7 essential aspects of an electrifying presentation


Preparing for presentations is tough, tedious and time-consuming, and the cardinal rule once you’re in the room is to engage those in your audience—not put them to sleep.

You don’t have to be the next Steve Jobs or Tony Robbins, but a better version of yourself when presenting your hard work, thoughts and ideas.

As a senior account manager and adjunct instructor in digital marketing, I have seen and participated in my share of presentations. It takes practice and experience to know your audience and learn to quickly pivot if things aren’t going well during a presentation.

So, let’s get down to the seven phases of making an effective presentation:

1. Knowing your audience

The most important thing to do before preparing your presentation is to research your audience. Find out what they expect to gain from you. The more you can connect with them, the more engaged they will be.

Your presentation should cater to the background and needs of your audience. For example, if I’m presenting to a group of accountants, I would include hard numbers and objective data. On the other hand, if my audience is a team of creatives, I would include more visual and interactive content.

[RELATED: Join speechwriters for three U.S. presidents in our executive comms and speechwriters conference in Washington, D.C.]

2. Outline

Write an outline telling your story in a clear and concise manner. Each section should flow and tell a story. Think about the outline carefully, as it will become the foundation of your presentation.

For example, if I’m meeting with a client for a business review, my outline flow would consist of past performance, competitor analysis, opportunities and a road map of what’s next.

3. PowerPoint

Here is where things can go horribly wrong. PowerPoint should be used as a guide, not a crutch.

When creating your slides, make sure your graphs and text are easy to view when they’re projected onto a screen. All too often, I can barely read or see what is depicted on a presentation slide because of small type or tiny graphs.

As a rule, keep words to a minimum, especially if you’re showing charts or graphs. Keep in mind that your audience should grasp your slide’s content quickly and easily.

4. Practice

I once was advised to record myself with a video or voice recorder when practicing a presentation. That approach was a game-changer for me, when I realized I speak in a monotone and can sound detached. Now, I make sure to speak loudly and with enthusiasm.

With a video recorder you can also check out your overall demeanor. Considering that 60 to 90 percent of communication is nonverbal, body language is crucial.

5. The pre-game

Before your presentation:

  • Take five minutes for yourself to breathe and adopt some power poses. You want to be relaxed and confident before making a presentation. Your body language will say it all to your audience.
  • Check the equipment to make sure your laptop can project properly and your presentation is being displayed properly.

6. Game time

You’ve spent hours on your outline, on PowerPoint and on practicing; now is the time to shine.

Here are some key suggestions:

  • Start strong and be assertive; make your presence known with a full, resonant voice and confident body language.
  • Starting off with a short story or surprising fact doesn’t hurt.
  • If sitting, sit up straight and use hand gestures.
  • If standing, walk a bit and point at important content on the screen. Doing so will keep your audience engaged, because they will clearly see and hear you.
  • Do not read off your slides. Use PowerPoint as a guide, not a crutch, and never, ever, read word for word off your slides.
  • It’s easy to get off track, so don’t talk too much and keep it to the point. You want to keep them engaged and keep what you’re saying relevant to the topic at hand.
  • Keep your umms to a minimum. I hear those all the time, and they can be maddening.
  • End strong with clear action items and takeaways for the audience. Summarize your main points and the audience’s next steps.

7. Post-game

If the situation requires it, send a quick recap email with a PDF of your presentation to attendees. Include your contact information so they can follow up with questions and feedback.

Creating and delivering an effective presentation will take time and practice, with lots of trial and error. It’s an endeavor that never stops evolving, whether you’re fresh out of college or you’re an experienced professional improving your style.

The key is to make it engaging, relevant and to the point.

A version of this article first appeared on the MarketingProfs website.



Four new effective presentation techniques you can use right now


mark schaefer effective presentation techniques

I recently had the opportunity to observe some great speakers — Mitch Joel, Tom Webster and Laura Fitton and I learned a few things that I am incorporating into my keynote presentation style. I think they’ll help you too.

The black slide

tom wesbter effective presentation techniquesTom Webster did something I had never seen before in a presentation and it was very effective. When he came to a transition point or wanted to punctuate a statement, his slide deck flipped to an all-black slide.

This is a simple idea with big impact. First, there was absolutely no distraction. All eyes were on Tom. This was particularly effective on a large stage where literally the spotlight was on Tom and nothing else. The technique commanded your attention and emphasized the point Tom was making.

I immediately incorporated this idea into my presentations. I use slides as visual prompts and obviously a black slide is not a good visual prompt … so you really have to know your material before you use this technique.

There were a couple slides in my deck that had important messages but I thought the slides were too busy … so I’m going all-black on these.

Simple words

mitch joel effective presentation techniquesHere is one thing I learned from many years on the stage — something ALWAYS goes wrong. So I’ve tried to create either a buffer or work-around for anything I can think of that would jeopardize my talk.

At a recent conference, the lighting in the auditorium was funky. The stage lights were so bright and the projector was so weak that it was difficult to see many presentation slides, especially if they had small type or a thin font.

The only presenter who overcame this was Mitch Joel because most of his slides only had a few words in a bold, white font on a black background. Your slides should not be too busy any way, but it was easy to see that Mitch’s slides would show up well in almost any circumstances.

When slides are too busy, the audience is trying to read your lides instead of listen to you — an added bonus of the Mitch Joel keep it simple school of presenting.

Timely theme

laura fitton effective presentation techniquesIf you have the speaking slot before lunch or at the end of the day, you’re going to need something extra to connect with people and hold their attention.

Laura Fitton was up to the task when she created a Halloween-themed presentation for the very difficult right-before-lunch slot.

When she was introduced, a loud witch cackle thundered from the balcony. There was Laura, dressed in a witch costume. Her entire presentation was filled with zombies and ghouls, which added that spark of entertainment to push people through to the break.

I also saw this done recently when a presenter dressed like Doc Brown to pull off a “Back to the Future” theme.

Feed the tweeters

mark schaefer effective presentation techniquesI spoke at the same conference and “led the league” in Twitter mentions during the two-day event. Was it because my presentation was the best? Was it because my topic was the most conversational? Or was it because I made it easy for people to tweet me?

At nearly every conference, I want to tweet the best content but may have no idea what the Twitter handle is for the presenter. Sometimes I might look for it, but most of the time I just give up. Would conference attendees know that Tom Webster is @webby2001 or Laura Fitton is @pistachio?  How many people would know I have a “w” in my Twitter handle — @markwschaefer.

To make it easier for my content to spread, I have the conference hashtag and my Twitter handle at the bottom of many of my slides as a “footer.” It’s just a nice courtesy to help the most active tweeters remember who you are.

I hope these little ideas will have a big impact on your presentations, too!

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