20 Tips for Delivering a Successful Presentation
Have you been asked to speak or deliver a presentation at an upcoming event? Do you always want to be prepared when someone asks you to say a few words? The most experienced speakers use a checklist as they prepare to write and deliver their presentations.
Whether your presentation is 2 minutes or 2 hours, I have found that these 20 tips help me to prepare and deliver successful presentations to any audience, every time.
Preparing Your Presentation
1. Prepare with your audience in mind. It is not what you want to say. Rather, focus on what you want your audience to do when you finish your presentation. What action do you want them to take? What key point do you want them to remember?
2. Begin your presentation with the end in mind. Think BLOT, or bottom line on top. What is the one thing you want your audience to do? Begin with what it is and why it matters to your audience.
3. Use the classic model to structure your presentation.
• Tell your audience what you are going to tell them.
• Tell them. This is the body of your presentation.
• Tell them what you just told them—your summary, your call to action, the one thing you want them to remember.
4. Prepare by writing your presentation. We naturally speak at the rate of 150 words per minute (WPM). So 20 minutes multiplied by 150 WPM equals 3,000 words. Using this as a guideline, edit your presentation to fit your time allotment. Remember: not too much, not too little—just the right amount of content.
Delivering Your Presentation
5. Memorize two sections of your presentation, your opening 30 seconds (you never get a second chance to make a positive first impression) and your closing 30 seconds (audiences remember best what they heard last).
6. Communicate and confirm your equipment needs in advance. Prepare a checklist and confirm in writing what you will be bringing and what the event coordinator will be supplying. This is especially important when you're planning to use a projector, laptop, etc. Make it a point to meet with the audio/visual crew as soon as you arrive onsite. Treat them as professionals.
7. Get comfortable with the physical setting. If at all possible, attend a prior presentation in the room where you'll be speaking. This gives you the opportunity to experience what your audience will be seeing and hearing during your presentation. Make arrangements to run through part of you presentation onstage. Communicate with the event organizer, and detail any changes that need to be made in the seating arrangement, lighting and audio systems.
8. Your audience will tune in and tune out during your presentation. Audiences listen at a rate of 450–600 WPM. Audiences are always tuned into "what's in it for me." They make snap decisions to pay attention when they think what you are saying applies to them. They tune out when they decide that it does not.
9. Remember the power of the pause. Plan several 3- to 4-second strategic pauses. These give you a chance to breathe and collect your thoughts. Pauses also give your audience a chance to absorb what you've said. Strategic pauses add significance to what you say next.
10. Maintain eye contact with your audience. Find a few friendly faces, and occasionally make eye contact with them. This will build your self-confidence. However, make sure that you make eye contact with each of the five audience zones: front, back, left, right and middle.
11. Pace your presentation. Respect the time commitments of your audience. Practice delivering your presentation aloud. Time your presentation during your practice sessions. Take note of the mid-point mark and the final 5-minute mark. Place a digital clock with a large screen on the floor during your presentation. Do not look at your wristwatch. Your audience will notice this, and many of them will begin to tune out or prepare to leave.
Creating PowerPoint Slides
12. You are the presentation. Your audience came to hear what you have to say and share about your topic. They did not come to watch your PowerPoint slides and videos.
13. Do not write complete sentences on your slides. If you do, it's almost impossible for you not to read them—usually with your back to your audience. Do not insult your audience's intelligence. Remember that they can read your slides three to four times faster than you can say what's on them.
14. Take advantage of white space. Let your slides breathe! Never use a font size that's less than 30 points. Audiences don't read—they scan. Don't add bullet points. Make sure that each slide makes one point.
15. Choose appropriate visual images. A picture is worth 1,000 words—when it reinforces your message. Allow your audience to absorb your images for approximately 3 to 4 seconds before you comment on them.
Engaging Your Audience
16. Phrases to avoid:
• "If I had more time, I would ..."
• "I only have 20 minutes, so I am going to rush through …"
• Saying, "And finally ..." 10 minutes before you actually end your presentation.
• "This is my first time ..."
17. Phrases to substitute:
• "I am going to focus on three key points."
• "I have prepared additional material on this topic, and here is how you can obtain it."
• "In closing, here is what I want you to remember, do, etc."
• "I was invited to speak to you because ..."
18. Encourage audience questions. Anticipate questions as you prepare your presentation, and prepare answers. Practice speaking your answers aloud! Be prepared to initiate questions by saying, "The question that most people have about ..." Always end your presentation by restating what you want your audience to remember or do next.
19. Audiences remember stories—and forget or get confused by too many numbers and statistics. Don't say "78.9 percent of customers." Rather, say "four out of five customers." Use relevant numbers, but make these numbers memorable by including a story about a real customer who's representative of that number. Statistics tend to be forgotten or confusing. Well-told, relevant stories are remembered and get retold—to other customers. Pick good stories, and practice telling them.
20. Visualize your successful presentation. Successful athletes and business leaders always take a minute to visualize completing a successful completion before they speak, tee off or swing the bat. Visualize your audience applauding your presentation. This will focus your energy and your thoughts, build your confidence, and ensure that you and your audience have a satisfying and successful experience.