10 dos and don’ts for creating a great presentation

27th, Jan 2015

conference photoIn the last few weeks, I’ve attended several seminars with lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors as speakers. Most of the time, they presented a PowerPoint or gave handouts to go along with their program. Unfortunately, too often they didn’t make the most of those written materials – a lost opportunity considering that in-person events are one of the most effective marketing tactics available. (Source: CMI) With those seminars fresh in my mind, here’s my list of 10 dos and don’ts.

1. Don’t bury your best points. Often I see great information lost within a lot of content that is of less interest. Not everything you say is created equally, at least so far as your audience is concerned. Therefore, you shouldn’t put equal emphasis on all your ideas in your written (or spoken) materials either. The real problem here is not being sure what you want to say and how to say it. Make sure you understand your audience’s interests and your message. Organize your thoughts and focus on delivering and highlighting your strongest points in your presentation.

2. Don’t go into too much detail in writing. Your slides don’t need to restate everything you want to discuss. You want this to be an outline and your speech will fill in the blanks. Remember too that if you have a lot of text, your audience may be reading it instead of listening to you. Or else they may feel they don’t need to listen to you because they’re getting all the pertinent information in the written presentation and they can read it later.

3. Do leave them wanting more. In many ways, this is the flip side of writing too much, but also brings in the point that you want to engage your audience. You don’t want to answer every question in your presentation. You want to start a conversation. Give attendees reasons to ask questions or make comments during or after the program. You also want to let the audience know how to follow up with you and about where they can look for additional resources, including your own site. This is a great way to bring people to you and drive traffic to your website.

4. Don’t clutter up your slides visually with too much text or images on a page. I know if you are doing a lengthy program, the tendency is to want to put a lot on a page to make the PowerPoint fewer pages, but it’s better to add pages. There is plenty of advice online about fonts, line spacing, number of words per page, etc. Feel free to google it and find what looks best for your presentation. You can also go to SlideShare and look at what other people/companies are doing in your field.

5. Do incorporate charts, infographics, photos and other visuals. Not only will your presentation look more appealing, but it will have more impact. Studies show that 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual.

6. Do use handouts when necessary. One of the events I just attended had dozens of charts and graphs. The speakers showed them onscreen where they were hard to read with lots of detail and explanatory text in small print. Giving everyone a print copy during the program would have helped.

7. Don’t make everything a handout. No one wants to carry all that paper so they’ll just throw it out. Also when you provide handouts, people may focus on reading them instead of paying attention to you. Your materials can always be emailed to attendees afterward.

8. Do check for typos. You should always have someone else proofread it. Few people can actually check their own work well.

9. Do have some fun with it. I know some of these topics can be pretty dry, but try to inject your personality and humor into both the spoken and written materials. It makes it more engaging and memorable for your audience.

10. Do invest time and resources in creating good presentation materials. Too often I think slides are done in a rush. I don’t know if it’s because the importance is underestimated or if the speaker just doesn’t know better. You want it to reflect well on you at the time of the presentation. Just as importantly though, those slides can be repurposed and promoted via different channels to give you additional exposure after the event. The PowerPoint can be posted on your website, on SlideShare, on your LinkedIn profile, emailed to clients and prospects, broken into smaller chunks of content and otherwise reused and distributed. Therefore, if possible, get the help of writers/editors and designers. Ask others for their opinion on your slides.

Remember your written materials are an important part of your whole presentation. They should complement and reinforce your speech. Spend the time to do it right and make the most of it both during and after your presentation.

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