Tips on giving a good presentation

Professor Ivor Tymchak

How many PowerPoint presentations have you seen that include more bullet points than a St Valentines day massacre? How many ‘speakers’ have you seen that should really be marketed as ‘sedatives’? 

Here are a few hints and tips to keep your presentation fresh and lively.

Come in with a bang!
I perform stand up comedy and I know I have thirty seconds from coming on stage to grab my audience or lose them. The advice to aspiring comedians is to start with their best joke. Good advice. If you have something that will interest your audience, give it to them. 

Put yourself in their shoes – what would grab your attention? How about an astounding fact or statistic? Pose a question which fires the imagination. Demonstrate a trick or make a deliberate mistake. Tell a story they can relate to – anything to get them hooked into your subject. 

One word of caution; whatever it is you do to get their attention, make it relevant to your message. A gratuitous stunt can cheapen your entire presentation.

Get on with it. 
Have you any idea how many unsolicited travel articles are binned because they start at the airport? It seems logical to start at the beginning, but the beginning is very rarely where it gets interesting. Why not ‘cut to the chase’ and ‘flashback’ to how it all started? To help you plan, draw a mind map of your presentation, sequence the information and then rearrange the sequence so that your most interesting piece is at the beginning. You can usually script it so that it makes sense overall. 

History keeps repeating itself
This is another common mistake because it seems so logical – give them the background to your subject. This is like going back to before the beginning. Again, get on with it! Be absolutely ruthless when assessing the value of what you include in your presentation – is it neccessary, does it add anything, would it be of interest to someone who is only on the fringes of the subject? 

If you do feel compelled to include history and any other requirements for complete understanding, then put them in a handout given at the end.

Don’t take yourself too seriously
You want the audience to care about your message, not about you. If you have to tell them about how important your message is and how much they need to care, you’ve ‘died’. It is the equivalent of having to explain a joke that you have just told; it’s embarrasing. If you demonstrate your humanity, passion and enthusiasm, your audience will empathise with you and be more prepared to listen to your message.

Get creative 
Most speakers recognise the value of a prop or two. But why stop there? How about an acronym that spells ‘ACRONYM’? or a funny title – ‘Seven steps to building a staircase’ Use language  like an artist uses colour. We hear prose every day, most of it is banal. By inserting a vivid metaphor, similie or analogy you will raise the bar on your presentation above the commonplace. 

Commission talent
We’ve all seen the slides of readily available clip art. What it says to me, as a member of the audience is, “this is recycled and reprocessed clip art. If I’ve done it with the art I have probably done it with the rest of my presentation”. 

Is that the impression you want to give? If the presentation is one that you give a lot it will be worth the investment of hiring an artist to generate some unique imagery for you. 

Don’t forget copy writers as well, they can come up with the startling imagery that can make your speech shine, as well as provide other services such as editing. 

Make use of reference books such as Bob Monkhouse’s Speakers handbook; there are some great one liners in there. It’s not an admission of failure to draft in help, it’s a path to improvement!

Leave them wanting more, instead of just leaving
This is the stated aim of any product, not just entertainers. It is achieved by engrossing the consumer and firing their imagination. In a presentation, that means every word, every image, every gesture has to earn its place. If it doesn’t work hard, make it do so or get rid of it.

Remember the maxim; less is more.

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