With my new job, I have had many opportunities to learn useful and simple presentation tips. In the last 3 months, I attended two conferences and three Town Hall presentations led by senior leaders. Each one was memorable in its own way. In this article, I summarized four simple presentation tips I learned from watching how these leaders engaged my attention during their presentations.
Presentation Skills Tip #1: Create interactive participation
There is nothing more engaging to an audience than when you, as a presenter, ask the audience to participant in the presentation. This can be done by asking an easy question for the audience to volunteer to answer. This can also be done by asking a series of multi-choice questions, where each can be voted by the audience anonymously via text and the results shown real time during the presentation. This latter one is easily possible now with the latest technologies like Poll Everywhere. Studies show your audience will remember less than 30 percent of the sentences they hear during your presentation. But they will remember more than 85 percent of the questions you ask.
Presentation Skills Tip #2: Share less on paper
Too often, we attend company presentation and see slides full of words, charts, and figures. Do you remember any of it? I don’t. It’s just too overwhelming and frankly impossible to retain. What works better are slides that have less words and more punch. I have seen two extreme examples of this.
- One word transition slides: One of the senior leadership in our department presented her overview with these one word transition slides on Change, Trends, Future, and Gratitude. I may not have remembered everything she said, but she kept my attention because she simplified the frame of her presentation to these four words.
- One sentence slides: I has the fortune to listen to the late Steven Covey speak in San Francisco a few years back. Each of his slides had one sentence or phrase on it in big fonts. What he proceeded to do was tell a personal story that represented his key point on the slide. It was very engaging as we weren’t distracted by too many words and of course he is a powerful, captivating story teller.
Presentation Skills Tip #3: Provide interesting facts to support your point
One of the objectives of any presentation is to teach the audience something new or share a new perspective. This will leave the audience feeling smarter and they will also form a positive impression of the presenter. During one presentation, the CEO of our lead vendor shared some interesting facts to make his point.
- Less than 50% of the Fortune 500 companies in 1999 are still considered Fortune 500 companies today. Nokia for example was a $150B company in 2007 and is now only worth $7B.
- At one point, Blackberry owned 40% of the mobile market. Now they only own 3%.
What was his point? You can probably guess. The industry is constantly changing and evolving. Customers always demand more and better technology and service. If companies don’t evolve with the trends, even the biggest companies can become obsolete in less than 5-10 years. While many people may agree with these points anyways, sharing these facts added punch to his presentation and made it educational and memorable. What this means for you as a presenter is use external research to support your claims. You will come across both smart and interesting to your audience.
Presentation Tips #4: Be thankful
One of the most common elements I saw in these leadership presentations was the theme of gratitude. As a leader, it is not only our jobs to inspire performance and create vision, but also to be thankful of the efforts our teams made to achieve the results. At these town hall meetings hosted by senior leaders, every one of them ended their presentations with a message of thankfulness. It left me an impression of their humbleness as leaders. I also felt appreciated as an employee, energized to do more.
You don’t have to be a senior leader to incorporate this in your presentation. Part of thankfulness is about sharing the credit of your work and achievement. By adding thanks, you are showing appreciation for others who made a contribution to your work. At the same time, you are showing that you have leadership potential.
Develping your presentation skills is a journey. I am still learning after 15 years of doing it. I am always on the look out for new presentation tips to try. These four stuck in my mind in the last few months. I already incorporated these presentation tips in my own work with some success. You can do the same and see how they work for you.
I look forward to your comments and feedback.
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