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3 Things Presenters Can Learn From the Written Word

Delivery is often prioritized during presentations. Since writing is mainly a behind-the-scenes matter, few consider its impact on their pitch. Even so, it still matters, both directly and indirectly, because well-written content is the foundation of an effective presentation.

To get your audience’s attention, apply a few techniques writers use to reel in their readers. Here are three things presenters can learn from the written word:

Research Is Key

Content writing is part of the preparation, though it’s sometimes overlooked in favor of spontaneity. However, coming in totally unprepared not only damages your credibility but also results in sloppy delivery. While a natural and conversational approach establishes rapport and engages the audience, you need to keep a few tricks up your sleeve.

Undertaking research is one way to determine the ideal approach for your pitch. To figure out how to reach out to them, look up your audience’s preferences, interests, and cultural beliefs. This works for all types of presentations. If you’re delivering a sales pitch, research is key to connecting with your target market as a speaker. For an educational lecture, you’ll definitely need to know people’s learning styles to effectively deliver your ideas.

Research is the backbone of content, which, in turn, is the foundation of a presentation.

Break Things Down

Don’t assume that the audience can read your mind. When it comes to your pitch, you need to think like a writer and present like one.

Create an outline to specify the flow of your speech and the main points you want to tackle. Mike Elgan, a writer for online publications, including Computerworld, notes how a business presentation usually has four parts:

  1. an introduction to the company
  2. an introduction to the product
  3. an in-depth explanation of each feature, and
  4. the description of the product’s benefits.

Take care not to over-compartmentalize your content. Instead, create categories that appeal to the audience’s creative side.

The use of visual metaphors, storytelling, and emotions can help balance your deck before bringing in the hard facts. You can use any combination of the three as a precursor to your actual information, as long as you stick to the point, but don’t go off on a tangent for too long. Rambling will confuse your audience even more.

Signal Phrases

Writers use signal phrases in their writing as transitions or as preliminaries to in-text citations. For example, you can say, “This theorist suggests” or “According to this source” as indicators of a citation. Here, the verb “suggest” and the compound preposition “according to” are the key words to the signal phrase. In writing, these words inform the reader that you’re about to introduce your sources.

Similarly, presenters can also these to hint a change in tone. Some presentations require reference citations, but the sudden shift to technical terms may seem jarring to the audience.

Key your listeners in by beginning your formal statements with signal phrases. If you’re new to public speaking, you can begin major points with signal phrases. It’s a way of arranging your data in a logical manner and keeping you on track of your outline. This serves as a guide not only to you but also to your listeners.

Summing It Up

Oral and written communication are actually two sides to the same coin, and one can pick up plenty of things from the other.

Don’t disregard the power of the written word in an oral presentation. As in writing, presenters can benefit from plenty of research, creativity, and some signal phrases. Once you’ve gotten the hang of your speech, you can start creating a slide deck as a complement.

If you need help with your visual design, contact our SlideGenius experts for a free quote!

 

References:

Elgan, Mike. “Give Killer Presentations: Think like a Writer.” Computerworld. February 9, 2013. www.computerworld.com/article/2494756/desktop-apps/give-killer-presentations–think-like-a-writer.html
“Transitions, Signal Phrases, and Pointing Words – Boundless Open Textbook.” Boundless. n.d. www.boundless.com/writing/textbooks/boundless-writing-textbook/writing-effective-paragraphs-253/connecting-your-ideas-259/transitions-signal-phrases-and-pointing-words-110-10297

Featured Image: “diary writing” by Fredrick Rubensson on flickr.com

Fine-tuning Your Presentation’s Core Message

As a presenter, your main goal is to make sure that the audience remembers the vital parts of your discussion. It’s not a particularly easy task, especially if you’re tackling several different points throughout an hour-long presentation. That’s why crafting a fine-tuned core message is important. You should have a clear and effective way to deliver the “big idea” behind your presentation. You should have something short and straight to the point that the audience can repeat and memorize.

The core message is the anchor that keeps your presentation from floating off. In other words, it keeps your presentation set on a single premise. Everything you present—from the data you share to the slides you show—should contribute in driving home this key idea. When you first sit down to prepare your presentation, it should be the first thing you have in mind. What do you want the audience to take away from your discussion? What’s the outcome you’re aiming for? The answer to these 2 questions is the first step towards an effective core message. After that, you’ll need to fine-tune your message to make sure it’s easy to repeat, recognize, and remember.

Spend some time scribbling down your ideas. Keep revising your core message to meet the following criteria:

1. Is it specific and straight to the point?

As we’ve already mentioned, the core message will be the center of your presentation. If you want to keep the discussion on the right track, your core message needs to focus on the particulars of your message. The topic of your presentation gives the audience an overview of what you might talk about, but the core message is specific and straight to the point. Determine the purpose of your presentation and make sure it’s evident in your message.

2. Is it short and conversational?

If you want the audience to remember your message, you have to make sure that it stands out. Try to write your core message in a more conversational style. As you know, there are distinct differences between the way we write and speak. Craft your presentation as you would a conversation. If you want your message to stick, keep it short and cut back on jargon and industry talk.

3. Is it relevant to your audience?

Maintain the audience’s interest by placing them at the center of your presentation. Make sure your message is relevant to their interest by keeping in mind their point of view. Do this by addressing your message directly to them. Try to answer these four questions to learn more about your audience.

 

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Make Your Point: 5 Tips for Editing Presentation Content

One of the easiest ways to lose your audience is by presenting slides that resemble a wall of text. As numerous experts have pointed out, it’s hard for most people to read slides and listen to a speaker at the same time. A slide filled with text encourages your audience to ignore what you’re saying, since they can read faster than you can talk. If you want to avoid this situation, you’ll need to cut back on what’s on your slides. If you want to keep everyone’s attention, you have to carefully edit your presentation content.

In a previous blog post, we discussed the 4 fundamental qualities of presentation content. To be effective, your content needs to meet the following criteria:

1.) Has a clear and specific message
2.) Streamlined and simplified
3.) Supported by facts and data
4.) Compelling and memorable

As you can see, at least 2 of these emphasize the need for precise editing. How can you make your message clear if it’s buried under so many slides? How can you keep your points simple if there’s too much bullet points on screen? It’s time to take a step back and make sure your presentation content is straightforward and memorable.

Our top 5 tips for editing presentation content:

How to edit your presentation content
Don’t torture your audience with repetitive slides. (Source: Nic McPhee/Flickr)

Tip #1: Review the purpose of your presentation

With your initial ideas drafted out, the next thing you have to do is to figure out how much of it you can use. That means you’ll need to have a clear understand of the purpose and message of your presentation. Why were you asked to speak in the first place? What is the main takeaway that you want people to remember? Who are you expecting to address? Anything that deviates from your premise should be edited out of your presentation content.

Tip #2: Aim to follow a simple structure

The structure of your presentation should be easy to follow. Regardless of what it’s about, your presentation should resemble how stories are often told. It should have a beginning, middle, and an end. Start your presentation with an introduction, where you prepare the audience with context for your main discussion. The body of your presentation should include an in-depth but well-structured discussion of your key arguments. Then end with a conclusion that allows the audience to review and remember your core message.

Tip #3: Group similar points together

After editing your initial list, review what you have left and try to condense those points even further. Identify which of your ideas are related to or connect with each other. From there, group those points together and create main clusters that will make up the body of your presentation. Observe a few of Apple’s famous keynote presentations to see how complex discussions can be simplified into three main points.

Tip #4: Limit your examples

Examples are the best way to bring vague concepts into real life, but having too much might also derail your discussion. Another way to edit presentation content is by making sure you limit yourself to giving only 1 example for a certain point. Whether it’s a story, a metaphor, or an analogy, keep your examples quick and easy to understand. Avoid complicating an already tedious concept by loading it with a long explanation.

Tip #5: Keep it conversational

The language you use—or the way you write something—also plays a role in how effective your presentation content is. Remember, a presentation is not an essay. There are differences between the way we write and speak, so get rid of jargon and complex explanations. In an essay, you have plenty of space to explore details. At the same time, readers can enjoy your arguments at their own pace. But in presentations, you’re restricted by a time limit and an audience’s wandering attention. This why it’s important to keep your presentation content conversational.

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT PRESENTATION CONTENT AND WRITING: 

 

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Why Your Presentations Need Better Slide Headlines

Presentation expert Nancy Duarte suggested a quick way to diagnose bad slides. To check your own work, step back and ask yourself, “will the audience get my point with just a quick glance?”

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Nancy’s “glance test” likens PowerPoint slides to billboard ads. Unless you want to hold up traffic, you can’t stop your car to examine every detail of the ad looming over you. A billboard should catch your attention and tell its story in seconds. Your slides should get to the point just as quickly.

An easy way to do that is to keep your designs simple.

Nancy offers many great design tips to make sure your slides pass the glance test. But apart from manipulating visuals, there’s another way to ensure that your slides immediately get to the point.

Just like a news article or a viral blog post, your slides need descriptive headlines.

The usual slide headlines

Instead of descriptive titles, most slides are headlined by a single word or a quick phrase. At first glance, the first thing an audience sees are words like “Objectives or “Goals and Accomplishments”. If you do the same thing for a blog posts or press release, do you think you’ll get as much readers?

bad-headline-example-chronicle
(Image Source)

These headlines can only share a small part about a particular slide. PowerPoint expert Gavin McMahon more accurately calls them “labels.”

Instead of urging the audience to think, “I want to know more about this,” they see text that they’ve likely seen before from other presentations. By changing labels to descriptive headlines, you can convey a complete and interesting idea. You can inadvertently tell the audience to listen closely to what you have to say.

Writing better headlines

In a study published by the Society for Technical Communication, a group of researchers examined how effective descriptive slide headlines are. The researchers presented two different versions of the same slide deck to several sections of 200 students. The first version had slides headlined with the usual short phrases. The other one made use of short descriptive sentences. Even if the study is focused on education, the results show how important it is to write better slide headlines.

When asked to recall the main assertions of slides, the students in the sections taught with the sentence-headline slides had significantly higher recall… For the 15 questions in the study, the average score for the students viewing the sentence-headline slides was 79% correct, while the average for the students viewing the traditional slides was only 69% correct.

So if you want to make sure the audience remembers your message, you’ll need to start writing better headlines. Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Highlight the main takeaway. Make sure the key takeaway is clear in your headline. Always ask yourself what you want the audience to remember from each slide you make.
  • Be specific. Try to be as specific as possible. While your headline doesn’t have to be long, it should accurately describe what’s tackled in your slide.
  • Feed their curiosity. Write headlines that say enough to urge the audience to ask, “what happens next?”
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Featured Image: Lena Vasiljeva via Flickr

The 4 Fundamental Qualities of Presentation Content

Most people tend to focus all their energy on creating effective PowerPoint designs. It’s true that well-designed slides can help engage audiences even more. Visuals allow people to remember crucial details, given that vision trumps all other senses when it comes to processing information. Still, those who prefer to start by building slides on PowerPoint are missing a crucial detail. They forget that presentation content is the real focus.

Building a presentation is a lot like building a house. Before painting the walls and decorating with furniture, you will need a strong foundation. You will need to build thick walls and sturdy floors. You will need pillars to hold everything in shape. In presentations, that foundation is your content.

So what does it take to create the best content possible? How do you ensure that your foundation is solid and consistent? These are the four fundamental qualities found in effective presentation content:

1.) Has clear and specific message

Your presentation content needs to have a clear and specific message. This will be the core of your presentation, where all your other points revolve. Every argument you make throughout will be to prove the value of your statement. Determine the purpose of your presentation and define the goals you want to achieve. Are you talking to sales prospects? Are you pitching to potential investors? Do you want the audience to see the advantage of your product over competing brands? Craft a single message that encompasses your objectives. Keep it short, powerful, and descriptive.

2.) Streamlined and simplified

In presentations, less is always more. You can easily lose the attention of your audience if you stray too much from your main point. Even if you have plenty of ideas to share, the only thing that’s relevant to your audience will be those that help your message move forward. Streamline your presentation content with some brainstorming techniques. Once you’ve let your ideas run wild, you can choose the points that are most relevant and compelling. If you’re working with data or complex concepts, simplify your discussion by using analogies and metaphors.

3.) Supported by facts and data

To add credibility to your presentation content, you will need to support your points by citing appropriate sources. Make sure you have the necessary data to show that your arguments are valid and accurate. Look for research papers that can help authenticate your ideas. If you’ve done your own research, include the data from your results. You can also include testimonials or interviews.

4.) Compelling and memorable

Overall, your presentation content needs to attract the attention of your audience and keep them interested throughout. You can do that by crafting your content in the form of a story. According to research conducted by Dr. Paul Zak, the most effective content follows the structure of classical Greek dramas. Presentations with the pattern of exposition – rising action – climax – falling action – resolution are more likely to elicit emotional response from the audience.

All in all, your presentation content needs to have information that is specific, useful, accurate, and memorable. Take note of these key characteristics to find the best way to share the message you want to deliver.

 

Reference

Dr. Paul Zak: Empathy, Neurochemistry, and the Dramatic Arc.” Future of Storytelling. 2014. Accessed October 07, 2014.

 

Featured Image: Grant Hollingworth via Flickr

Brainstorming Techniques for the Dazed Presenter

Presentations are enormous and often difficult tasks. Whether you’re set to pitch investors or address potential clients, you’ll feel plenty of pressure to ace your performance. The pressure can be even more debilitating when you realize that the road to success requires plenty of steps. Writing the perfect speech and content involve several factors. Aside from that, there’s also the challenge of designing a PowerPoint presentation that’s both effective and engaging.

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First coined by Madison Avenue advertising executive Alex Osborn, brainstorming has been defined as a “relaxed and informal approach to problem-solving.” You lead with your topic and try to generate several different ideas that build off of each other. During the process, you can list down the craziest and most impossible solutions. The only goal is to sort through everything in order to pick out the best ideas.

Here are a few brainstorming techniques you can try to jump start your presentation prep:

Freewriting

In a quiet space, write down as much as you can in 9 minutes. Don’t stop until the time is up. Just let your pen run through the page. Keep writing down your thoughts, even when you feel like they’re pretty unsubstantial. When the time is up, read back on everything you’ve written. Pick out the ideas that stand out and try the next three techniques to arrive at a more specific message.

Cubing

Pare down your ideas by considering your subject from a variety of different perspectives. Just as a cube has 6 sides, you can approach the subject of your presentation using 6 methods. Take a sheet of paper and try to answer the following points:

  • Describe peculiarities of the topic
  • Compare it with a related idea
  • Associate it with something else
  • Analyze the components closely
  • Apply it for a particular situation
  • Argue for and against it

Desired outcome

Another way to sort through ideas is by understanding the goals you want to achieve. In other words, try to figure out your main purpose. Why were you asked to deliver the presentation? What do you want to accomplish? What is the outcome you’re hoping for?

Audience perspective

You can also narrow down your list by keeping the audience in mind. Consider their point of view, and what they might feel about your presentation. In particular, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are in your audience?
  • Why are they coming to hear you speak?
  • What do you want them to do?
  • How might they disagree with your ideas?

If you’re in this situation, it’s not strange to feel a bit dazed and confused. There’s so much to consider and it can be hard to get started. The only way to know where to start is by figuring out which direction to take. You’ll need to know the message you want to deliver, and the ideas that you want the audience to take away. This is where brainstorming comes in.

Organize your thoughts to arrive at a clear and definite direction for your presentation. Try these brainstorming techniques to find the exact message you want to share and deliver.

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Reference

Brainstorming: Generating Many Radical, Creative Ideas.” Mind Tools. Accessed October 6, 2014.

 

Featured Image: Carl Milner via Flickr

Storytelling: The Secret to Great Presentation Content

Everyone loves a good story. Everyday books are read, movies are watched, and events of the afternoon are shared over the dinner table. Stories are an intrinsic part of our experience as people. It’s a vital part of how we communicate with one another.

Remember this fundamental truth when you’re set to give your next presentation. Your presentation content has to be more than just a barrage of information and numerical data. Make your presentation interesting and relatable. There is nothing more compelling than a good story. It’s the secret recipe you’re missing in your presentation content.

Keep these things in mind when you’re working on your presentation content:

1.) Every story has a beginning, middle, and end

Your presentation content should follow a clear and organized structure.

Just as Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, had a great fall, and was unable to be put back together by the King’s men, your presentation content should be presented in a pattern that’s familiar to everyone.

Start with an introduction, delve into the issues after that, and then end with a summary and conclusion.

2.) Introduce your topic with an anecdote or two

Let your audience see that there’s a genuine and relatable story behind what you’re presenting. Don’t just settle for being informative.

Show your audience why the information you’re presenting is important to them. Tell them a few stories that will allow them to relate your topic to their own experiences.

3.) Create context for data

Cold, hard facts can seem impersonal at times, and thus a bit alienating. In order to pull your audience into the main part of your presentation content, you have to give them some context.

When presenting any kind of data, don’t focus too much on the figures. Instead, focus on explaining what they mean and where they fall into your storyline.

4.) Try for an emotional response

Don’t be afraid to show some heart. Try your best to evoke the emotions of your audience in a positive way. Illustrate your points with heart-warming examples, or tell a few jokes as you go along your presentation.

Go for what feels natural to you, your topic, and the people in the audience.

Conclusion

Delivering a pitch, no matter how formal, doesn’t need to be boring. Using storytelling as a creative means to leverage your pitch can attract you a wider range of audiences and introduce your brand to a bigger public.

It can also serve a double purpose as something to give structure to your presentation with a solid hook, line, and sinker. Organize your content with a story to deliver in mind, and you’ll be surprised how much easier everything else will follow.

Need help crafting your presentation story? Contact our SlideGenius experts today for a free quote!

 

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The Write Way: 5 Techniques to Improve Presentation Writing

Most people begin preparing for presentations by working on their PowerPoint slides. While a well-designed presentation deck is certainly important, they’re skipping on the most crucial part of the process—presentation writing.

Visual aids will enhance your presentation, but the content of your speech is truly its heart and soul. Take note of these techniques to improve your presentation writing skills.

Start with an outline

Create an outline of your presentation before you begin writing your content. This way, you’ll be able to follow a structure as you write, and avoid going off-tangent. Identify your main points and figure out if your ideas fall into broader categories. For a concrete example, take note of the WWDC keynotes by Steve Jobs.

Use the active voice

Consider the difference between the two following sentences:

  • Amy is preparing for a business presentation next week.
  • Next week’s business presentation is being prepared by Amy.

Which one is more straight-forward? Which one is easier to say out loud?

The first sentence in the example is written in what Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty calls the active voice. Use it for presentation writing to ensure that your sentences are clear and discernible.

Use imagery and metaphors

If you think using imagery and metaphors are only for poets, think again. As determined by a research published by The Leadership Quarterly, people find speakers more charismatic when they integrate images into their speeches:

A former US president’s inaugural address was rewritten to create low and high imagery versions, and audio recordings of the two speeches were made. Participants were randomly assigned to high or low speech imagery conditions. After listening to the speech, they provided ratings on various summary leadership measures. The high imagery speech resulted in higher ratings of charisma than the low imagery speech. 

Aside from the visuals in your PowerPoint deck, you should also integrate mental images to your speech. Elaborate points with metaphors that your audience is familiar with.

Clarify points with stories and examples

Great presentations can impact audiences on an emotional level. You see this happen in TED Talks when presenters share personal anecdotes that are relevant to their discussion.

If you have a point you need to clarify, consider sharing stories and examples from your own experience. Your audience will appreciate a relatable presentation.

Be an editor as well

Presentation writing requires that you also take up the role of being an editor. Once you’re done organizing and writing your content, try to identify the parts that you can cut out.

You should also look for parts that feel like they need more clarifications or examples. Keep rewriting your content until you strike a perfect balance.

 

References

Barker, Eric. “Presentation Techniques: 6 Secrets To Giving Amazing Presentations.” Time. Accessed July 01, 2014.
Fogarty, Mignon. “Active Voice Versus Passive Voice.” Quick and Dirty Tips. Accessed July 01, 2014.

 

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