I’m that student affairs professional who attended conferences, who loved to attend programs, with my pencil and paper ready. I loved pouring over the choices like I was in some fancy French restaurant.
But I can’t tell you how many presentations from very educated and intelligent people bored me to tears. Their message got buried in Powerpoint templates and horrible visualizations. They resembled the fourth grader reading a sad report on “What I Did Last Summer.”
No matter your information, if your execution is poor—we won’t engage or learn.
So let’s learn how to give a presentation that blows people away, leaves them staggering out the door with your awesomeness.
When people think about creating a Powerpoint presentation, they usually just fire up ol’ Powerpoint and start picking a template. Ooooh, this orange looks good. Maybe this purple? No….here…..GREEN.
This is a rookie move.
Before you even touch your computer, decide on what you want your audience to know when its over. You want to decide what you want your audience to learn. Essentially you are working backwards—constructing your presentation around your goal.
For example, I spoke at ACUHO-I on Why Every Campus Should Have a Geek Week.
- There are geeks on their campus.
- The poor geeks didn’t know each other and couldn’t build community or make friends.
- There were not many programs for them.
- Here are programs for them.
- This helps them know each other!
- Here’s the proof.
- Here’s how to design a week.
With this outline, I could build the slidedeck knowing what was paramount. Your slide deck should be about 20-30 slides (2-3 minutes per slide.) I error on the side of more.
Slide Design: Does how my slides look matter?
Yes, it matters. You wouldn’t stay at a hotel where the beds weren’t made when you walked in. We won’t enjoy your presentation if it doesn’t look good.
And bullets don’t look good!
Use images to make your point on every slide. Use creative common photos or take your own and include those. Which looks better and gets the audience’s attention above?
So I should just go through each slide and talk about them?
No. By all that is red and white (Illinois State University colors, go Redbirds!) do not just read your slides. In fact, don’t read them at all. Tell me about them. Use a slide. Make it the punchline of your joke. But don’t read your slides to us. Trust us, we can read.
Um, so what should I do?
You know what I like? Tell me a story. Tell me a story about your program or your idea. Give me the human aspect of what you are talking about. I don’t care if you are talking about low flow toilets—there has to be a story in there. Did you get more programming money? Tell me how to do it. Tell me how this impacted a student. You can even tell me how you screwed something up.
If I don’t know how this directly impacts staff or students, long or short term, then I’m bored. Are there more snacks? What time is lunch? Have you seen Cabin in the Woods? No one wants that.
What other tips you have?
iTunes: Have music playing when people walk in. Something upbeat or mellow depending on your topic. Not so loud that we can’t discuss or talk about how what’s for lunch.
Rookie Move: Do not hand out materials at the beginning of your session unless we are going to write on the pages during the presentation as an activity. If you hand me something and it is your presentation just written down, I’ll read that and not listen to you. You’re great and all, but that’s how it works. Do not print your powerpoint and give it to me. It is a waste of paper and you can email it to me. If you give me a stack of papers to carry around for 7 hours, I will loathe you forever.
Sign in sheet of pure magic: Have a sign in sheet that says: “For more information that I find on the way, please write down your name, position and email! Thanks!” I will email them that night and thank them for attending my presentation and have more information to give them. (If you are adept at Mailchimp, you can have this ready to go.)
Offer your contact information for them to follow up. It can be the last slide, but your card on each seat helps too.
Have unique little trinkets to give away. At my geek week presentation, I gave away 20 sided dice. Everyone who attended also got a badge on their name-tag that said, “I leveled up.”
Create postcards. If someone cannot attend your session, have a postcard that has all the information, links and how s/he can attend the session.
Saddle up: Make sure you practice your presentation. Try it in front of your staff. Offer it at your campus and get feedback before the conference..
Have a theme: All the images in my “A Live-in’s Guide to Finances” had an umbrella or rain in each picture to show what debt feels like. That’s a little Presentation 301, but it’s easy to do.
Write an interesting description: Not only describe your program, but include what the participants will walk away with: Attendees will receive not only a way to implement Geek Week immediately on their campus, but a CD with all the advertisements ready to go. OH SWEET CANDY!! I have to attend that! Create a sense of “you will miss out!” and people will fill the seats.
Greet me at the door: I know you are setting up, but don’t just stand there and fidget while we are coming in. Say hello! Be friendly! I know you’re nervous, but talking and engaging us makes you less nervous.
Having great presentation skills quickly builds you the reputation that you are professional, passionate and creative. Presentation skills are the foundation for any thought, idea, theory or experience you want to communicate.