How to Take Your Presentations to the Next Level

Speaker at Business Conference and Presentation.Whether you’re a student, a young professional, or a seasoned pro, knowing how to give a presentation is a must-have skill. Regardless of whether you’re working in business, nonprofits, government, or even education, presentations are commonly used to share knowledge and information intended to educate, inspire, and even entertain.

Unfortunately, how to give a presentation isn’t always a topic that comes up unless you’ve taken a class specifically designed to teach that topic. Too often, presentations are just a series of slides that people read from. Which makes them boring!

Delivering an effective presentation takes more than just throwing a few slides together. Sure, there are some technical things that you should know, such as how to incorporate video into a presentation, but a presentation that really wows audiences will keep them engaged in your topic.

Luckily, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure your next presentation really knocks their socks off. Here are a few tips to help you nail it.

1. Identify Major Goals of Your Presentation

The best presentations lead the audience to the presenter’s desired conclusion. To do that effectively, you need to decide what your goals of the presentation are. For example, you might be looking to entertain, or to sell a product or service, or simply to educate people on a particular topic.

Whatever the goals are, take a moment to write them down. As you’re creating and reviewing your presentation, refer back to your goals and ask yourself how each slide contributes to achieving them. If something doesn’t seem right or stands out, either remove it or reformulate it in a way that aligns with your goals.

2. Create an Outline

Before you start building your presentation, it’s a good idea to create an outline. This will give you an idea of what you want to say and the order you want to say it in. This will provide a structure for your presentation.

Don’t worry about all the little details at this point. Instead, focus on telling a story (see #8 below for more on this).

3. Keep It Simple

The human attention span has dramatically shrunk over the years, in large part due to increased speed of digital technology. While there are many factors that may contribute to audience members’ ability to focus on your presentation, the bottom line is that you need to be able to capture and hold their attention.

The best way to do that is to keep your presentation as simple as possible. That means not including any extraneous information that’s not directly pertinent to your topic. Don’t go off any tangents or unrelated anecdotes. As interesting as they may be, you’ll lose your audience if you stray too far from your point.

4. Don’t Over-Value Your Slide Deck

Google SlidesThanks to modern technology, presentations don’t have to be static. Presentations today are usually created in PowerPoint, Google Slides, or a similar software package, all of which offer a number of great features and animations. But why stop there?

Many people don’t realize this, but you can also embed videos directly into presentations to make them even more in-depth and engaging.

There are a number of situations where incorporating video can be advantageous. A sales pitch might include a brief explainer video. Or a training presentation might include a video product demonstration with detailed instructions on how to use a piece of software. Or a teacher might want to use short videos in their lessons.  The point is to keep your audience engaged throughout your whole presentation and videos help!

5. Only Use Your Slide Deck to Highlight Key Points

Along the lines with #3 above, it’s a good idea to use your slide deck to only highlight key points. No one wants to see a presenter simply reading their presentation. Why should audience members even come to a presentation if all the presenter does is read it to them?

Instead, you should use slides as a gateway to arrive at the points you want to convey, while maintaining a more conversational tone to drive home your argument.

6. Make Sure Your Audience Can See and Hear You

It’s important to remember that not everyone in your audience is going to be equally enabled. There might be some who can’t see or hear well, and you have to adjust your approach to accommodate them. If people can’t hear or see your presentation, you’ll likely have a hard time getting your point across.

That’s why we highly recommend Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule:

  • 10 slides
  • 20 minutes
  • 30 point font

In this easy format, you’re delivering information in concise, user-friendly way. If you’re recording your presentation, you may want to add captions to your video. This helps your audience access content in case they aren’t able to hear you.

Additionally, if you’re presenting in a large room, practice practice projecting your voice. After all, you never know when there will be a technical difficult and the microphone is not working! 

7. Remember that Less Is More with Data

Sure you’ve heard the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but in today’s data-driven world it’s a great idea to incorporate data into your presentation. Using data wisely can help you drive home your points while appealing to your audience’s rationale. Data might be represented by a few bullet points made big (see our note about font size), but charts and graphs often do an even better job of illustrating points.

Just make sure your charts and graphs are legible and easily understood. For example, a huge table with many small labels is likely going to be unreadable—and therefore ignored. Instead, it’d be better to use a more minimalistic approach, focusing on the key data points that support your statements. Not only will they drive your points home, but they’ll make your presentation more colorful and memorable.

Lastly, use data sparingly. You don’t want to spend half your time rattling off various statistics and rushing through graphs and charts. That’s a sure-fire way to lose attention. Instead, focus on the most important data points that support your argument or point of view and really make them stand out.

8. Build a Story

Storytelling is as old as humankind itself. It’s how we passed knowledge down for generations before the invention of writing. And for this reason, it’s still deeply engrained in how we learn.

Your presentation should also tell a story. To achieve this, there are a few common structures you might want to follow that create a narrative.

Here are three examples of structures you could follow. Keep in mind that these have been simplified for the purposes of this article, but they should give you an idea of how to structure your presentation.

Story TellingBuild a story
  • What happened first ->
  • What happened next ->
  • How did it end?
  • What lessons were learned?
Problem-Solution-Results
  • Problem Statement ->
  • Proposed Solution ->
  • Potential Results
Investor Pitch
  • Customer Challenge/Pain Point ->
  • Market Comparison ->
  • Proposed Solution ->
  • Team Members ->
  • What’s Needed to Achieve

Images and video also play a key role in storytelling.  If you’re turning your storytelling masterpiece into a video, make sure to edit in relevant and engaging information to your presentation. You can add in music and sound effects to keep the audience’s attention.

9. Highlight Relevance in Your Presentation

What’s worse than a presentation that’s boring? One that’s totally irrelevant to the audience! That is, it’s often not enough to present a set of facts or ideas in your presentation. You also have to explain why it matters to the audience. Why should they care?

One video that can help you get to the WHY of your presentation is Simon Sinek’s Start with Why speech. Briefly, starting with why is a simple and powerful technique to guide people to your point of view and gain their sympathy.

10. Consider Composition

When it comes presentations, our mantra is usually KISS. That’s not the iconic 70s rock band, but rather an acronym for Keep It Simple Stupid (see #3 above). This applies to both the content and the look and feel of your presentation.

In other words, don’t overcomplicate your message and don’t overcrowd your slides—with text, images, design features, etc. Presentations need to communicate quickly and effectively, and by keeping both your message and how it’s presented simple, your audience will be able to glean far more information.

Keep Your Audience Engaged After The Presentation

After all is said and done, you may want to think about recording your presentation.  You can then edit your video presentation for a more polished look.

This way your audience has something to review and rewatch when they are in the comfort of their own homes.  This is especially helpful for sales professionals.  They can send a recording of their presentation to a potential customer.  The customer has time to review and ask a few questions about the product or service. You can add helpful edits to your recorded presentation like overlays, background music, and more.

With a recorded video presentation, your audience stays involved in the topic and potential conversations in the future.

Want more ideas on how to make your presentations more interesting and engaging? Check out our blog for ideas for your next presentation.