Giving the perfect presentation is about a lot more than what you’re presenting. The way you deliver your message needs to be compelling, persuasive and, in some cases, inspiring. It’s not easy and you will need to practice and hone your skills.
Whether you’re presenting to an audience of 500 in a theatre, 10 people in a boardroom, or a collection of faces over Zoom, the way you present should be the same. Here’s our guide on how to give the perfect presentation every time. We’ve also put this advice into a handy downloadable presentation skills checklist.
We all know the Benjamin Franklin adage ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail’, but it’s extremely relevant when it comes to ensuring you have the perfect presentation. Before you even start writing the content, make sure you confirm:
- The date and time
- The length you have to present
- Whether there will be added time for questions
- How many people will be attending
- The equipment you will have access to
In addition, find out what you can about your audience. Are they experts in their field, new to the industry, company directors, or apprentices? This will help you to focus the content on what the audience needs and wants to know.
Are you announcing a new piece of research, pitching for a new contract, or presenting as part of a recruitment process? At the start, decide on what your core message will be and what you want your audience to take away from your presentation. In the marketing industry, research has proven that a message needs to be heard seven times before its ingested – it’s known as the ‘rule of 7’ – so ensure you run your key notes throughout your presentation.
As a general rule, your presentation should:
- Have a readable font and size
- Have images to break up text
- Include stand out points you want your audience to remember
To get the presentation off to a great start, begin strongly and get to the point. Unless you are incredibly famous or have lived the most extraordinary life, talking about yourself for the first five minutes will bore your audience. Open with an anecdote, interesting fact, or even a joke if the topic allows for it, to make your audience instantly engaged with you. Achieving a good first reaction will do wonders for your nerves.
To ensure you keep that engagement, take your audience on journey. Plan your presentation to follow a story and have a beginning, middle and an end. Don’t load all the information at the start, but spread it out so your audience is keen to hear how you arrived at your final destination.
As Michael Jordan once said: “Being nervous isn’t bad. It just means something important is happening.” No matter how much someone has been in the spotlight, or how many presentations they have given, you can guarantee they will have experienced nerves.
To help combat any concerns, remember you are giving this presentation because you know what you’re talking about!
The way you hold yourself and interact with your audience will also help you to remain calm, or at least show you have nerves under control. It sounds simple, but smile and make eye-contact, as this will not only allow you to connect, but if you have a large audience, it will help with the nerves by allowing you to focus on one person at a time.
The way you talk is also important. When we have conversations we speak fast, but to achieve the perfect presentation, slow down and change the pitch and tone of your voice depending on which part of your presentation you are at. For example, you can be more excitable if speaking about something brand new, then more placid for a serious subject.
Always rehearse, but not so much that your presentation becomes monotonous, as you want to ensure you can still respond to audience reactions.
Self-evaluate yourself so you can give an even better presentation next time. Was there something that didn’t get the reaction you expected? Were there some surprising questions?
To round-off the job to perfection, follow-up with your audience by distributing a PDF or link to your presentation, answering any additional questions and gathering anonymous feedback.