How to Bring Your Presentations to Life
We’ve all been there, worried about creating something awesome you can present live in front of stakeholders and peers.
PowerPoint and Google Slides aren’t things you should be afraid of. They’re powerful tools you can use to deliver your messages more effectively. All you need to do is master them.
Here’s how to give a presentation with confidence that will wow audiences.
Note: To prevent redundancy, I will use PowerPoint and Google Slides interchangeably in this article.
Cut the text. (All of it.)
Imagine: What if you didn’t include any text on your slides?
Why not pick a few great images as visual aids that tell your story instead? You’ll end up with a great-looking presentation that your audience will engage with. That’s because humans are visual creatures. They like to look at pictures more than to read words. Plus, your audience will be more likely to pay attention to you and what you’re saying because they won’t be looking at words on a slide projected behind your back or on their computer screen.
Quotes from famous people are powerful, and people remember them. It’s why it can be a good idea to incorporate them into your PowerPoint. Don’t base your entire presentation on them. Instead, punctuate your speech with quotes to highlight key points. Find quotations from famous people that support your claims. It makes it seem like an important person endorses what you have to say.
Speak Don’t Read
Never read off your slides or a script. It will make you seem stilted or disconnected or that you don’t know your stuff. Instead, use notes or an outline to keep you on track of where you are in your presentation. Present your ideas in a free-flowing conversational style and with passion. Demonstrate to your audience that you know your subject matter and honestly believe in what you’re saying. PowerPoint slides are simply there to complement what you’re talking about.
Consider the Context
Are you giving your presentation in a large auditorium, small conference room, or ZOOM call? The answer will impact how you design your slides. What’s effective in a big space may be completely unintelligible on a smartphone or laptop screen.
Add Some Stats
Statistics are inarguable proof that what you’re saying is true. It’s why it’s a great idea to include them in presentations. Keep your numbers simple and easy to understand. Only show essential information that helps support the points you’re making. Present numbers in charts, graphs, or tables. There is no more powerful way to demonstrate that 90 percent is enormous than showing it in a pie chart.
Stop Every Now and Then
You may be tempted to race through your presentation to get out of there.
The truth: Carefully placed pauses can be powerful ways to make a point.
Find moments in your presentation when you reveal key points or significant insights.
Let people in your audience take it in. It can sometimes take a few seconds for information to register in people’s brains and sink in. It will make it more likely that the people in your audience will remember your presentation. After all your effort, you don’t want it to be another PowerPoint that’s forgotten as soon as it’s over.
Templates Are a Good Thing
Unless you’re a graphic artist, you probably don’t know how to design great PowerPoint slides. Of course, there’s no shame in that.
Thankfully, there are professionals that create templates for the non-artists among us. Select one of the basic options that come with PowerPoint or Google Slides, one of the myriad choices available online, or one created by your company. If you decide to go with a pre-made template, update the colors or make subtle tweaks to it, so it’s unique to you. Never mix different templates. Consistency is important. Shifting templates will confuse the people in your audience, taking their focus off you and all the great stuff you’re saying.
Remember: Paragraphs Are Bad
Any type of long-form text on a Google Slides slide is just plain wrong. People will struggle to hear what you’re saying because they’re reading the long text in your slides. When it comes to words in a presentation, their quality wins out over the quantity every time. You may be tempted to use complete sentences or paragraphs to explain your ideas. It will do your presentation more harm than good. It takes the focus off what you’re saying, which will confuse people. Only include the short key points per slide that support and reinforce what you’re saying.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
When it comes to delivering presentations, never wing it, even if you’re a seasoned professional.
Always take time to rehearse. Record your presentation on your smartphone or another device. Of course, it can be painful to watch yourself deliver a speech, but it’s essential to do so. It will help you figure out whether you’re leaving out any critical parts, if the sequencing and storytelling make sense, and if you have any odd quirks in your delivery that could distract your audience. Rehearsal time allows you to smooth out your presentation and get things right. The awkwardness of watching yourself rehearse will pay off when you give a much better delivery.
While you’re at it, think through what you would do if something went wrong during your speech. What would happen if:
Your computer broke down, and you couldn’t use it?
The room is smaller and more crowded than you expected?
You lose your notes or forget a section of your presentation?
This exercise isn’t meant to frighten you. It’s to help you plan for any eventualities, so you’re prepared. The worst time to plan for a crisis is when you’re having one.
It’s easy to lose control when speaking in public. However, you always have to keep your cool. Don’t let yourself speed up or pause for extended periods. You don’t want to lose the attention of the people in your audience, have them become bored, or doubt your confidence. To prevent this, try to keep things as natural as possible. Speak using the same rhythm and tone you usually do every day.
If you find yourself presenting and losing control over your speaking patterns, stop for a second, take a deep breath, drink some water, then get started again. The people you’re speaking to have likely been in your position and will appreciate the value of taking a pause so you can return to your normal speaking pace.
Remember: PowerPoint Is a Good Thing
There is no reason to be afraid of PowerPoint (or Google Slides). It’s actually a good thing.
The issue is that you need to control it and not let it control you. You owe it to yourself to learn as much as you can about it. The greater your knowledge of PowerPoint, the more confident you will feel that you can build an effective presentation.
Read articles and blog posts about PowerPoint functionality, navigation, design, and other useful tips. Watch tutorials on YouTube. The more you know, the less insecure you’ll feel about developing slides and delivering them in public.
Don’t end your presentation at the end of your presentation.
You’re likely giving a talk to get a group of people to take action. Use the end of your presentation as the beginning of an ongoing conversation. Send out a follow-up email to attendees thanking them and suggesting next steps. Include a link to a website developed exclusively for the event. Do whatever it takes to ensure you stay in touch with the people in your audience, so they either do business with you, learn more, get involved in your cause, or do anything else you want them to do.
In the end, PowerPoint and Google Slides can’t master you. You must master them. They’re great tools that allow you to deliver messages in the most powerful way possible.