P r e s e n t a t e
Using Presentate to
give better presentations
This brief presentation will go over the basic principles behind every presentation, and teach you a foundation of knowledge and skill to write and create better talks, and become a better presenter.
A talk is three things
2. Story 3. Presentation
Almost any presentation can be broken up into three elements: the slides or materials with which the presenter makes her points; the story or information that she shares with her audience, and the presentation of that story. By the latter, we’re talking about presentation meaning the act of presenting, and how the presenter does the job.
Giving a great talk requires, at the very least, mastering the second and third elements, and if you use slides, mastering that aspect, too.
When creating and giving a talk, the one thing you want to avoid is the infamous “Death by PowerPoint” syndrome. You are no doubt familiar with it as an audience member, perhaps even as a speaker. So how do we combat this phenomenon? I would say “simple, we just do X!” but of course, it is not simple—if it were, we wouldn’t be seeing people tweet that hashtag on a regular basis still today, 25 years since PowerPoint came to market.
We need to make a great presentation, and doing so requires knowledge, the right tools, and practice.
A lot of people list public speaking as one of their worst fears. Scott Berkun breaks down where this fear comes from in his excellent book
. We won’t go into that right now, but what’s important is to think of public speaking not as a scary thing, but an exciting performance art of sorts. Because whether you’re presenting information at a conference or meeting, pitching to investors, or giving a workshop in an informal setting, you’re giving a performance—and the audience is on your side. Your audience Confessions of a Public Speaker wants you to succeed.
Your slides are not your presentation
Of the three elements to a presentation, slides are the least important—after all, you can give a compelling talk without showing a single slide. Yet when most people start on a presentation, they focus all their energy and effort on their slides. Rather than use them as a supplement, they use their slides as a crutch to carry their presentation, which is one of the many contributing factors to the infamous “Death by PowerPoint.”
The key element of your presentation is the story you’re telling; your slides are a communication channel for that story, not the product itself.
If you are going to use slides, know this: research has shown that people stop listening to the presenter entirely when they read text on a slide for more than five seconds. Keeping text out of your slides is therefore not just a matter of clean slides; it’s a matter of effectiveness.
One of the most common refrains in design these days is “make it simple.” But simple is not the most important thing in slide design: clarity is. And you get clarity by using limited amounts of text, and visuals that aid your point, but which do not overtake the attention of your audience.
Presentate helps you make better slides and overcome the pitfalls through a couple of features. First, the interface enforces a much larger minimum font size for text in slides, making it all but impossible to put more than five seconds worth of reading material in there. Secondly, having the narrative to go along with your slide means you write and create your presentation in a structured document format; this helps you focus on your content, not just your slides.
Know the story that you’re telling
There is nothing as disengaging for an audience as seeing a presenter basically just read text out loud, whether it’s the text on their slides or a document on their lectern. It is understandable that you might want to phrase things precisely, but the narrative in your shared experience is more suited for that.
You need to know what story you’re telling, and you need to be able to tell it even without your slides. Again: slides are a supplement, they are not the product of your presentation. You don’t have to script your entire presentation and follow it to the letter, but knowing your story is important, and will save your presentation in case of technical problems.
Know who you’re presenting to. If you’re pitching to investors, do research on them beforehand to find out what they’re most interested in and excited by. If you’re giving a technical talk at a conference, find out the average level of expertise of your audience.
You may not need to tailor your slides to each audience, but this knowledge will allow you to tailor the story that you’re telling to different audiences accordingly.
Knowing the story you’re telling is one thing; knowing your content accurately is another. It’s the details that make the difference. Memorize the most important points, facts, statistics and whatever else is key to your presentation, so that you can build towards them in a befitting crescendo.
How you present yourself matters.
There are many ways to present information to an audience. The best way is to be engaged, welcoming, friendly and energetic. You should come across like you are happy and excited to be in front of your audience; outward confidence is great, even if you’re faking it on the inside.
One of the worst things you can do that’ll lose your audience’s attention is being visibly disinterested about presenting. The stress and pressure may be high, especially if you’re not yet very comfortable speaking in front of an audience, but try your hardest to not let those emotions show. Being uncomfortable is fine—the audience will be able to relate to that—as long as it shows that you’re trying.
You’re there to inform the audience of something, and you want them to get excited about it. Let that excitement show through in how you present.
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Jun 6, 2013,
Last updated: Oct 10, 2014
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