Jeff Haden
Business Journalist

Jeff Haden is a bestselling ghostwriter, speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, and LinkedIn Influencer

Jeff Haden
Business Journalist

Jeff Haden is a bestselling ghostwriter, speaker, Inc. Magazine contributing editor, and LinkedIn Influencer

Not all presentations are created equal. Jeff Haden explores the difference between superb and soporific.

Unless you’re Chris Rock or Louis C.K., it’s extremely tough to instantly win over a crowd. Attention is like respect: earned, not given.

And that’s why it’s extremely easy to lose a crowd, especially where business presentations are concerned. We’ve all sat through droning presentations with seemingly endless PowerPoint slides.

So how can you make sure your presentation isn’t one of them? The key is to use some simple presentation techniques, body language, and communication skills to make sure every presentation is a great experience for the audience.

Here are some simple presentation skills anyone can use.

a camera on a tall pole is on frame right in front of a grey sky

Start with “why”

You’ll go into every presentation with a goal: to inform, to convince, to motivate, to make a sale… but your audience doesn’t care about your needs. Ultimately we all default to WIIFM: What’s In It For Me. No audience will ever care about you until you first show you care about them — so always frame your presentation in terms of its benefits to the audience.

And don’t forget to explain why you’re the perfect person to provide those benefits; one or two sentences that establish your credibility go a really long way.

 

Tell a story

Facts are important. Figures are important. Charts and spreadsheets are important.

They’re also really boring.

Every presentation should ultimately tell a story. Even the most fact-filled and analysis-driven presentation should take the audience on a journey from ignorance to knowledge, from apathy to enthusiasm, from inaction to action… and that journey requires telling a story.

Why does your presentation matter? What can I do with what I’ve learned? How will it make a difference to me, professionally or even personally?

That’s the story every great — and memorable — presentation tells. Craft every presentation so that it tells a story and you won’t go wrong.

Share anecdotes

We all love stories. We all remember stories — real, genuine, heartfelt stories. So don’t be afraid to let your emotions show. Admit if you were sad. Admit if you felt remorse. Admit if you felt joy or anger or fear. 

When you share real feelings you can create an immediate and lasting connection with your audience.

Think of it this way: Emotion trumps speaking skills every time. So if you’re concerned that you’re not an effective public speaker, that’s okay. Let your emotions show and that is what your audience will remember — not a lack of polish or skill. 

PowerPoint’s not a crutch

When you’re nervous, it’s tempting to fill your presentation with slides. That way your audience can focus on the screen and not on you, right?

That’s also the quickest way to lose an audience. No one likes reading slides. The only thing worse is to have those slides read to you.

If you need a chart to illustrate a point, use a slide. If you need a few bullets to highlight key points, use a slide. Otherwise let the audience focus on you: your enthusiasm, your knowledge, your body language.

Whenever you have more than six or eight words on a slide your audience will start reading it and will stop listening to you. It’s your presentation: limit the number of slides so your audience will focus on and listen to you.

I know what you’re thinking: “But I have so much material to cover — I need lots of slides.”

That’s not always true because…

You have one thing

Most people can't absorb a ton of information, and even if they can, they don't want to.

Say the goal of your presentation is to get key stakeholders to buy in. That should be all you care about. The data, the analysis, the backup material, the justifications… all those things just support your goal.

Focus on providing that one key takeaway, and do it in a way that ensures the audience knows they will benefit from acting on that takeaway. To do that, of course, your story needs to be simple, clear, and clutter-free.

And that's a good thing — because don’t those qualities form the foundation of every great presentation? 

The art of a good presentation is in being able to be engage.

Here’s why video conferencing and face-to-face communication is better.

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