Presentation technique is the art of building and executing a good presentation. Many speakers can give a proper presentation when the circumstances are right, but with a good technique you will be able to deliver a good presentation even when things go bad: when you forget what to say, when the projector stops working, when the audience stops listening.
Here I have collected three tips on how to prepare a good presentation. The tips are based on my own experience with public speaking about science and science communication, as well as the clients I have helped to become better at giving presentations in public and at work.
No. 1 – Know Your Message
This advice you will find in almost any guide to a good presentation technique. It sounds so basic, that many (maybe including yourself right now?) will skip the advice because of how obvious it is.
A message is what you want your audience to remember, when your talk is over. It is not your story or the structure of the talk. A good message will be clear and stand out enough for your audience to remember it when talk is over. Your audience will not remember every detail of your talk, but they should remember your message so choose it carefully.
Your message must be simple and easy to remember. It must be something you really want your audience to remember. It is a very common mistake to not have a clear and memorable message – often because the speaker is more focused on the topic itself and the (typically large amount of) information that should be conveyed.
A clear and meaningful message will also help you, if you go blank and forget what to say. If your message is something you are passionate about, you are more likely to get back on track and continue your talk.
Ask yourself: If my audience could remember just one thing from my talk, what should it be?
No. 2 – Get A Good Start
Regardless whether you are speaking to an audience of 5, 50 or 500 people, you most likely have some nerves. This is not necessarily a bad thing, because nerves help us to perform our best. Nerves tell us that something is at stake!
In far most cases nerves dissolve in the first few minutes of the talk. Be sure you have the first 4-5 sentences in place, so you can switch on the verbal auto-pilot and direct your attention towards staying calm and connecting with your audience.
A good introduction will trigger curiosity and interest among your audience. Be sure to include elements in your introduction that make your audience want to keep listening. If you tell the age of the building you sit in or the many different jobs you have had, you create no suspense and no reason for people to keep listening. Make the introduction exciting and learn it by heart.
When you get a good start, you are much more likely to succeed with a good presentation. Your audience will be with you from the beginning making it easier for you to deliver your message.
Ask yourself: Does this introduction make my audience want to keep listening for the rest of my talk?
No. 3 – Keep Your Slides Simple
Slides can be super helpful for you to deliver your message. The human brain processes images much faster than text, so slides can help you to form the same image among your audience as you have in your mind. Slides can also help you to keep a good structure throughout your talk, so you do not drift away from your core topic.
Your slides are your tool to connect you with your audience. It is not a manuscript and it is not a tool for you to use alone. If your slides are full of text, your audience will either a) read your slides and stop listening to what you say or b) listen to what you say and not read your slides. It is not possible to do both, so in the end everyone loses.
If your slides have a relevant photo and headline on it, it is much more likely that your audience will keep listening to you while building a proper image of your topic.
If you must include text, make sure it is in short bullet form and only show one bullet at a time. This way you minimize the risk of losing your audience to heavy reading during your presentation.
If you want to become a better speaker and learn more about presentation technique, contact me to hear how I can help you.