17 presentation tips I wish I’d known years ago
Many great ideas have died a death from being badly presented to the people that matter. To make sure you don’t fall at that last hurdle, we asked Byron Wijayawardena – a former presenter and evangelist at Apple – to share some of his wisdom, honed from presenting on behalf of Apple for over 11 years.
Presentations are still the most important form of mass communication around. Unfortunately, we don’t all get the chance to go on expensive presentation training courses to channel our inner TED talk.
It’s important to understand that all we need is to simply get the audience to completely understand ONE idea. When I started doing presentations I had no idea!
No one had ever shown me how to do a good presentation. I watched and learnt from others, tried to copy styles and be just like the people I admired.
Then I had some presentation training and it was invaluable because you actually got to spend some time thinking, observing and reflecting on your presentation style. You got to present in front of your peers and learn the most effective way to present your work in a style that suits you. Not every style suits every person.
Here are some of the most important things I wish I’d known at the start
1. Share ONE idea
Add examples and context but always go back to your one idea, your key message. The more you repeat, the more people will remember.
2. Connect with your audience
Tell a personal story or anecdote to engage with the emotion of the audience. Use analogies, metaphors, and humour but use it wisely. Your sense of humour may not go down well with everyone but a good story well told will.
3. Start with the big picture
From the start tell your audience what you are going to tell them, then tell them. It is often easier to persuade people when they see the end in sight. This is the big picture. Once they have this, you can focus-in on the details.
4. Break your big idea down
Split your idea into small digestible pieces and build it up piece by piece using language everyone can understand. Your goal is to construct your idea in someone else’s brain so they understand it as well as you do.
5. Use metaphors and analogies
This will help people from all different backgrounds understand what you are talking about. Limit the information. Remember, a confused mind always says ‘no’.
A computer is like a bicycle for the brain = Analogy
Life is a rollercoaster = Metaphor
A metaphor is literally false, while an analogy is literally true.
6. Show your audience different points of view
Then show them what you recommend and why.
Showing your audience different points of views builds trust and shows you are not doing this for personal gain like a salesperson would.
7. Make sure your one idea benefits the audience
People don’t really care what benefits yourself or your company.
Ideas that resonate have to be bigger than yourself.
8. Use stories and data in a way everyone can understand
Put the information in context. Use simple language and images everyone can get.
Stories are the way our brain retains and makes sense of information, so learn to tell a good, memorable story.
Turn data into something that is relevant and meaningful and people are more likely to get it and remember it.
9. Avoid complex terms
Think about your audience. Who are they? What age range? hat do they do?
Use language everyone will understand – conversational language.
10. Skip the clip art
Clipart is not very memorable and is too often used unnecessarily to give a slightly comic effect. It all looks the same and makes you look like you’ve taken the easy way out.
Only show a picture if you need something memorable to stick in people’s heads or if an image is better than an explanation you can give.
11. Don’t read out loud from the slides
How many times have you seen this? People who put up slides then read them to you as if you are illiterate?
It’s lazy and it looks like you didn’t learn your presentation.
A presentation is not a teleprompter or a report.
12. Avoid business jargon
Your audience may be from another industry or not used to internal corporate or industry speak. So it is always better to use conversational language which everyone can understand without all the buzzwords.
Before the big day, do your presentation out loud in front of a colleague or friend and welcome honest feedback. The more you rehearse, the more confident you become, the more natural it feels and the more relaxed you’ll be.
14. Make your idea memorable and shareable
People share stories and remember images rather than words. Ideas are a map for our thoughts and stories are the operating system by which we communicate.
You have to make your presentation memorable and give people something that will stick in their heads.
Do whatever it takes, dare to be different!
15. Consider not using slides
Look at the best speeches throughout history and you will see they were accomplished without slides.
Use slides ONLY when you want to show an example or proof of what you are talking about. That’s it!
Remember that people recall very little about a presentation so only give them what you need them to remember.
16. Keep the design simple
Use a powerful image . Imagine an advertising billboard. When you are driving past it, an advert has to give you all the information quickly. If not, you might get distracted and crash.
Your images need to be ‘glance media’ – powerful and to the point with little or no text.
17. Avoid animation or clever transitions or builds
You want the focus to be on you and your message and not the slides. Animations are great but they often suck the life out of presentations when the builds take too long.
People are not interested in your Keynote, PowerPoint or Prezi skills. They care about what you have to say, so say it!
There you have it; 20 years of experience, good and bad, wrapped up into a few simple key points.
If you are just starting out and presentations are going to play a major role in your career, I’d advise you to get some training. Either get your company to arrange it or attend a seminar or workshop off your own back.
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