Presentations – How to effectively communicate a message

People have a shorter span of attention than ever.
It’s hard to keep them focused, especially if the subject isn’t something they know is interesting for them.

The rules for a good presentation

Follow these pointers while authoring a successful presentation:

  • A quick overview of the presentation
  • Subject is relevant to the audience
  • A clear presentation structure
  • Appropriate length
  • Entertainment value / Humor
  • Call outs to keep the audience hooked
  • Few words per slide
  • Hidden content until relevant

The slide creation process

Good things take their time

Take your time while creating your slides.

I recently got very positive, unsolicited reactions to a 30 minute presentation I gave. It took me almost 2 business days spread out over the course of a week to get it right!

1. Start chaotic

Don’t waste time on design at first.
Use your first slides as a notepad for your thoughts, adding bits and pieces of info you think you want to share.
Everything you add at this point is to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.

2. Add structure

Now start organizing your slides.

  • Order the information logically
  • Inject a bold statement / interesting fact every 2-3 slides
    This call-out keeps your audience hooked
  • Add a short “In this presentation” overview at the start

3. Apply the rules of a good presentation

Add an “In this presentation” slide

A few bullet points describing the contents / structure of what’s going to be covered in the presentation

Keep slides short!

  • Don’t show more than 6 words to the audience at at time.
  • Use your speaker notes to guide yourself through your chat.

People can not read and listen at the same time, so give people the time to read those 6 words and then deliver your pitch.

Use animation

Simple “Fade-in on click” animations are a great way to limit the amount of visible text and avoid people from reading along / ahead.
Use short fade times to avoid things feeling sluggish.

Need to distribute your slides as hand-outs later? Then hide the verbose bits while speaking by using animation. You can then easily skip over the long part

Ruthlessly delete text

The passion you may feel for your topic is likely not shared by your audience. Also it might not all be relevant for them.
People pay more attention when they feel your message is relevant to them.

So, delete all slides or text that does not strictly contribute to the message you want to convey or that is not strictly relevant to your audience.

Use words that your audience knows

Adjust your message to your audience.
If you deliver a scientific breakthrough in nano-technology to a group of investment bankers you need to adjust your wording.
Dumb it down, if you must.

You want to communicate a message.
Not appear to be a show off.

Make it fun

Even when presenting to strangers, adding a sense of humor helps you in 2 ways:

  1. The presentation becomes more enjoyable for everyone
  2. You look confident

Someone who delivers a very serious chat without humor is prone to become nervous. Every mistake will stand out and contribute to the nervousness.
Lace your chat with humor and you’ll be able to brush of mistakes much more easily.

Limit the amount of slides

No one likes long presentations. As a rule of thumb, 8-12 slides is a good target.

Don’t count slides that show a quick fact (call out) or that are there for the fun factor.

Claim authority

Are you presenting to people who do not know you?
Add an introductory slide which states that you are someone who knows about the subject you are talking about.

Example presentation using Google Slides

Here’s an example presentation for in-company use.
I’ve used my company’s internal, overly-used template but made it fun by replacing the standard imagery for new, more funny images that follow the same recognizable style.

Note the use of animation everywhere to avoid people are reading what I’m telling them. Once I’ve brought across my message I will let the full text appear. That way the slides serve as hand outs too.
Arguably this is not an ideal approach, but it’s been working for me very well.

1 thought on “Presentations – How to effectively communicate a message

  1. This a very simple and yet very efficient recipe for a good presentation.

    More importantly, by sharing it with ‘the Internet’ you allow folks to skip part of the structure building so we can focus on the presentation’s content.

    Thank you for your service, sir.

    P.S.: Oddly enough, I saw a painting very similar to the one you have on slide eight only three days ago. It’s called ‘Highland Raid’, by Rosa Bonheur.

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