An effective presentation has a clear and definite message. Whether you’re aiming to inform, pitch, or promote, the message should ring true in both your design and content. More than that, it should also be emphasized through great presentation delivery.
In delivering your pitch, the main goal is to communicate your key message in the best possible way. Length doesn’t always mean quality. In fact, compact content—that is, a short but informative delivery—is more likely to stick to the audience than a rambling speech.
Because our minds are attuned to process information in bits and not in chunks, clarity usually comes from being brief and straight to the point. Review your presentation notes and omit things that are clouding your message. And then work on cutting out the following things from your presentation delivery:
1. Long-winded introductions
Here’s a familiar scenario: “Hi everyone! It’s John Doe from the Marketing team. Thanks for sharing your time with me. I promise it will only take 30 minutes. I’m here to give you a brief report about Project A. It’s something that we’ve worked hard on, and we’re all excited to share this with you. So I’ll give you a quick overview and outline our progress and if we still have time left, you can ask me questions or give your feedback. There’s a bit of information to cover, but I tried to condense it as much as possible into a few slides. Oh, and if you want a copy of the slides, just approach me after the presentation and I’ll email it to you. So anyway, to start it off…”
Never start with an introduction that is so long and inconsequential. You’re sure to lose your audience’s interest at the get go. Don’t waste the crucial first few minutes of your presentation explaining things that are completely unrelated to your discussion.
There are only three things your audience needs to know the minute you start your presentation. Our hypothetical but scarily accurate example can be trimmed to a few short sentences by answering these questions:
- Who is presenting?
- What is the presentation about?
- Why is it relevant to the audience?
2. Awkward icebreakers
There’s nothing wrong with using an icebreaker to engage and build rapport with your audience.
The beginning of your presentation is a crucial time. Anything that can help you connect with your audience is helpful. That said, some techniques are still better than others.
Don’t attempt an ice breaker that you can’t tie back to the message of your presentation. Don’t waste time picking the audience’s brain with games if it doesn’t help introduce your topic. And while we’re on the subject, don’t make them play along something too complicated and will take up too much time explaining.
An example of an effective presentation icebreaker is still a good story. Presentations work when they make an emotional connection. While jokes and games are entertaining, sharing an anecdote that’s related to your topic will give your core message a relatable human dimension.
3. “Um…” and other fillers
Most of us say filler words out of habit. There’s nothing wrong with saying “um,” “like,” and “you know” in a casual setting. It’s something most people do unconsciously when formulating their thoughts. But presentations are a different case. When you’re presenting to an audience, you’re the one in charge. Saying “um” every time you pause makes you look like you’re not sure of what you’re saying. It’ll make your audience lose confidence in you.
Avoid filler words by rehearsing your presentation delivery. Teach yourself to pause when you catch yourself blurting out a filler word. After some time, you’ll find yourself more used to pausing than resorting to the usual verbal blunders.
If you’re nervous about presenting in front of an audience, click here for tips on fighting public speaking anxiety.
4. Self-affirming questions
While you should definitely make it a point to acknowledge your audience throughout your delivery, it’s unnecessary to ask them questions that only affirm you. Think back to your experience as an audience member, has a presenter actually ever stopped to hear your answer when they ask, “Are you with me?”
The only questions you should be asking your audience ones where their answer is relevant to your presentation. If, for example, you want to gauge how they feel about the topic at hand, ask them by a show of hands. If you’re presenting to a smaller group, you can set a brief portion of your presentation and have select audience members share their answers.
5. “Next slide, please”
Don’t break the immersion of your audience by uttering the words “next slide, please.” If you can’t have your laptop near you to advance slides yourself, use a remote control instead. There are plenty of devices that allow you to control your PowerPoint deck from a distance, and they’re a great investment.
Presentation expert Garr Reynolds suggests the brands Keyspan and Interlink. According to TechRepulic‘s Deb Shinder, if that’s too much of a splurge, you can download apps that allow you to use your smartphone as a remote control.
Remember that the success of your presentation lies on three things: content, design, and delivery. If one of these aspects fall flat, the rest of your presentation will suffer. Create an engaging experience for your audience by cutting out unnecessary details from your presentation delivery.