Death by bullet points. At some point in time we’ve all been guilty of this crime.
Now more than ever, our colleagues and our students are demanding presentations that are dynamic, well-designed, and effortlessly executed. When multimedia is as dynamic as it is today, we cannot assume that our boring powerpoint slides will or should keep the attention of our audience. But, why else is this skill set important? Because everyone has a MESSAGE. Think about it, in a semester’s time span you could be sharing your message:
at an upcoming national conference,
at a training for your students or a workshop at your institution,
when presenting a new idea at your department meeting,
or while you’re out to dinner with friends.
We all have an important message we want to share, and yet we have not had the formal training to maximize the potential of presenting our message. Only 7% of professionals (across all industries) that give presentations have had formal training in presentation design. Yet 85% of learning comes from visual stimuli. Meaning, if you are presenting with bad visuals or without visuals you are only being 15% effective. Below are quick rules, resources, and how-to’s to help you take your presentation from good to great.
Rule #1 – DESIGN YOUR SLIDES WITHOUT BULLET POINTS
Imagine I fanned out 20 playing cards in my hand to an audience of 75-100 people. Then, I asked each of you to read them while remembering all 20 in less than 30 seconds, all while I was speaking about the same cards to you. Would everyone be able to see them, let alone memorize all of them? I bet it would be distracting, and you wouldn’t remember more than two cards. Creating slides and filling them up with bullet points or text-heavy content is the exact same thing. Now, what if I held up one card at a time – the King of Hearts – and I told a story about the King and why it’s red? You could visually connect with it and focus on my story because it was the only card. The slide would, in this instance, compliment the story, not compete for the audience’s attention. The audience would have the ability to store it in their memory for future use.
Slide design is the same exact principle. Breakdown your intro, the 3-5 points you want to convey in your presentation and finish with a strong, memorable closing. After you do this, further breakdown your message for each of these areas while correlating one word, phrase, or image that can drive your point home. This three-page guide from my Rethink Your NextTalk workshop will give you resources, books and 5 slide design tips that can be used in both Keynote and PPT.
Rule #2 – INVEST IN A PRESENTATION REMOTE
We have all sat through presentations where the presenter stands in the corner of the room or at the podium using their finger to advance to the next slide. Using a presentation remote will solve this problem and allow you to engage with your audience. Here is a list ranging from $15-$60+. I recommend the Targus for about $30 and if you want to spend a little more for features like scrolling and audio controls then invest in this Keyspan by Tripp Lite.
Rule #3 –ORGANIZE IF YOU’RE CO-PRESENTING
Split yourselves on each side of the room and as you each have important points to make walk to the middle or back of the room to keep the audience engaged with you – known as “working the room.” Beforehand, create a spreadsheet: 1st column number down for every slide. Then, put a short title or subject of each slide in the second column and in the third column put the name of the person presenting that slide. Memorize it and color code it. Print it out and put it somewhere visible in case you get lost. Here’s an example from a workshop I co-presented at the Maryland Student Affairs conference.
Rule #4 – DITCH THE NOTECARDS
You can set up a “current slide” and “next slide” that will display in Apple Keynote so ditch relying on the paper, notecards, and the screen behind you. You can even choose to have time remaining – it’s a perfect way to set up a confidence monitor in your room. Here is a great short and detailed version of how to set it up. If allowed, bring your own laptop, get to the room at least 15-30 minutes early and set up your laptop to practice. If you can’t bring your own laptop, be sure to make sure all the content from your slide deck (i.e. videos, fonts, etc) are on your thumb drive or transferred.
Rule #5 – KEEP HANDOUTS UNTIL THE END
If done correctly, your handout will not be your slides because your presentation is a performance and only you can deliver it, deeming your slides useless. However, your handout should include major takeaway points/themes, resources/tips, contact information, etc. Keep it one page front and back. Also, be sure not to “show your cards” before the presentation starts. By this, I mean don’t distribute your handout in the beginning, revealing everything you will talk about – your audience will be disengaged before you even start speaking.
These 5 tips are certainly in-depth and take courage to try, but believe me, it is worth it. Your audience will thank you and you will be a step above of everyone else. I have seen several colleagues and students pick up on these rules and deliver effective presentations in no time.
Do you practice any of these rules already?