10 Guidelines for Making Your Presentation More Engaging

Hate it or love it, creating an effective presentation is crucial when you need to communicate your findings to stakeholders, or you’re pitching a new proposal. According to a Prezi survey, 70% of employed Americans who give presentations agree that presentation skills are critical to their career success.  I know it’s a skill that doesn’t always come naturally, but anyone can deliver a successful presentation with a bit of practice and patience. Here are 10 helpful guidelines to navigate the journey. 

1.  Know your target audience

In order to deliver an effective presentation, you need to spend a moment to think about who will be receiving your message. 

Will you speak to a group of industry professionals or outsiders who are new to the industry?  What is their gender, age, educational background, and/or interests? Do you use jargon that your audience is not familiar with? How can you create a successful connection or help them to frame challenges in new ways?

As you prepare the presentation, you always need to be mindful of what the audience needs and wants to know. Give them what they want, not what you can tell them. The success of a presentation depends on a good rapport between you and your audience.

2. Outline first

Starting with an outline drives your presentation’s content. Just like writing a script for a movie, outlining your main points lays a solid foundation for good storytelling, which is a guideline for the words you’ll use and the visuals that help convey your message. Not only will it save you a ton of time, but it will also help organize and clarify your message.

3. Follow a three-part story structure

Structure your presentation like a three-part story.

Craft the beginning – This is the first stage where you preview your content by telling the audience what you’re going to say.

Develop the middle – In this stage, you have an informing and igniting middle section by walking through your points.

Create a powerful ending – Quickly summarize everything you just talked about and finish with a clear and powerful call to action.

4.  Apply consistent color palettes

You don’t need to be a professional designer to visually connect viewers to your presentation. A consistent color scheme will help you maintain your audience’s attention. Try to limit the number of colors you use – at most 5 – and consider a monochromatic color combination for a professional look and feel.

5.  Stick with one font with a distinct font-size

Ideally, stick with a single, consistent font of no smaller than 30 points. Don’t forget the audience in the last rows and keep your copy visible to them. Using one font also leaves a great impression on your audience as you present clean, easy-to-read formatting. 

6.   A compelling visual speaks 1,000 words

You know the “content fatigue” feeling you experience when you see slide after slide of nothing but text? It can be closer to dread than interest. Visuals are definitely better than overwhelming texts. We already know that our brains process visuals much quicker than text. Thus, too many words on a page tend to be tedious for your audience, which leads them to lose focus. Relevant images, high-quality graphics, and other informative illustrations tend to be better in conveying your ideas. 

7.   Less is more

Less content doesn’t necessarily mean an ineffective presentation. On the contrary, it emphasizes the most important information to your audience. Just like less sauce highlights the natural umami flavor of oysters, sometimes simplicity is better than elaborate embellishment. Avoid clutter; minimize flashy animation, and always focus on delivering a clear message.

8. Keep one point per slide

Following the last rule, don’t try to squeeze too much information into a single slide. Instead, keep each slide to one key takeaway.

Your audience will have varying degrees of understanding of what you present. As a result, a per-slide basis helps you reach everyone. Jamming a lot of content into a single slide will also distract the audience from focusing on what you are saying.  It’s easier to hold their attention with more digestible takeaways simply by covering just one key point per slide.

9.  Give up your favorite

It’s good to play with lots of ideas when you start to think about your presentation – the points you want to highlight, the examples you want to use to fit the topic, and the quotes you are impressed by – but not all of them should be delivered to the audience. There is a rule in film editing: always remember to give up your favorite scenes. It’s the same case with creating a presentation because you only have so much time. Learn to prune your ideas.

10.   Cultivate your passion for your presentation

Your passion plays an essential part in the success of your presentation. This is a win-win thing: a successful presentation is delivered by transmitting your energy, love, and passion for your topic; as a result of being immersed in your passion, your audience will respond positively and receive a high-quality experience. Believe in your presentation – where there’s passion there’s resonation!  Good luck!

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