on the length of your presentation.
3. Start and end strong
How engaged the audience will be during the presentation is determined by how well you captivate their attention when you start. Therefore, make sure you spend enough time to come up with an engaging start. You only have one opportunity to make a first impression, so do it well.
As you reach the finish, emphasize your ask or message. If need be, reiterate it. Add a punchy final ending to a greater effect. For example, you can end with, “The stats are obvious that our sales are skyrocketing. The question is, can we handle the demand?”
4. Transition with questions or prior heads up
You would have seen presentations where a person speaks about a slide and then says, “next slide”. When a different person controls the slides, the presenter needs to tell him when to move to the next slide. Such a transition is jerky and breaks the flow.
Your transition from one slide to another should appear seamless. Moving to a next slide should happen as a part of your conversation without a pause.
For example, if your current slide is about the increase in sales, you can mention, “Are you wondering what caused such an increase in the last 6 months?” While you say this sentence, you move to the next slide making the transition as smooth as melted butter. The audience stays engaged with your words and slides.
5. Give numbers a real-life correlation
Numbers do not always deliver an impact even when massive. Saying something like “We sold over 2 million units this year” tells everyone that the sales were great. Your message may receive applause, but it does not wow the audience. This is because the human brain processes numbers very differently.
What you can say instead is “We sold over 2 million units this year. If we placed all the pens we sold this year one above the other, the structure would be taller than the height of Mt. Everest.”
Give a real-life picture to your stats and your audience will perceive it as an emotion instead of a mere number.
6. Ask who has the first question
In some presentations, questions are held on till the end. In such cases, instead of asking the usual “any questions?”, ask “Who has the first question?”
Putting your message as such a question makes your audience comfortable. It adds an element of friendliness to your tone. People who are unsure about asking a question to avoid sounding stupid might open up due to your approachable tone.
7. Do not compliment questions
Many presenters reply to a question saying, “That’s a great question.” In most cases, the presenter appreciates the question when it is thoughtful. In some cases, the presenter uses the time to prepare for an answer.
In any case, do not complement any questions. If you do, you make the people asking the other questions seem inferior. For example, when the QnA starts one member asks an amazing question which you compliment. Next comes along a normal question from another person and you answer the question without a compliment.
Though subtle, people subconsciously realize that this question was not so great. If you keep complimenting questions, people refrain from asking you questions because they assume their question may not be great.
8. Take control of the schedule and end on time
If a presentation allows questions at any point, you face a hard time controlling the schedule. One question might lead to another which turns into a session of brainstorming or debates. You stand there annoyed, stuck on slide 4 with 6 more to go. Your plan goes for a toss.
But only you can bring the presentation back under control. When you notice people deviating, interrupt them saying, “Let’s get back to where we stopped. We can continue this conversation after we get through the rest.”
Based on how many interruptions you had, you have to tweak the time you spend on various slides. You can brush through some of the less important slides to save time. Make sure you end on time irrespective of the circumstances. Nobody likes a presenter who says, “Can I have 5 more minutes?”.
Preparing the presentation
Here are the tips for the preparation of slides.
9. No no to paras and avoid bullet points too
You already know why using paras on your slides is a bad idea. But guess what? Bullet points are not a great alternative either. When you have a slide with 5 bullet points, people start reading the bullet points.
Think about it. What do you do after you read something – a book, an email or a text message? You proceed to think and process it. Therefore, even if you put bullet points instead of paragraphs, people will still read it. When they read it, their brains start processing the text. Whatever you speak, falls on deaf ears.
One way to avoid a lack of focus is to not display the bullet before you speak. You convey your message first and show one bullet at a time through the conversation. A second alternative that works better is to use the next tip.
10. Use visual elements
Instead of using bullets, use a pictorial object which conveys the message. You can use graphs, icons, arrows, real pictures or any other elements which help the audience relate to what you are speaking.
You are called a presenter and the audience must have the opportunity to listen to what you have to say. If the audience has to read what you have written on the slides, you can send an email instead. Use the objects and pictures in your slides to tell a story and make your point. Your message will be better digested and remembered.
11. Define a purpose
The tip seems simple but most people fail to do this. Though people know what the presentation is about, they do not frame a purpose for it. Some of the example purposes are:
- Making an ask for…
- Informing about a problem and encouraging people to find a solution
- Providing information
Construct your message based on your purpose.
12. Message first, slides next
The most common mistake people make is to decide the title of each slide first and fill the content after. Such an approach streamlines your thought and makes your presentation monotonous.
Besides that, when you decide the slides first, you realize midway that the flow seems awful. You then try rearranging the slides back and forth making it all the more difficult for you.
Instead, you must gather data and key points around your purpose first. Once you have broken ideas and information in place, decide what your slides will be and what order will they follow. Not only will your final presentation come out smoother, but you also will not run into slide order problems during preparation either.
13. Spend extra time on the start and the end
The start and the end of your presentation will make the most telling impact on your audience. Even if you have interesting facts midway, you may not impress the audience enough if you had a bad start and a poor ending.
Practice your start. If the presentation holds high stakes, consider practicing in front of the mirror. You do not have to memorize word by word, but try a few options to test which start sounds the best to you. When you try options, you will know yourself which one to pick.
14. Anticipate questions and answer them before they are asked
Ask yourself, what questions would you have if you were among the audience? When you view the presentation from the eyes of the audience, questions pop up in your mind. If any of those are important, answer those questions as a part of your presentation. You can add effect by saying something like “You must be thinking why is..<question you thought about>… Here is why.”
The more questions you anticipate and answer, the better prepared you seem.
15. Have a short version
If others are presenting before or after you, consider the possibility of running short of time. For example, if you are presenting to a venture capitalist, people line up before and after you for their turn. Some of these presentations can take additional time. Unfortunately for you, your turn might come a few minutes before lunch. You might be asked to cut short your presentation and proceed.
If you use your normal slides and rush through 10 slides in half the time, you sound like a nervous wreck on a high-speed car. Have an alternative version of the presentation which has fewer slides with the key points. As you go through fewer slides, your tone, pace and transition will seem a lot more natural.
The process of how to give a presentation in office seems challenging. But delivering a powerful presentation is not as difficult or intimidating as it seems. You will present much better if you decide to stop presenting as the others do.
Prepare for your presentation for the audience. Consider what they feel and how can you pass your message best to them. Do not think of the presentation from the angle of the slides first. Your slides must only be a tool to aid your message, not the essence of your presentation.
You are the presenter, so you must stand out, not the slides.
What I am not:
What I am:
Continuously improving self-learner
Productivity/Time Management Obsessed