In order to give a successful presentation, many different aspects must be taken into account during preparation. What needs to be considered to really engage the audience? Sometimes even small improvements can make a big difference. We would like to show you a few small tips that will improve your presentation.
I was talking to a well-known entrepreneur a while back about his upcoming presentation. He was a bit under pressure to succeed and wanted some practical advice from me. In the short time available, I gave him some off-the-cuff pointers on what to look for. He eagerly took notes and thanked me. As luck would have it, his presentation was to take place on a date when I myself was at an event at the same venue a few hours earlier. My curiosity was such that I went to the entrepreneur’s event afterwards. To make a long story short: He made a good effort, but his presentation did not go smoothly. There were no gross blunders, rather small mistakes, but they increasingly ruined the mood. His nervousness was clearly visible to every spectator. The underhemer realized that he was about to “lose” his audience, but he didn’t know how to save the situation. The applause at the end of the presentation was very restrained, and the audience left the room briskly afterwards.
This presentation made me realize once again how important even small details can become for the overall result. Good presentations should have neither major nor minor weaknesses. I will therefore keep coming back to such important details. Today we start with the first important tips.
Tip 1: Become aware of the benefit your presentation has for the audience
No one watches a presentation just for fun. As a rule, viewers want to learn something; they want important information. What important information do you offer with your presentation? What benefits do you want to offer with it? Try to design your PowerPoint presentation so that the benefit is as high as possible for your audience. This seems trivial at first, but it is important. I have seen several presentations where I asked myself: yes, great slides, but what do I actually take away from the presentation? You can save yourself any effort if you don’t provide clear value to your audience.
Tip 2: Draw a red thread through your presentation
Become clear in advance what you are actually aiming for. Presentations should have similar structures to successful feature films and best-selling novels. There is a thread along which events and information run for the viewer until history reaches a comprehensible conclusion. You won’t like a crime novel where the crime is solved in the first few pages and the detective spends the next 300 pages pondering the closed case. A presentation is expected to have a logical, comprehensible structure. Everything has to make sense in the end. Don’t duplicate or triple important information. If you have presented an important aspect, do not come back to it five minutes later in another variation and three minutes later for the third time. Also, eliminate any irrelevant information from your presentation. They only distract from the essential info.
Tip 3: Practice your presentation before you perform in front of an audience
Practicing the slide presentation beforehand is not really fun. That’s why many speakers try to avoid something like this. That’s understandable, because it takes time. It’s also a weird feeling to pretend you’re talking in front of an audience even though you’re alone in the office. Asking friends or colleagues to act as a substitute audience is something many don’t dare do. Nevertheless, you should definitely practice your speech several times before an important event. You will become more confident, the process will become more routine, and you will recognize weak points.
TIP 4: Get a grip on your stage fright
Stage fright can be really awful. Symptoms range from mild nervousness to severe panic attacks, from mild concentration problems to total memory loss. On the one hand, stage fright is completely normal and not a disgrace, but on the other hand, it can completely ruin a presentation. But how do you deal with it properly? If it hits you really hard every time, consider consulting a mental coach or psychologist who can work with you professionally. For milder cases, there are a number of aids.
Here are a few examples:
Rehearse your presentation thoroughly beforehand until you know all the slides and your text inside and out. When you can give your presentation practically “in your sleep”, a tremendous sense of confidence comes over you. You then know that you can’t actually lose your thread. Small slip-ups don’t throw you off track. Even if technology goes on strike, you can still give your presentation from memory and perhaps with a flip chart.
Pay attention to your breathing.
When we are anxious, we begin to breathe more shallowly. In the quiet state, the breath is usually deep. By breathing in and out more deeply for a few minutes before your performance, you will become calmer and your pulse will slow down.
Find a person in the audience.
Standing in front of your audience and looking at critical or disgruntled faces will not necessarily boost your confidence. Unless you are speaking to a tiny audience of all people, you will almost always discover at least one person looking up at you with friendliness, curiosity, or interest. Keep seeking eye contact with this person and get confidence from the friendly aura. This sounds very unusual, but it really helps.
This is a recognized autosuggestion method that is easy to learn and often produces good results. There are courses offered in every city by doctors, health insurance companies, adult education centers or even online.
Tip 5: Start your presentation right.
There is no second chance for a first impression, they say. This is usually true. When you yourself are in the audience and a presentation begins, you decide relatively quickly what you think of the speaker. Does he seem authentic, likeable, competent, entertaining? Or does he seem nervous, stiff or unserious to you? If your impression is rather negative in the first few minutes, you may only listen with half an ear and not really believe the information. Here are a few tips to make sure that doesn’t happen to you:
Your audience will notice pretty quickly if you are being “fake” in your presentation. A rather serious, no-nonsense person should not frantically try to play the entertainer or jokester. Likewise, a more casual guy shouldn’t try to portray the highly serious scientist. If you don’t happen to have good acting talents, your audience will realize that you’re just playing a role that doesn’t suit you.
Tell your audience what to expect.
Of course, your audience has noticed what topic you are about to speak on. But if you give a brief outline of what you’re going to talk about in the next few minutes, the audience will get a better understanding of your presentation and can be excited to see how you fill the announced topics with content.
Ensure undivided attention right away
When do you listen more closely during a presentation? Probably, if you expect to gain an important insight. Therefore, tell your audience right at the beginning what benefit they will get from your presentation. Make the audience curious. You can also make a provocative thesis at the very beginning and promise that you will provide the evidence during the course of your presentation. The important thing is that you put the audience in a there-am-I-now-but-excited expectation. Then there’s a good chance they’ll listen.
Tip 6: Build a connection with your viewers
I see time and again that speakers stand on a stage and pretend that the audience is not there at all. You could also give the presentation on another continent and broadcast it to the auditorium via a monitor. Of course, that doesn’t spark anything. In a successful presentation, the audience expects a personal address. Here are a few examples:
Speak the language of the audience.
Build examples into your presentation that come from your audience’s experience. For example, when speaking to salespeople, use their linguistic jargon and world of experience whenever possible.
Ask your audience questions appropriate to the presentation such as, “Who among you has experienced something like this?” or if your topic is perhaps rail transportation, “Who among you can tell me how fast an ICE train goes?” This allows you to interact with your audience and engage them.
Respond to questions.
Very confident speakers respond immediately to hand signals and answer questions as they arise. However, this hinders your own dramaturgy, and you should have a lot of experience to properly integrate the questions into the ongoing presentation. Usually, at the end of the presentation, you offer to answer questions from the audience.
In any case, make sure that you get off to a smooth start with your presentation, otherwise you will lose your audience and it will be very difficult to win them back as your presentation progresses.
TIP 6: Use your voice correctly for your presentation
Going over your presentation in your mind is not enough preparation. Be sure to practice your presentation out loud. Test your voice. Do you speak loudly, clearly and distinctly? Even if you have access to a microphone during the presentation, you should practice your pronunciation. A speaker who rattles off his presentation, who mumbles or whispers, spoils the whole talk. Practice the correct intonation. You may want to raise your voice a bit if you want to emphasize something particularly important. Think about how using your voice can help you get your message across. You can also watch some top speakers on Youtube for this. Here you can learn a lot.
Tip 7: Pay attention to your body language when presenting
Speakers who stand transfixed behind a lectern and comment motionlessly on their slides are no longer in keeping with the times. The speaker should already bring full effort to the presentation. This doesn’t mean you should leap across the stage like a dervish, but it does mean that you support and reinforce the spoken word with your body language whenever possible. Gestures and facial expressions are important for conveying information forcefully and convincingly. I experience it again and again that speakers do not know what to do with their hands, for example. In any case, they do not belong in the pockets of pants and should not hang limply. Psychologists have found that hand movements below the belt tend to be perceived negatively by viewers. From the waistline to chest, hand movements support a neutral statement. Above the chest level is the zone of positive gestures. The entire body should radiate a positive energy. Again, I can only advise to take a closer look at some pros on Youtube. I can recommend the channel “Greator”.
Here you will find many videos that will inspire you. https://www.youtube.com/c/Greator_Gedankentanken
Tip 8: Work with rhetoric and storytelling in your presentation
Let’s assume that your PowerPoint slides are really excellent. And let’s further assume that you have successfully worked on your pronunciation and body language. You are well prepared for your appearance. But what if, despite having their attention, your audience doesn’t store the most important information from your presentation in their long-term memory? The audience takes away a thoroughly positive impression of you and your presentation, but of all things, they don’t remember the most important core messages. That would be extremely annoying, but something like that can happen. If you are unlucky, your main messages may get lost in the crowd of other interesting information. You should prevent this. Therefore, it is important to anchor your most important information especially well during your presentation. There are several methods available for this purpose. I would like to introduce you to two particularly effective techniques:
- Use repetition when presenting. The more often we hear or see a piece of information, the more likely we are to remember its content. If you want your important messages to be absorbed by as many viewers as possible, you should repeat them several times during the presentation. You may be able to point out in the introduction that you are about to prove that (here follows the message) is of enormous importance. If your presentation has several main topics, before moving on to the next topic, you could give a short summary that reiterates the messages mentioned so far. At the end of the presentation is another important opportunity to summarize again the main points. You can also emphasize the importance of a piece of information by saying, for example, “pay attention, what I am about to say is particularly important”, or “I will repeat it again…”.
- Use the technique of storytelling in your presentation. Our brain is structured in such a way that we are particularly good at remembering information that is packaged in an entertaining story. What interesting story could you tell? Maybe the story is about you, how you dealt with a problem, how you had to cope with failures until you found an ingenious solution that you present to your audience today. You may also prefer to tell someone else’s story. You are describing a person who has a major problem that is causing him tremendous difficulty. They explain how he ultimately coped with the problem and how well his life looks today. Whether it’s supplements, real estate, or fitness exercises that improve your life is secondary. No matter what story you tell, use the plot to place your messages within it. This way, your audience will be able to retain the information much better. Take a look at Youtube, for example, at Alexander Christiani’s videos on the subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Whe3djcMVZQ. You will find many more examples of this.
Tip 9: Use professional support for your presentation
If you really care that your company presentation, for example, is absolutely convincing and has the desired effect on your audience, then you should sign up for presentation training with a reputable presentation agency. When you fine-tune your presentation with experienced experts, you’re guaranteed to be amazed by the quick and lasting improvements.
Tip 10: Summarize the most important points again at the end of your presentation
I’ve already pointed out that repetition is significant to help your audience internalize the important messages. The end of your presentation provides an ideal opportunity to briefly summarize the most valuable information again. They thus offer once again, so to speak, the quintessence of the entire lecture. This gives viewers the opportunity to save the top information for themselves. It is on the one hand an additional service for the audience and on the other hand your last opportunity to convey important information.
Tip 11: Give your audience a specific call to action
Usually we want to achieve something with our presentation. Ideally, the audience should think or behave differently about certain issues after the presentation. In a company presentation, for example, the potential customer should be convinced of an offer and then conclude a purchase contract. When you give a presentation on oral hygiene, you want the audience to take better care of their teeth afterwards. Of course, you can just assume that the audience will know exactly what to do after your presentation. However, it is better if you issue a specific call to action. This is also called Call-To-Action. If you want your audience to buy the mouthwash whose effects you just spent 15 minutes explaining, say it too: “Act now before it’s too late,” or for potential collaborations, “Work with us on this fantastic project.”
Tip 12: Prepare carefully for questions
Be prepared for potential questions. What additional things might your audience want to know from you? What provocative questions might be asked? What issues might your topic have raised in newspapers or other presentations? Is there another perspective on your issue that could come up? It is tragic when a speaker is completely thrown off track by a question from the audience after a good presentation. Under certain circumstances, all the work was then in vain. Some speakers basically do not allow questions. But that doesn’t come across as particularly confident. It would be better if you carefully prepare for a Q&A session. There are professionals who allow interstitial questions throughout the presentation. I advise you not to answer questions until after you have finished your presentation. For example, if you see handouts, you can say, “Please remember your question, we will have plenty of time to discuss all questions at the end of the presentation.” Do not be provoked by possible critical questions. Always remain objective and calm, even if it should be difficult. This way you will be perceived as a real expert by your audience.
Tip 13: Offer a professional handout
At the end of your presentation, you can distribute a handout that summarizes the key points of your presentation. Often these handouts contain the most important slides from the PowerPoint presentation. Often the main information is summarized again. They may also contain important additions that would otherwise have gone beyond the scope of the presentation. Never distribute the handout before the presentation. Otherwise, there is a risk that your audience will flip through the documents and stop listening to you properly. You can distribute the handout to interested participants of the event directly after your presentation. Some viewers would rather have such information electronically. Therefore, also offer to email the handout to prospects when they leave a business card. The handout is a great way to keep your audience engaged with your information even after your presentation is over.
The last impression remains, they say. Therefore, you should try to use the last few minutes of your presentation to once again professionally point out your key messages.