For you more visual learners, please also see my slideshare on public speaking & presenting.
I speak a lot and am always surprised when I hear the presentation was of interest. I know I am not afraid of public speaking, and I know I am passionate about subjects other people are curious about too. However, I never for one minute assume my presentations will be ‘powerful’ – I always assume people are busy and have short attention spans due to current day-to-day culture. Therefore, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about how one gives a powerful presentation.
What is the definition of a ‘powerful presentation?’ In my eyes, it’s when a crowd gathers after the presentation to ask more questions. And you are invited to give the same speech elsewhere by someone in the audience or the sponsors of the event.
Most lecturers and “gurus” on the subject would be content to rattle off helpful directives on the topic, each one being a derivation of the same theme. “It is the synergy of 1) content, 2) design and 3) delivery that makes a presentation,” they would say. Yes, that’s helpful… but it’s vague and I feel does not answer the question in a way one can truly learn from.
There is no checklist for you to follow that would prepare you for every situation. What will work in some instances will not work in others. But to truly deliver a powerful presentation I know I need to understand the following:
- Design your presentation ‘tools’-i.e. PowerPoint or Keynote-well. There is no need to have dull slides.
- Preface well. Tell your audience what you hope they will get out of it right up front.
- Know your objectives. If you don’t understand what you’re talking about then it’s doubtful anyone else will.
- Be truthful. Grandiosity ends up being boring and not factual.
- Know your audience. What sorts of people will be attending the presentation? What are their learning styles and levels of understanding on the topic?
- Know how you’re planning on arriving from point A to point D to avoid waffling. Rehearsing helps a lot. Try it, and do this with people you respect and who are able to give you objective/constructive criticism. Time yourself and edit your slides to the desired time slot. This doesn’t mean you should become ‘staged’ in your presentation.
- Your content should be engaging and interesting, certainly, but it’s just as important that the steps you take in communicating your message be clear and unambiguous.
- Know your desired outcome. What do you wish to parlay? And what is the desired take-away? What do you want the attendees to learn? A successful presentation always leaves the audience wanting to know more.
- Know your fellow presenters. What are their areas of expertise, and in what ways could they bolster your argument?
- Anticipate the difficult questions. Make a list of the most difficult, controversial questions that could be asked of you. Make sure you can answer them clearly and effectively.
- Wear something you feel fabulous in. It helps. Trust me.
- Feel confident in being spontaneous.
- Don’t be pedantic. You have know idea how many people in your audience already know this subject and/or know it better than you. You are merely a good communicator of information.
- And don’t bang on too long. No-one is interested in dullards.
- And, have fun for goodness sake. Life is short. For all of us.
Engaging the audience, that intangible fourth step after “content, design, and delivery,” is a lot easier to do if you understand the above.
The readiness is all—well, at least all you have control over. The rest happens during the presentation itself and unfolds differently each time, depending on your personality, your confidence level, and your accessibility as a public speaker.
Enjoy and good luck.