1. Define your message
One of the most
common pitfalls of presentations is not having a simple, clear message.
It is natural to want to share everything you know about a project
or a subject with the audience, but too often such presentations
turn into lengthy, rambling lectures. Decide what is the most important
piece of information you would like everyone in the audience to
understand. Develop an outline based on that message: introduce
it, explain it, and conclude with it. Presentations can be factual
information, personal information, or a combination of both; it
all depends upon the purpose. The simpler the message, the more
likely people will remember it.
2. Get visual
are not required to be part of the message, but they can be a powerful
addition. If they will be used, they need to be relevant to the
message. They are strongest when they reveal something words cannot
yet directly correlate to what is being said.
If you are going
to use a slide projector, select only visually pleasing, in-focus
pictures. Do not include an image that is unclear; you do not want
to have to apologize for a bad slide.
and tables, remember that charts can be indecipherable from a distance
and should be broken into easily viewed and understood parts. Most
material that appears in a book must be reworked for a larger format
If you have
a computer and a projection unit, or the meeting facility does,
technology offers some exciting options for presentations. Using
presentation software still requires good design and production
decisions. For instance, resist the urge to have bullet points or
text on the screen and then proceed to read them verbatim. It is
boring and insulting to the audienceís intelligence. Most of all,
nothing is gained that cannot be done through a printed handout.
No matter what
format is used (slides, overhead projector, posters, or computer
generated), limit the graphic images to the ones that make the biggest
impact and pace how the images are changed to create an interesting
and memorable impression.
There is no
such thing as too much practice! Rehearsing can help alleviate nervousness;
it lets you know exactly how many minutes the presentation is; and
you can more clearly communicate a sense of conviction to which
audiences will respond. Whether speaking from a fully written script
or a bullet point outline, practice in front of a mirror, or better
yet, with a video camera. Use the graphic images to get comfortable
changing the images. Do it over, and over, and over. Practice makes
a critical difference to the strength of any presentation.
4. To hand
out or not to hand out
It can be very
helpful to have available supplemental materials like brochures
or newsletters, or even copies of the presentationís key points
and important charts or tables. Just be sure not to distribute handouts
until after the presentation. If information is given in the beginning,
people will read, not listen to the speaker. If information is passed
out during the presentation, there will be disruption of paper rustling
and people talking. If it is at the end, but before the speaker
concludes, any chance for a strong, stirring finish is lost as the
audience shifts its attention to the handouts. Many professional
conferences request copies of speeches for audience members ahead
of time. If the purpose is for attendees to write notes, prepare
an outline that highlights key points but does not steal the presentationís
thunder. However, if the remarks will be complied in a compendium,
then provide a full text.
5. Hit the
Once the message
is done, begin contacting groups and organizations to make a presentation
at one of their regularly scheduled meetings. Many groups are always
looking for guests to have on their agendas. Before going, be sure
to tailor the message and information to that group. Also look for
events, upcoming conferences, workshops and seminars where your
presentation could fit in.