Whether you're heading into your first job interview or hosting your thousandth staff meeting, presentations are intimidating. In just so many words, you're challenged to portray your best self and deliver your message well.
Regardless of outside circumstances or unexpected interruptions, you want your words to leave the impact you desire. Therefore, no matter your level of experience, it's worth revisiting your approach. Let's review 10 steps (plus a bonus tip!) to make your presentation memorable.
Table of Contents
7. Interact with Your Audience
1. Start Strong
Thousands of books recommend different ways to start a presentation, but their advice shares one thing in common: You need to capture your audience's attention. Unless you've been brushing up on your mind-control powers, this task is easier said than done. However, there are tools you do have at your disposal:
Tell A Compelling Story
It doesn't have to be groundbreaking. Tell the audience more about you or your project. How did you come up with the idea? What problem did you have that the project solves? Who inspired you?
Share A Surprising Statistic
Teaching your audience something they don't know is more likely to stick. However, an outlandish statistic might leave your audience questioning its legitimacy, so make sure to credit your source. The statistic should also be directly relevant to your presentation topic. Refer to it throughout the presentation to
1. Make it stick and 2. Make the presentation content tie together.
Ask A Thought-Provoking Question
Many presentations start with a show of hands, and there's a good reason why: It tailors the presentation to that specific audience. You can gauge the audience's familiarity with the topic and make them feel involved through contribution.
"How many of you have had this problem?" "Raise your hand if you're familiar with this software." "If x happened to you, how many of you would do y?"
2. Know Your Audience
When pitching an idea, it wouldn't make sense to give identical presentations to your client and to your investors, right? Tailor your content and approach to resonate with your specific audience. Understand their interests, knowledge level, and expectations.
Put yourself in their shoes: If you were watching someone else give a presentation offering the same solution, what would convince you? Entice you? Make you want to learn more? Consider what would make you tune out, too, so you can better avoid pitfalls.
3. Have a Central Idea
Mark Wiskup's Presentation S.O.S. goes in-depth about finding your 'Power Sound Bite,' referencing influential examples like Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" and Franklin D. Roosevelt's "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Have a central message or key takeaway that you want your audience to remember. Make sure your content supports and reinforces this message throughout your presentation.
"Most presentations that are dubbed 'lousy,' 'boring,' or 'a real snore fest' are because the speaker hasn't crafted and supported a PSB. The 'snore fest' speakers are inconsiderate, throwing a bunch of undisciplined information at the audience, certain in the knowledge it will all add up to a brilliant conclusion. I say it doesn't. The audience needs and wants to be steered. That's the critical part of their connection to you, the speaker." - Mark Wiskup
4. Less Text
A 2021 study from The Univeristy Kingdom Literacy Association found that multitasking while reading is detrimental to reading comprehension (when time is limited). In other words: Don't make your audience multitask. If you're going to speak while displaying a slide with completely different sentences, your audience will be strained to pick a subject to focus on.
If your slides include text, reference them directly. Bullet points allow you to point the topic you're currently discussing and verbally elaborate.
5. More Engaging Visuals
Not everyone learns the same way: 30% of the general population are verbal learners, 5% learn best by touching and doing, while the remaining 65% learn best with visuals (William C. Bradford, Reaching the Visual Learner). Make good use of this knowledge by adding images, diagrams, and charts to complement your content. If you're presenting a complex idea, split it up into simpler visual aides to make it easier to understand and remember.
To tie in that 5% of hands-on learners, consider bringing a physical prop to help convey your message. This is particularly useful if you're presenting a physical product: Show your audience how it works!
6. Tell Stories
If you don't start the presentation with a story, why not incorporate one later? The difference between your presentation and every other presentation out there is you. No one can tell this story or give this pitch the same way you can, so invite your audience to get to know you better. Incorporate relevant stories or anecdotes that are memorable to help make your points relatable.
Even if you pick a story that belongs to a client or a friend, explaining someone's interaction with your project gives the audience a deeper look. They'll get to know you through how you tell the story, your mannerisms, and your passion for the project.
7. Interact with Your Audience
Instead of monologuing, get people sitting up in their chairs. To engage them and make your content more memorable:
Open the Floor
Encourage the audience to share their own experiences. At specific points in your presentation or at the end, invite the audience to ask questions. You can use Q&A sessions to clarify doubts or delve deeper into the specific points they're interested in.
An unexpected element will keep your audience engaged and curious. If you're telling a personal anecdote, include cliff-hanger sentences. Is there a twist to your story?
This can be a great way to drive engagement (given there aren't any tech hiccups). You can ask the audience for their opinions or preferences and display the results in real-time. Incorporate quizzes or interactive games to reinforce key points. Use a specific hashtag during the presentation so you can display live tweets or posts on the screen.
The level of interaction should be appropriate for your audience, topic, and setting (aka this might not be best for the boardroom). Overdoing it with interaction can be distracting, while too little can make the presentation feel one-sided and less engaging, so customize your approach.
8. Consistent Structure
Organize your presentation with a clear beginning, middle, and end. A logical flow will guide your audience through your content.
Here's a popular layout for inspiration:
- Opening Hook
- Thesis Statement
B. Agenda or Outline
- An overview of the main points you'll cover
C. Main Content
- Supporting Evidence
D. Call to Action
- Make this clear and actionable
- Summarize your main points and repeat the thesis statement
- Open the floor
- Include a slide with your sources and references
- See the next tip for ideas
9. End with a Bang!
Summarize your key points and reiterate your main message. End with a memorable closing statement or call to action. Here are some ideas of how to round out your presentation:
Add a thought-provoking or inspirational quote that aligns with your theme
Encourage your audience with a clear call to action
Paint a vivid picture of the future with your solution
Pose a challenge or question to the audience
Share a personal anecdote
Show a stunning visual or video
Challenge the audience to reflect
Pose an open-ended question
Have a surprise ending
Express an emotional appeal
10. Practice, Practice, Practice
Virtually everything gets easier with practice. Rehearse your presentation multiple times to ensure a smooth delivery. Familiarity with your material will boost your confidence and help you to connect with your audience. Each practice run will help refine content and delivery. Make eye contact with the audience, use gestures, and move around the stage to maintain a dynamic and engaging presence.
If you're presenting in a group, be honest with one another about your strengths and weaknesses. While some teammates can glide through a slide deck and improvise with ease, others may get stage fright or stumble over words that could be very important. Provide constructive criticism when practicing, and also be open to feedback from your coworkers on your own abilities: Everyone has room to improve.
Bonus Tip: Time Management
Be mindful of your allotted time and stay within it. Running over time can lead to disengagement, distrust, and a less positive and memorable presentation. Here are some methods to help nail your time management:
Plan and Prepare Early
Start prepping well in advance. Having a schedule will help everyone stay on track, so consider creating a detailed timeline that includes milestones for researching, drafting, creating visuals, rehearsing, and getting feedback.
Rehearse the presentation with a focus on staying within the allocated time. This will help avoid running over time during the actual presentation.
When things don't go as planned, it's essential to stay calm and flexible. Have a backup plan in case something goes wrong on the day of the presentation, like technical issues or a team member isn't there. This will reduce stress and ensure you're ready to adapt to unexpected situations.
Learn from Experience
Reflect on your time management after the presentation. What worked well? What could be improved? Learning from each experience can lead to better time management in future presentations.
If you've read this far, we know that your presentation is in great hands. Please remember your physical and mental health. Burnout and stress can hinder effective time management, so take a break! Allot time before your presentation to eat well, get sleep, and mentally rest before your big moment.
By implementing these tips and tailoring them to your specific presentation style and content, you can create a presentation that not only informs but also leaves a lasting impression on your audience. Break a leg!
It's important for us to disclose the multiple authors of this blog post: The original outline was written by chat.openai, an exciting new AI language model. The content was then edited and revised by Lindey Hoak.
"OpenAI (2023). ChatGPT. Retrieved from https://openai.com/api-beta/gpt-3/"