Advice for giving effective presentations
I gave a coworker some advice for giving effective presentations today. I told her some things worth remembering:
- You are the star of your presentation, not your slide deck.
- Structure the presentation around ideas rather than facts.
- Make the presentation structure seem simple and obvious to the audience. One thing should always lead to the next.
- It is better to present fewer concepts well than it is to present more concepts poorly.
- Incorporate narrative into your presentations if you can. People love stories and are more likely to remember concepts that are tied to stories and anecdotes better than those that are not.
- At the beginning of your talk, convince the audience members why they should care about what you are telling them. If they care, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say.
- A slide deck should not be a reference book. If you want to produce reference material for your audience, create a handout—which most likely should not be in the form of a slide deck—and give that to your audience during the presentation.
- Each slide should be simple enough for the audience to understand it in a couple seconds. You don’t want audience members to be reading your slides when they should be listening to you talk.
- Slides should contain no more than six items. The human mind can process up to six items incredibly quickly; it takes much longer to process seven or more.
- Break up long lists into multiple slides.
- Avoid making lists of bullet points. Instead, space out your items in an eye-pleasing grid (no more complex than two-by-three) and use meaningful icons for each item.
- Full-bleed images and single, short sentences centered on an otherwise blank slide can be used to highlight important points and stimulate visual interest in the audience.
- You are not going to read your slides while you present. Therefore, to keep on track during the presentation, write (and later refer to) speaker notes for each slide that cover your main points.
- Rehearse the presentation until you can perform it by only glancing at your speaker notes.
- Manage the clock well. Don’t let asides or questions from the audience take up so much time that you cannot cover all your material or properly wrap up at the end.
- The best way to project confidence when hit with an unexpected audience question is to smile, speak slowly, and look toward your co-presenters for help.