Knock ‘Em Dead Presentations

It’s show time! Give a presentation and you have a chance to produce your own show—write the script, direct and have the leading role. In fact, a good presentation can make you a star. A bad one? Well, it certainly can keep your career or business from getting the applause it deserves.

Good presentations make even complex topics understandable and, yes, enjoyable. At their worst, the audience will only remember a painful time-waster.

Having developed, given and coached hundreds of presentations, it’s fair to say the best have the same elements that make a show great—planning, practice and performance.

The script. Start with the end in mind. Know who will be in your audience and why they are coming. A good script doesn’t have to be complicated, but it should be logical, engaging and meet the expectations of the audience. Even with the most challenging subjects, personal anecdotes will humanize your subject and make your points more memorable.

The theater. Keep the room small enough for you to establish a strong relationship with your group. Get there very, very early to check everything from room temperature (cooler is better) to all the equipment you expect to use. Unless you are confident of your ability to project your voice, plan on a microphone.

The scenery. If making a PowerPoint presentation, the text should be simple, readable and graphically pleasing. Limit the words on the screen to the number you could print on the front of a t-shirt. Use short phrases as both your “cue cards” and reinforcement for your audience. And like any good show, leave the audience wanting more. The most effective presentations keep slides to between 10 to 20 and the presentation under 30 minutes.

Curtain’s Up. This is your show so rehearse, rehearse, rehearse to feel comfortable enough to command the stage. Concerned about the jitters? Don’t stand behind a podium—walk around and establish eye contact with your audience. To cut down on frantic note taking during your presentation, give out copies of the presentation slides or outline before or after you present.

Presentations take time, but when the reviews are in there is no better way to sell your ideas than with a blockbuster presentation.

Break a leg!