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10 Gimmicks to Start Your Presentation Strong

Your first few minutes onstage is an opportunity to capture your audience’s attention. If you want your listeners to be all ears when you start talking, prove from the outset that your presentation is worth their time. Your opening remarks will set the tone of your talk, so you should make them as gripping as possible.

Don’t waste your introduction on platitudes and pleasantries. There are better ways to form first impressions and establish a connection with the audience.

1. Kick off with a dramatic pause.

Silence makes people apprehensive. That’s why it’s a powerful tool to start a presentation. Before you deliver your speech, take a moment to pause and amble around the stage while keeping a confident stance. Even the audience members who are busy with their gadgets won’t be able to resist the dramatic pull of the moment you’ve created. A whole minute or two of silence will draw all eyes on you.

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2. Appeal to the audience’s imagination.

Take your audience to a different space and time. Introduce a “what if” scenario that they can delve into and explore. The power of imagination will reel them in and make them a willing audience to your presentation.

For better effects, use props and visual aids such as videos or an informational design Try a gimmick that has never been done before. Take one of Bill Gates’s TED Talks, for example. While introducing his talk about malaria, he released a scourge of mosquitoes from a jar. The mosquitoes were, of course, malaria-free, but Gates didn’t tell the audience that until after a minute or so.

Appeal to the Audience's Imagination

3. Drop a series of rhetorical questions.

If you want your audience to participate in your presentation, ask rhetorical questions that stimulate the mind. They may not engage with you physically, but they’ll be with you mentally, pondering over your questions and framing their own answers.

4. Relay your message through storytelling.

The human brain is hardwired to love stories. If you have an interesting narrative to tell, share it. You’ll establish a stronger connection with your audience if you do so. The vulnerability is a powerful tool if you use it to communicate a message.

5. Turn heads with a contrarian statement.

One of the easiest ways to grab an audience’s attention is by contradicting a universally accepted concept. Whether your listeners agree with you or not, they’ll be at the edge of their seats to hear what you have to say, no matter how unconventional it may be. Just make sure that the statement you make offends nobody.

Turn Heads With a Contrarian Statement

6. Underline a shared pain point.

If there’s a common problem you share with the audience, express it. You can win their sympathy and make yourself relatable by doing so. Your presentation will be more relevant if you can address something that the audience is concerned about.

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For example, everyone can relate to the frustration of creating website passwords. There seems to be no end to the list of requirements needed: the number of characters, the types of characters, the capitalization of letters, the inclusion of numbers, and so on. Discussing a topic like this captures your audience’s interest because you’re shedding light to a common issue they think is unique to them. You’re uniting the audience and bringing them to a common ground where your sentiments and theirs are one.

7. Promise something irresistible.

What do great presentations have in common? They all leave something for the audience. It doesn’t matter if it’s an idea, a tangible object, a lingering feeling, or a solution to a pressing issue. As long as it’s something that the audience finds useful, it can increase the value of your presentation.

8. Use multimedia to catch attention.

Words can make an impact, but videos and graphics often send a clearer message when used properly. If you’re unsure about how multimedia can complement your talk, use a multimedia presentation PowerPoint service that will do all the work for you. That way, your slides will not only look professional but also engaging.

Use Multimedia to Catch Attention9. Break the ice with a joke.

Popular opinion will claim that jokes are a good way to kickstart a presentation, but professional speakers should know better. Strictly speaking, it’s your sense of humor that elicits smiles and chuckles from the audience. It’s the humor, not the joke, that lightens up the atmosphere. So the more you can make the audience crack up and feel at ease without forcing a joke, the better.

10. Add a twist to an old saying.

Quotations are a common way to start a speech, but you can make yours stronger by tweaking it a bit. A cliché will sound fresher if you add your own take to it. For example, you can say, “To err is human, and to forgive is simply an acknowledgement of the error.”

Of course, this will only work in a casual and laid-back presentation. If you’re opting for a more serious delivery, you can use proverbs or references to historical events instead.

Coming up with an exciting presentation grabber is a task that takes time, effort, and talent. If you do it right, it pays off in the end.

Creating an Effective Financial Presentation

At some point in your career, you’ll have to give at least one complex and data-heavy presentation. It’s inevitable for entrepreneurs to venture into the financial side of business and deliver fiscal reports such as those involving business charts that reflect the company’s performance against goals and financial analyses.

But the thing is, financial data can be boring. They may appeal to analytical brains, but what about the rest? In order to hold your audience’s attention, you need to make your financial presentation interesting. Don’t just conduct a data dump. Explain where the figures come from and how they affect your audience. Provide examples as to how those numbers can be relevant in their lives.
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In other words, harness the power of financial storytelling. Present a narrative-driven angle that will give your presentation a new light. Show the numbers but let the story behind them shine through.

Mastering the Art of Financial Storytelling

Financial presentations don’t have to be dull. Here are some tips to successfully deliver an intellectually-stimulating yet engaging presentation.

1. Pattern your presentation after the GPS approach

Organize your facts and figures by planning your presentation. Create a structure so your message will be clear from start to finish. One method you can apply to achieve this is the GPS approach.

First of all, identify who your audience is. What’s the extent of their knowledge and the level of their expertise? Once you know this, you have the starting point. You can then proceed to identifying the goal of the presentation. What would you want the audience to think, feel, understand, or do when you step out of the limelight? What end point are you trying to achieve? This is the destination.

From there, it’s just a matter of choosing the best route. How do you go from Point A to Point B? Outline your main idea first, then follow it up with the supporting ideas. You can create a script to help you with internalizing the flow of the presentation.

Master the Art of Financial Storytelling: GPS

2. Establish credibility from the outset

Since you’ll be presenting critical figures, it’s important to appear trustworthy. Cultivating credibility and cementing a good reputation will make it more likely for your audience to believe in what you’ll say. If necessary, use supporting materials to validate your claims.

3. Outline your goals to build anticipation

If you inform your audience about the goals of your presentation, they’ll be more prepared to process any chunk of data you give them. It helps them to follow along since they already know what to expect and what material you’ll cover. It allows them to focus on the goal and take part in your presentation. 

4. Follow the three-part story structure

When communicating the story behind your data, it’s good to divide your narrative into three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the ending.

Start your presentation by describing things as they are. This is key to creating a bond with your audience. If you tell them something that they already know or can agree with, you ignite a small fire of recognition in them. Naturally, that will make them more interested in your talk.

After establishing the facts, you can show them how things could change. Establish a gap between what is and what could be. Make sure your claims hook and intrigue them enough.

Finally, when concluding your financial presentation, don’t forget to include a call to action. Introduce what presentation expert Nancy Duarte calls the “new bliss,” a state where your audience’s world can be a lot better if they adopt your ideas and follow your suggestions.

Follow the Three-Part Story Structure: Employ visuals instead of spreadsheets

5. Employ visuals instead of spreadsheets

Don’t limit yourself to Excel. Embrace the perks of technology so you can create a financial presentation that drives home with your audience. Present numbers, graphs, and tables using PowerPoint.

However, if you really want to take your presentation to the next level, you can ask a presentation design specialist to do the job for you. Let an expert turn your numeric data into graphics and visual images that are equally credible-looking and interesting. Your audience will be able to better make sense of your presentation this way.

6. Use simple and effective design elements

To make your slides more visually appealing without going over the top, use a sans serif font instead of a fancy one. Also, choose a template that isn’t too loud. Observe a good balance of colors to avoid design clutter. If you can, use a color contrast calculator to make sure that the colors in your presentation match. 

7. Reiterate your claims repeatedly

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, you need to be exposed to a piece of information three to five times for you to absorb it and act on it. Also, you need to hear it from different sources for your brain to validate the information. Repeat your message throughout the presentation, but say it in different ways.

Keep Calm and Speak Like a Pro

With the proper tools and the right techniques, you can be more confident in delivering a good financial presentation. All you need is some storytelling and a few basic design skills. If you prepare well, you can get your message across without losing your audience in the process.

 

Resources:

Duarte, Nancy. “Structure Your Presentation Like a Story.” Harvard Business Review. October 31, 2012. hbr.org/2012/10/structure-your-presentation-li

Jeavons, Sheri. “Financial Presentations That Won’t Put Your Audience to Sleep.” Sales Gravy. n.d. www.salesgravy.com/sales-articles/presentation-skills/financial-presentations-that-wont-put-your-audience-to-sleep.html

Mogilner, Geoffrey. “Perfecting the Art of Financial Storytelling.” Edelman. February 2, 2015. www.edelman.com/post/perfecting-art-financial-storytelling

Piontek, Katelyn. “7 Ways to Make a Financial Presentation Interesting.” Turbine HQ. September 9, 2014. turbinehq.com/2014/make-a-financial-presentation-interesting

Riggins, Nash. “15 Ways to Create Effective PowerPoint Presentations.” Small Business Trends. July 5, 2016. smallbiztrends.com/2016/07/effective-powerpoint-presentations.html

Sullivan, Sarah. “Financial Presentations That Really Stand Out.” Talisman. October 10, 2016. www.talismansolutions.co.uk/blog/stand-out-financial-presentations

Theriault, Michel. “9 Tips for More Powerful Business Presentations.” Forbes. November 4, 2013. www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2013/11/04/9-tips-for-more-powerful-business-presentations/#55621b7043a0

“Creating Effective Financial PowerPoint Presentations.” 24Point0. January 16, 2014. www.24point0.com/financial-statement-presentation

“Don’t Start by Copying Previous Slides.” Think Outside the Slide. June 24, 2014. www.thinkoutsidetheslide.com/issue-314-june-24-2014

“Edelman Trust Barometer.” Edelman. 2009. www.edelman.com/assets/uploads/2014/01/2009-Trust-Barometer-Executive-Summary.pdf

“Five Tips to Make PowerPoint Business Presentations More Effective.” Think Outside the Slide. n.d. www.thinkoutsidetheslide.com/five-tips-to-make-powerpoint-business-presentations-more-effective

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The Importance of Eye Contact During Presentations

When you look people in the eye, you establish rapport. You make an impact. You send a compelling message. A sustained and purposeful eye contact is crucial in public speaking because it gives you a chance to create a good impression. It can mean all the difference when you’re trying to get the audience on your side. 

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Why You Should Meet the Audience’s Gaze

The audience is an important element in public speaking. A presentation will lose its purpose if there are no spectators to validate it. This is why you need to make your speech worthy of your listeners’ time. You can do this by establishing a connection with them through eye contact.

When you meet your audience’s gaze, you’re essentially showing them interest and respect. You’re acknowledging their presence. You’re making yourself relatable and accessible to them. Eye contact can make you vulnerable—and that, in turn, can make you seem more human to those whom you’re trying to reach.

There are other reasons why eye contact is crucial. 

Meeting the Audience's Gaze

1. To establish connection

One sincere look in the eye and you can communicate to the audience just how much you care about their thoughts. A sustained eye contact is an invitation to turn your talk into a conversation. It creates a bond between speaker and listener—a connection that is reassuring to both parties.

2. To improve concentration

A large room full of people can ruin your concentration. By limiting your focus to just one person at a time, you can calm your nerves and clear your mind. Don’t let your eyes wander around the room lest your ideas get all muddled up. Keep your eye contact steady so you can concentrate on your message.

3. To project authority

Have you ever spoken with someone who averts his gaze every time he talks? It’s not surprising if that person gained little, if any, of your respect. No one can blame you if your thoughts stray while that person talks to the floor.

With eye contact comes authority. So if you can’t look people in the eye, you can’t expect them to believe your words or agree with your views. The eyes can communicate confidence and conviction—two things that you won’t be able to project unless you look people squarely in the face. 

4. To facilitate engagement

People will feel welcome to participate when they see you scanning the crowd. They’ll be at a liberty to nod, frown, smile, and raise their brows. If you look at them long enough to create a bond, you’ll find a spark of recognition in their eyes. In that precise moment, you can transform them from being passive receivers to active participants.

What You Can Learn from Professional Speakers

Presentation gurus should know what makes or breaks a presentation, and all of them agree that eye contact is a big determiner of a successful speech.

Learning from Professional Speakers

1. See your audience as individual listeners

Before you speak, take a moment to pause and scan the room for friendly faces. Connect with distinct listeners whom you feel are willing to engage with you. Forget yourself and focus on one audience member at a time. You’ll be more conversational and confident if you do so.

2. Involve everyone in the conversation

Don’t play favorites. Instead, connect with as many people as possible. If you’re dealing with a large crowd and it’s impractical to make eye contact with everyone, divide the audience into sections and just choose one member from each group to connect with. The people in his or her area will feel included even if you don’t look at them directly. Just remember to randomly shift your gaze from person to person. Don’t follow a pattern; otherwise, you’ll come off as unnatural and predictable.

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3. Sustain eye contact long enough to make a connection

 How long does it take to make a genuine eye connection? According to Toastmasters, a global organization dedicated to developing public speaking and leadership skills, it takes no more than five seconds to establish proper contact. Five seconds is usually the time it takes to finish a thought, so there’s minimal risk of losing your focus if you follow this tip. Also, five seconds of sustained eye contact can slow down your speaking rate.

4. Avert your eyes when a person grows uncomfortable

Not everyone appreciates being looked at directly in the eye. While it’s true that eye contact is a universal communication signal, there are certain exceptions that you should consider. Some cultures and norms find eye contact offensive under certain circumstances.

For instance, in Middle Eastern cultures, it’s considered inappropriate for people of the opposite sex to look each other in the eye, as that can denote a romantic interest between them. In Asian cultures, however, eye contact is seen more as a sign of disrespect, especially when the contact is made by a subordinate to his or her superior. This is because most Asian countries are largely authoritarian. For African and Latin American cultures, eye contact is interpreted as a sign of aggression and confrontation, since these societies uphold a strong hierarchy.

Julia Minson’s words are fitting for this situation. She reminds speakers “to keep in mind that trying to maintain eye contact may backfire if you’re trying to convince someone who has a different set of beliefs than you.” Minson is an assistant professor at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Final Advice: Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re not used to it, making eye contact can be challenging. You’ll feel exposed and vulnerable while staring into someone’s eyes. But nothing can be fixed with constant practice and application. Try to look people in the eye every time you communicate, and sooner or later, you’ll get accustomed to the peculiar sense of connection that comes with it.

6 Things to Watch Out for During Presentation Q&As

“By doubting we are led to question, by questioning we arrive at the truth,” said Peter Abelard. The French philosopher and theologian certainly knew what he was talking about.

At the end of any presentation comes the ever-present Q&A session. It’s never not present. You don’t just present and walk away. There will always be members of the audience who will ask for clarifications and/or just want to understand more.

And it’s your job to answer them. You’re already there onstage, presumably with a great visual aid you or an awesome PowerPoint design agency created, and you’re the one they’re addressing their questions to. Not to mention that your presentation made them think of these queries. If you don’t respond, apart from not getting the answers the audience wanted, it also makes you look unprofessional. Let’s set the difference though: purposefully not answering is not the same as not knowing the answer.

So what mistakes should you avoid during Q&As? Or at least keep in check? Here are some of them:

Presentation Matters: Question and answer

Silence

This can come from both sides: presenter and audience. It’s either they have no or no more questions or the presenter takes a long time to answer. Either way, silence can make the whole mood awkward.

If you’re having a mental block after the question is given, take a moment and pause. If you still don’t have an answer after a few seconds, you can always say, “Excuse me, but let me gather my thoughts for a few more seconds.” This honest move shows that you took the time to really think about your answer—which, in all fairness, you really did.

Tone of Voice

Be conscious of how you talk—not just how you pronounce your words but also how you say, in general, your speech. It’s not just about your intonation or where you place stresses and pauses (you know, for dramatic effect). It’s also how you make your message heard and felt.

The same goes for answering questions. If you come off too strong, the gesture may be seen as defensive; come off too weak and risk being thought of as a weak answerer. A friendly tone is the best tone to use and is also the most welcoming.

Presentation Matters: Long Answer

Long Answers

When faced with a long question, it doesn’t mean you need to respond with an answer of the same length; besides, long questions don’t warrant that. Instead, give your answer as straight and concise as you can.

You risk losing the attention of your audience the more you dwell on an answer—worse, you may even repeat points over and over again, putting into question your expertise on the subject. You’ve already got limited time as it is.

Fillers

Speaking of diminishing subject-matter expertise, “Um,” “Well,” “You know,” and “Uh” will not help establish that. Repeating these filler words over and over will only serve to annoy your audience and damage your credibility, not to mention that they will also eat time.

Granted, no one can speak fluently without practice, especially with impromptu answers, but the best you could do is lessen these fillers. It’s always a good idea to take a pause and gather your thoughts, then speak.

Presentation Matters: Composure

Composure

Keeping your cool is already a given, especially if you’re onstage. If you’re thrown off by awkward questions, dissenting opinions, or even hecklers, that’s going to reflect on your general demeanor. Don’t let these situations—and many more—faze you.

Keep calm, and stay polite throughout the entire session. Once you lose your composure and try to pick a fight with a member of your audience, especially with hecklers, your night will just be ruined… and that’s the best you end up with. Don’t bring more harm to your credibility.

Arguments

Closely linked to the last point, arguments, especially heated ones, will only end up wasting everybody’s time. It will also show that you’re defensive, combative, and hostile, three things (among others) you don’t want your audience thinking of you.

Instead, lead questions to the right track. If someone offers an opposing opinion, acknowledge the difference (because there’s really not much you can do after), and, if possible, offer a middle ground. Or just end with the acknowledgment and move on to the next question.

It’s not easy having a question and answer portion to end your presentation. Being a moderator comes with its own duties, responsibilities, and rules completely different from being a speaker. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll be acing both in no time.

Of course, preparation is a must. You’ve already prepared for the presentation; what’s stopping you from doing the same for the Q&A? You’re already the subject-matter expert, so it makes sense that you’re the one they’ll be asking questions from. Allay their fears and satisfy their curiosity. Answer them in the best way possible: your own.

 

Resources:

Decker, Ben. “Avoid These Don’ts During Presentation Q&A Sessions.” PresentationXpert. n.d. www.presentationxpert.com/avoid-these-donts-during-qa-sessions

Greene, Charles III. “Presentation Skills: 5 Tips to Improve Your Q&A.” CharlesGreene.com. August 27, 2012. www.charlesgreene.com/2012/08/5-tips-to-improve-your-qa-sessions

Holtzclaw, Eric. “9 Tips for Handling a Q&A Session.” Inc. February 5, 2013. www.inc.com/eric-v-holtzclaw/9-tips-for-handling-a-qa-session.html

Posey, Cheryl. “The Importance of Using the Correct Tone of Voice.” SpeakingYouBestOnline.com. April 18, 2012. www.speakingyourbestonline.com/blog/the-importance-of-using-the-correct-tone-of-voice

Watts, Rich. “The Complete Guide to Handling Q&A Sessions.” LinkedIn Pulse. June 13, 2014. www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140613151624-131038283-the-complete-guide-to-handling-q-a-sessions

Windingland, Diane. “13 Tips for Handling a Question and Answer Session.” VirtualSpeechCoach.com. May 2, 2012. www.virtualspeechcoach.com/2012/05/02/12-tips-for-handling-a-question-and-answer-session

“Top Tips on Handling a Question and Answer Session.” University of Bedfordshire. December 2009. www.beds.ac.uk/knowledgehub/events/toptips/questionandanswer

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6 Presentation Techniques You Can Learn from 13-Year-Old Carter Cohen

Who said presentations are only for grown-ups? Kids can do them too, and they can do them just as well.

Meet thirteen-year-old Carter Cohen, a boy from Coronado, California, who convinced his parents to let him buy a hedgehog by preparing a slide presentation. Complete with the details about his dream pet’s name, home, and medical expenses, Carter’s presentation is something that even professionals and businessmen can learn from. Here are six takeaways from Carter’s simple presentation called, “Everything About Hedgehogs.”

1. Use a minimalistic design that sends a clear message

If your presentation purely consists of text, don’t attempt to dress it up with a myriad of colors. Unnecessary design elements are just that—unnecessary. Two font colors should suffice to make your slides more visually interesting.

Just look at how Carter employed the power of simple design on his Google Slide show. He used a striking orange for the headings and a subtle gray for the body of each slide. The result was a neat and comprehensible presentation.

2. Present the cons alongside the pros of your pitch

Your audience will naturally expect to hear good words from your pitch. The pros are, after all, the point of the presentation.

Still, you should state the cons to gain your audience’s trust. It doesn’t matter what angle you’re coming from. If you really want to hit a home run with the audience, don’t hide any vital information from them. If they need to know it, let them hear it.

Carter did the same on his presentation. He let his parents know exactly what they’d be getting themselves into once they agree to allow him to buy his own hedgehog. He gave an estimation of expenses to prepare his parents for the possible hassle that getting a pet may bring.

3. Lead your audience carefully to your point

Wise presenters don’t assume that their audience understand them from the get-go. If you want to get your message across, guide your audience throughout the presentation.

When giving away something that’s not common knowledge, make sure to couple it with explanations—but do so without sounding condescending. Be the right kind of informative and courteous—the same way Carter was. Carter explained everything that might concern his parents, and he did it with the natural grace of a child.

4. Use interesting titles and headings as kickstarters

There are a few easy ways to write compelling titles and headings for presentations. Carter used interrogative headings in some slides before proceeding to his rationales.

For most, starting with intriguing questions is the way to go when opening discussions.

Interrogative titles or headings stimulate the audience to answer the question. It encourages them to dig deeper into the content and read them in a linear manner.

Candid headings like “What is Fleece” and “Why I Can’t Wait” make you think of two things. First, Carter’s innocence and wit is adorable and second, that interrogative headings are simple yet thought-provoking.

If you’re having trouble typing in your thoughts, start a slide with any of the five W’s, then write your points constructively. Lastly, ask yourself, “Did I answer my question?” This strategy will ease your customers from strenuous thought-processing.

Carter Cohen and his hedgehog

5. Emphasize value over cost

Carter wanted to convince his parents to allow him to purchase a $350 pet. And indeed, there are no better ways to say the words than to write “Why I Want My Ollie” and “Why I Can’t Wait” as headings.

He had a ready answer to his own questions when he tried to persuade his parents to allow him to invest his own money into a new pet.

Carter had three reasons for getting a hedgehog: 1) it provides a sense of companionship, 2) it will make him more responsible, and 3) it meets his requirements.

Additionally, he informed his parents that having a hedgehog will make him a responsible pet owner since it will obligate him to provide his pet with clean shelter, food and company.

When convincing people, it’s always important to know the value of their efforts and the resources they will invest.

Just like Carter, show what else your audience can get besides owning what they expended on.

6. Express urgency if needed

One principle to follow when effectively influencing and persuading is using scarcity as an edge.

Under the subheading “Why I Can’t Wait,” Carter explained that he needed a hedgehog soon, even though his parents asked him to wait until November 5, which was 30 days after his birthday.

Scarcity, which is sixth in Dr. Robert Cialdini’s list of principles of persuasion, suggests that the lesser there is of something, the more people will want it.

The day Carter wanted to take home his “Ollie” was the time the hedgehogs wouldn’t sell out yet and would receive treatments for mites.

Always indicate if there’s a demand for your products. This will be your gauge when convincing an audience to act sooner.

Without a doubt, Carter’s parents were impressed by their son’s creative act. How could they say no to a presentation that ends with a “thank you” and an “I love you”? After all, those two statements are among the most powerful in the English language.

Did you find the aforementioned lessons helpful, too? Did Carter’s techniques convince you that kids can make compelling presentations just as well as adults? If there’s anything you can learn from this post, it should be this: Never underestimate the power of kids.

Carter Cohen, a boy from Coronado, California, who convinced his parents to let him buy a hedgehog by preparing a slide presentation

 

Resources:

Porter, Jeremy. “Five Ws and One H: The Secret to Complete News Stories.” Journalistics. August 5, 2010. www.blog.journalistics.com/2010/five-ws-one-h

Polanski, Tom. “Dr. Robert Cialdini and 6 Principles of Persuasion.” EBiZine. www.influenceatwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/E_Brand_principles.pdf

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Black Cats of PowerPoint Presentations

Sometimes, in the middle of reviewing a PowerPoint presentation, there comes the anxiety wherein people ask themselves if the slides are enough or overdone. Some even come to a point where they struggle critiquing their work because they spent too much time on it. After so much time and effort, you may wonder if you’ve been efficient or just wasteful.

If, at the end of the day, despite all efforts to make a great presentation, it still doesn’t feel right to say it’s a job well done, here are some signs to help you make that call.

Black Cats of PowerPoint Presentations: clown juggling

Unlucky 7

In rare cases, presentation taboos may be excused when necessary but international speaker and presentation skills expert, John Zimmer, says having too many bullets and texts make no sense when crafting a pitch.

According to him, PowerPoint presentations that follow the 1-7-7 rule, or slides that consist one heading, seven bullets, and seven words, promise boredom and apathy on the part of the audience. Same point goes for the 1-6-6 rule.

Avoid this by using fewer bullet points. When used sparingly, bullets can be effective to communicate ideas and points because they offer convenience to the audience. Bullets help save more time and space to allocate new information. Too many of them, however, does the opposite of that value.

Minimize your use of words. Use communicative graphics and pictures that can replace texts. It’s best to do this in slides that contain messages that you would like your audience to remember.

In this case, the 4-by-5 rule might just be right for your presentation. Unless you’re enumerating from a list, then four bullets and five words are ideal to keep your presentation informative and snappy.

Black Cats of PowerPoint Presentations: reaper

The Scripture

One way to know if something isn’t easy to understand is when you read it repeatedly. There are several reasons why this happens. Usually, it means you’re having an idle moment or your phrases or sentences need to be simplified.

When reading, experts say an average person renders 50 – 300 WPM (words per minute). However, when reading technical content, the statistics go down to 50 – 75 WPM.

Sometimes, slides look like pages of ancient text, which contain too much information and take more time to read compared to the normal ones. When comprehending a script, use simpler but appropriate words and sentences to lessen the reader’s strain and lag. If you can’t process your messages easily, then how can you expect your readers to do so? Only use words with deeper meaning when necessary.

Pause after a certain amount of words to give time for them to absorb everything.

Also, speaking from an active voice welcomes a continuous reading process. Use present or passive tenses instead of progressive tenses. They’re easier to read and make ideas seem more simple.

Lastly, though it’s advised to keep one thought in one slide, you can opt to break your sentences in the middle and proceed to the next. Maintain the dominance of the white background. It also pays to maintain a breathing room for your eyes.

Black Cats of PowerPoint Presentations: fortune teller

Magic Decks

When you present a deck with numerous slides in a considerably long time, do you wonder if your audience recall everything?

A research conducted in 2012 by cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Carmen Simon, examined how many slides people can remember from a text-only, standalone PowerPoint presentation. After 48 hours, results showed that 1,500 participants remembered an average of four slides out of the presented 20.

The study revealed that visuals played a significant role in keeping the slides memorable. It was also found that similar-looking slides are easier to remember. The distinctiveness of every other fifth slide in Simon’s presentation were significant help as well.

Marks help remember. Use pictures or designs not only to illustrate, but also to keep slides more interesting and easier to recall. It’s best to use them strategically. Use markings on slides that need more emphasis.

Conclusion

Your deck doesn’t have to be all-telling. You can just make books if that’s the case. A good deck must contain all significant points and ideas for the presenter to collaboratively explain with. In a PowerPoint presentation full of information, points become harder to highlight. Use words sparingly so that your audience would actually pay attention to your content.

Be strategic when creating your slides to make them more engaging. When making presentations, discover ways to be more conscious on your creative and communicative processes. It pays to understand your audience’s interests with regards to these aspects.

Lastly, know that sometimes, complex solutions only solve basic problems. Before you start with another PowerPoint presentation, invest your time in getting to know more about creating effective presentations. This way, you end up creating your presentation in a lesser hassle pace and with more peace of mind.

Resources:

Zimmer, John. “PowerPoint Math: The 1-6-6 Rule. Manner of Speaking.” Manner of Speaking. www.mannerofspeaking.org/2010/03/04/powerpoint-math-the-1-6-6-rule

Simon, Carmen. “The Results Are In: How Much Do People Really Remember from PowerPoint Presentations?” Brainshark. February 12, 2013. www.brainshark.com/ideas-blog/2013/February/results-what-people-remember-powerpoint-presentations

Nelson, Brett. “Do You Read Fast Enough To Be Successful?” Forbes. June 4, 2012 www.forbes.com/sites/brettnelson/2012/06/04/do-you-read-fast-enough-to-be-successful/#5d9d3eca58f7

Thomas, Mark. “What Is the Average Reading Speed and the Best Rate of Reading?” Health Guidance. www.healthguidance.org/entry/13263/1/What-Is-the-Average-Reading-Speed-and-the-Best-Rate-of-Reading.html

How to Tell a Better Presentation Story

As we already know, stories make for powerful presentations. Great stories can capture the emotion and imagination of an audience. Instead of a straightforward report of the facts, stories allow audiences to connect with a message. Stories allow mundane and impersonal data seem more relatable. A presentation story creates a more personal and engaging audience experience.

Whether you’re in the boardroom or in a meeting with potential clients, here’s a list of what you’ll need to tell the best presentation story:

The heart of the story

In literature, stories are told to reveal broader themes. While you’re not expected to philosophize abstract themes in your presentation, the story you share should also have a purpose. At its core, it should be more than just a story. Your story should be driven by a rationale that is essential to your story. In other words, it should perfectly illustrate the core of your message.

To get there, consider asking  yourself these key questions:

  • What is the significance of this particular story?
  • What is the underlying principle behind your presentation?
  • What is the main point you’re trying to get across?

The more you understand the key takeaway, the better you can deliver your presentation story.

The main players

Stories can’t move forward without a central character. The character is responsible for setting the narrative into motion. It is also the character that determines what kind of story will unfold. Most importantly, it’s with the character that the audience connects with emotionally.

It may seem odd to name a protagonist for your presentation story, but even the most mundane stories have its main players. It could be your customer. It could be someone who perfectly represents the demographic you’re targeting. You could even be the character of your own presentation story, especially if you want to talk about an experience that’s central to your key takeaway.

The structure

Beginning, middle, end. Whether it’s an epic hero’s journey, or a murder mystery riddled with flashbacks, all stories are anchored by this basic structure. As such, the same should be true for your presentation story.

According to Fast.co‘s Aaron Ordendorff, the problem is that we often start our presentations at the very middle of the story. We don’t take the time to develop the narrative and provide proper context. At the same time, there is also very little discussion of the resolution and what should come next.

To structure your presentation story properly, start with the basics:

  • Beginning – While you’re not expected to give every detail of your presentation, you do need to provide the audience with sufficient context to understand your message. Begin your presentation story be introducing your character and the problem they’re facing.
  • Middle – Once you’ve provided enough background information, you can begin to detail the purpose of your presentation and how that relates to the conflict your character is facing.
  • End – After discussing the bulk of what makes your presentation, end the story by providing a resolution that reinforces your key message

Reference

Orendorff, Aaron. “Bring Your Presentations To Life With These 5 Storytelling Components.” Fast Company. September 15, 2014. Accessed October 14, 2014.

 

Featured Image: Death to the Stock Photo

Business Presentations: Give Your Audience a Memorable Experience

When you think of business presentations, the first images that come to mind are probably bleak. After all, you’ve had to sit through your fair share of monotonous meetings and discussions. You’ve had to squint your eyes in order to read the lengthy paragraphs projected on the screen. You’ve had to stop yourself from falling asleep in a darkened room. You’ve had to patiently wait for the speaker to get to the point.

Despite all these negative scenarios, there are still occasions when you were able to watch a memorable business presentation. The slides were concise and well-designed, the points quickly and clearly made. In particular, they all have a few characteristics in common.Take note of the following and apply them to your business presentations as well:

Authentic

Business presentations are often devoid of any emotion. Presenters believe that they need to focus on the hard facts. While data is important in building your credibility, your presentation will need a more “human” element in order to create a connection. This doesn’t mean that you have to move your colleagues to tears. One way to make your business presentations memorable is by creating a more authentic experience. Instead of drowning your audience in a sea of spreadsheets, try to focus on telling a story instead.

Meticulous

A lot of business presentations also suffer from information overload. Without a clear goal, presenters tend to detail too much of their content and end up sharing things that may be unnecessary or repetitive. They end up confusing their audience even more. To solve this dilemma, you will need to identify your main objective and meticulously curate your content. Make sure each slide and sentence contribute to driving home your main point. If you have data to present, include only the ones that are most important to your message. You should also prepare a loose script to keep your speech on the right track.

Visually Stimulating

More than having concise slides, business presentations also need to be visually stimulating. As we’ve mentioned in the earlier scenario, too often presenters commit PowerPoint mistakes that overshadow their core message. Aside from carefully picking and choosing which content to include, presenters all so need to make PowerPoint decks that speak to the visual senses of the audience. A striking color palette, plus the use of high-quality images can make a huge difference in your slide design.

Compelling

The impact of a business presentation also rests on the power of delivery. For people to listen, you will need to create an engaging and compelling atmosphere. When you face an audience, you must demand their attention through the way you speak and carry yourself. Speak clearly and loudly. Exuding confidence in your words is one of the key ways to build credibility. You should also be mindful of your body language. Avoid gestures that make you seem closed off or aloof.

 

Featured Image: Sebastiaan ter Burg via Flickr

How to Prepare for an Interview Presentation

First impressions are extremely important, especially in the world of business. Whether you’re a fresh graduate looking to score your first job, or an experienced employee looking to land your big break, interview presentations are among those crucial moments. Recruiters often request an interview presentation to test your ability to communicate in a clear and confident manner. In doing so, you’re expected to do more than just talk about your experience and qualifications. When you’re given an opportunity to present to potential employers, you’ll need to show the best version of yourself.

An interview presentation is a rare chance to showcase your personality, capability, and professionalism. In order to leave the best impression, you will have to bravely face your interviewers and knock them off their feet.To help in that task, here are some tips you can use to guide your interview presentation:

1.) Ask the right questions 

Before starting your preparations, gather crucial details asking the hiring manager some key questions. Find out as much as you can about the topic you will be presenting on, and determine the technical requirements of your presentation. Most importantly, you should also ask about the people expected to sit in your audience. The audience will be the most crucial part of your interview presentation. They will be the ones to determine whether or not you’re fit for the role you’re eyeing. If you can, try to find the answer to these questions:

  • What is their professional background?
  • What is their knowledge or level of expertise?
  • What roles do they play in the company?
  • What questions might they ask based on their expertise?

2.) Develop well-structured content

Once you’ve set a clear direction for your presentation, you can start building a strong foundation. Plan your presentation following a structure that connects your ideas in a logical and compelling manner. Research has proven that a specific, story-driven structure is effective in eliciting powerful emotional response. However, you can also go for a more traditional structure: a fascinating introduction, an engrossing in-depth discussion, ending with an insightful conclusion.

3.) Work on your visuals 

If the presentation calls for it, you should also spend time building an effective PowerPoint deck. Visuals have the power to make your arguments more memorable and compelling. Use your PowerPoint deck to highlight the main points in your speech. Emphasize the most important parts by using images and illustrations.

4.) Plan what you’re going to wear 

Another thing to keep in mind is the importance of appearance. Like it or not, first impressions are largely formed based on physical characteristics. In an interview presentation, there is absolutely no excuse for careless grooming. Take the time to plan your outfit accordingly. Again, it will help if you do some research to learn more about company culture. This will help you determine the dress code that’s appropriate for the occasion.

5.) Practice your presentation skills

Lastly, take the time to rehearse your entire presentation. As the old adage says, “practice makes perfect.” Try to practice in the same way that a concert pianist would. Focus on specific parts of your presentation. Practice how to deliver each passage and how you plan to move around the stage. Rehearse your presentation in clusters until you get everything right.

The stakes are high for an interview presentation, and it’s normal to feel nervous going into a room of potential employers. Think of it as an opportunity to flaunt your skills and show that you’re the perfect person for the job.

 

Featured Image: Alex France via Flickr

How to Prepare PowerPoint Presentations in Half the Time

We’re living in a fast-paced world where we constantly have to juggle several different things at a given time. This seems especially true in the world of business. During our working hours, we always have a long list of tasks to accomplish by the end of the day. Most of the time, those tasks include preparing PowerPoint presentations.

We all know how important it is to design engaging and effective PowerPoint decks. The problem is that we often don’t get enough time to do that. With a fast-approaching deadline, it’s hard to build slides that are sure to be memorable. Most of the time, we’d rather settle for easy solutions like PowerPoint templates. If you’re in a similar situation, here are some tips and tricks to create PowerPoint decks in half the time:

1. Have a battle plan

As history tells us, never go to battle without a full proof plan. In the same way, you will need to create a plan before starting work on your PowerPoint presentation. Consult your schedule and see how much time you have to prepare your presentation. Work on your free time and split your tasks accordingly. For example, if you have three days to finish a pitch deck, you can designate three hours each day to focus on your task.

2. Re-purpose the resources you have

Ask yourself if you really need to work from scratch. Most of the time, you probably have a few documents and some old presentations that cover the topic you need to present about. Be resourceful and use everything you have to make things easier for you. You can re-purpose slides you made in the past and use them as a template. Find something that you’ve had a lot more time to work on, then simply edit to match the topic you’re delivering.

3. Perfection is an aimless quest

Don’t pursue perfection until you’re done with the entire PowerPoint deck. When you have little time to accomplish a task, there’s not much room for ironing out details. It’s more important that you have a complete presentation to show, than a perfect but half-done slideshow.

4. Learn to prioritize

Accomplish your PowerPoint deck by tackling one task at a time. Prioritize your to-do list: start with creating the structure of your presentation, figuring out the content, until finally working on your design. Make sure you have a solid foundation before you build anything else.

5. Ask for feedback

You might be the presenter at the end of the day, but no project can be done alone. Mine your wealth of relevant connections, or the other departments and teams in your company for help and feedback on the deck you’re working on. Knowing what to improve on at once is a good way to cut back on the extra time.

It might be a stressful few days, but you can finish a PowerPoint  deck in half the time if you learn to prioritize and plan accordingly. Organize your workload and make sure you follow a specific process.

 

Featured Image: mao_lini via Flickr