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Tips for Creating and Giving an Effective Presentation

John W. Hey, Chief Operating Officer

By John W. Hey
Chief Operating Officer
Trivalent Group, Inc.

I give a lot of presentations—roughly four per month.  I have learned that there is a certain amount of competition at play when you are in front of a group of people—competition for their attention!   Today, the lure of a phone, tablet, computer, or even a smartwatch is a constant attack on your audience’s ability to actually listen to what you are saying.

I recently gave a presentation for a statewide launch of an educational initiative, and a woman in the back of the room was actually knitting!  She indicated that, by the time I was done, she would likely have completed making a hat.  That was a first for me.

While I want to remind you of some of the basic tenets of building an effective presentation, I want to spend more focus on delivering an effective presentation.   Let’s quickly review some presentation building do’s and don’ts:

  • Don’t overpopulate your slides with too much text. The slides aren’t meant to tell your story; YOU are to tell your story with the promptings of what you have on your slides as a reference.
  • I like to use audio/visual aids, such as a YouTube video to change things up and give the audience another voice and medium while also supporting the topic
  • Discretion in the length and duration of your presentation is a must. Don’t assault your audience with so many slides that they have no chance of staying tuned in. I have found that I have about 20 minutes of real attention.  I’ve stretched it to 30, but, unless you’re delivering a very engaging and informative presentation with rich content, you really start to lose people after 30 minutes.
  • Make sure your font sizes are readable from a distance (picture 1” per 10’ of distance).
  • For gosh sake, make sure your spelling and grammar are correct!

The delivery of a great presentation is almost as, if not more important than, the content.  A great presenter can make what some would feel to be less-than-compelling content come alive.  Here are my top few techniques:

  • Get a little excited!!! So many presentations are ho-hum.  Be the presenter your audience remembers.
  • Engage your audience. Ask them questions about what you are saying or ask for their own examples.  Quiz them.  The more you can make them participate, the more they’ll remember and respond.
  • Try some humor (keep it safe). It’s well documented that laughter keeps audience members engaged and releases endorphins that will help them feel better about your presentation’s content and you as the messenger.
  • Always return to center if you’re a wanderer. If you roam the stage or floor, return to center steadily versus nervously pacing back and forth.  You’ll “reel in” your audience each time.

There are certainly more and not every technique works in all circumstances, but I have found that these served me well.   I hope you find the same.