How to improve your presentation skills

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

How many times in a year do you present to a group of busy executives. Far too often?

Whether you are pitching an idea to your manager, trying to win a business deal, or just sharing your story - your presentation skills determine the outcome of each of these scenarios. Presenting your ideas with clarity and sense of purpose takes you far in your career and business.

Often, important business decisions are based on the presentation you deliver for a few minutes. Given the significance of business presentations, ensure to pack a punch in your story line.

This blog summarizes some of the key concepts of effective presentation to help you improve your presentation design and delivery skills.

1. Know your audience. But how?

Let’s say you are meeting an Investor for a funding round. How well you know your investor will shape your messaging and presentation style.

Understand as much as you can - demographics (age, gender, education, background), culture, motivations, hobbies, influencers, etc.

Know-all information about your audience will help you prepare better, present the commonalities and narrate relevant examples.

Here are some useful methods to understand your audience

  1. Send a survey Tools: Google Forms, Survey Monkey, Type Form

  2. Talk to your connections Example: If you are speaking at an event, ask the organizers on what usually works with the audience

  3. Leverage social media Example: If you are presenting to a group of Doctors, then seek feedback from the online community of Doctors about your messaging.

2. Nothing is more impressive than a good story

Some of the most memorable presentations of recent times - whether it’s Steve Jobs ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’ speech at Stanford University in 2015 or Malala Yousafzai Nobel prize speech - have something in common. Powerful and inspirational stories that ties back to the message.

We all love stories - that are new and authentic. Stories are everywhere, look around and look within.

Here are some tips to identify stories worth sharing

  1. Share your personal stories

  2. Look for examples within your company

  3. Share the experiences from your industry

  4. Tell the story of people you know

3. Story line is the backbone of your presentation

Like a good movie, a good story line keeps the audience engaged throughout the presentation. Find your Hero, Villain and Climax.

Remember the famous ‘Mac PC’ launch by Steve Jobs. ‘Microsoft’ was the Villain, ‘Apple’ the Hero and the benefits / change presented as Climax.

Here are some of the popular storylines you may consider for your next presentation.

  1. Problem → Solution → Benefit

  2. Vision → Solution → Benefits

  3. Benefits → Solution → Vision

If you would like further elaboration, do comment on the post - i will revert back with a detailed response.

4. Answer the ‘So What’

While the information you present is important, what makes it complete is when you answer the ‘So What’ question for every piece of information you share. Try answering how the information is relevant to the audience.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, he didn’t talk about it’s processing power, or the storage capacity. He just said ‘1000 songs in your pocket’. Now that’s a perfect ‘So What’.

5. Remember ‘Less is More’

Fewer the amount of information you show, the more likely your audience will remember that information.

‘Less is More’ is not necessarily a design concept, but a frugal messaging strategy that simplifies the messaging structure and the delivery.

Here are few tips to implement ‘Less is More’

  1. Say the information in fewer words (remove unnecessary words) Guy Kawasaki a well-known influence on presentation best practices recommends 10-20-30 principle (10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 words)

  2. Fewer graphic elements Replace long-winding sentences with creative graphics. Use reusable templates available online - Envato and SlideCEO are my favorites.

  3. Fewer images Images are best used when they become part of your story line and the theme. Use powerful, full-screen images that go with your story line.

  4. Fewer colors Three color palettes work best for presentations. Minimize color variations

  5. Fewer fonts San fonts work well from presentations. Limit yourself to one single font family, utmost if it’s absolutely necessary, then use a second option. But not more than that.

6. Best practices that work

Mastering the art of presentation, to build something unique will take time and effort. Here are some short cut techniques that will help you get better, faster.

  1. Keep your copy brief, not more than 3 bullet points

  2. Convert text to diagrams

  3. Use real images, avoid cliparts

  4. Use videos

  5. Not more than 3 colors

  6. Use consistent shapes, font and colors

  7. Convert numbers to charts

  8. Choose the right chart type

7. Get help from a professional presentation design agency like SlideFrogs

A Professional Presentation Design Agency makes a world of difference to your presentation story line and the design.

At SlideFrogs, we work with global companies and leaders, transforming the way they deliver the message.

SlideFrogs bring over 10 years of experience working with global brands across the world. A dedicated team of designers are assigned, who will work closely with you to deliver world-class presentation designs.

8. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Steve Jobs used to rehearse his keynote product launches for at least 3 days in the conference room where he will be presenting.

Rehearsal helps you get comfortable with the story line, messaging and structure, which in-turn makes you confident and well prepared.

9. Don’t joke, or throw those awkward smiles if you are not comfortable

Everyone is different and there is nothing like a perfect recipe for presentation success.

Bring out the true you and use a style that’s comfortable and works for you.

10. Clearly define the call to action

Every presentation you deliver should have a clear purpose and call to action.

When Steve Jobs unveils the new iPhone, the call to action was to go and buy the phone.

Let’s say you are trying to win a new business deal, the final call to action is to close the deal. There are several intermediary actions - solution discussion, pricing negotiation, legal negotiation. Ensure your presentations always end with the next steps with a clear call to action.

11. Share your contact information

Remember the presentation delivery is just a first step from you. Almost all the time the audience will reach out to you with post-presentation queries.

Do share your contact information - social media profiles, email and business contacts - so that it’s easier for someone to get in touch with you.

12. Have enough time for a Q&A

Have enough time for a Q&A. There are varied perspectives that all of us bring to the table. Q&A allows you to gauge the pulse of the audience, and answer follow-up questions they might have.

Hope you found this blog useful. Do share your thoughts and comments!

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