What Makes a Good Presentation
A successful presentation helps engage your audience in the subject matter and convey your message correctly. With the proper presentation skills, your talk can improve from nervous speech to confident conversation. As a general rule, it’s important to consider each step of your presentation preparation carefully before finalizing your speech. Here are ten presentation tips to keep in mind.
10 Tips for Giving Effective Presentations
When giving an engaging presentation, you’ll want to provide your audience with the key points they need to understand your message and keep their attention throughout the speech. Whether you plan to use bullet points, notes or memorization, it is a good idea to go over the most helpful presentation tips to ensure you know exactly what you want to include in your talk.
1. Tell Stories
One of the best ways to engage the audience in your presentation is to tell a story. Sharing your personal events and thoughts can increase your relatability while allowing the audience to feel connected to your story and comfortable in your presence. Making the audience comfortable can also increase your confidence on stage, as the audience interacts and engages in your story and presence.
Stories are one of the main reasons that audience members pay attention to speeches or talks. Without them, the audience might become bored or start to drift away. A conversational, story-like speech means the audience is more likely to be interested in what you have to say and even remember some of your key points.
To tell a story within a speech, it’s a good rule of thumb to begin your presentation with a story or act like the speech is a story itself. Think about what you want to tell the audience and ensure your presentation contains those elements. There are two ways to focus on storytelling mechanics within your speech — focus on characters or find the changing dynamic of your story.
When focusing on characters, your presentation becomes like a narrative. While people are full of stories, objects and things are not. Keep this in mind when trying to focus your speech on what people are directly involved in the topic or message of your presentation.
When focusing on the changing dynamic of your speech’s storyline, you’ll want to find the elements of your story that change throughout the presentation. Think about what areas of the story are not yet resolved and answer with your current plan for change in your speech.
2. Smile and Make Eye Contact
Smiling and making eye contact throughout your speech are one of the best ways to create a good presentation. Eye contact creates a great connection with your audience by making the space feel more conversational and intimate. As a presenter, you want the audience to pay attention during your speech. One of the best ways to do that is to engage with them through smiles and positive facial expressions.
An expressive presentation builds rapport with the audience and helps you feel less nervous on stage. Realize that you’re talking to individuals rather than a massive audience without faces. If you can, request that the lights be kept on during the speech so you can intentionally make eye contact and let people see your face. It’s helpful if the audience can connect with your expressions while also paying attention to your slides or notes.
3. Stage Presence
Stage presence and body language are critical areas to practice before your presentation. Some expressions and mannerisms to avoid include the following:
- Crossing arms: You may seem closed off and unapproachable. Keep your arms at your sides, or use them with hand gestures to create an open and authentic feeling.
- Pacing: While some presenters may be able to pace and maintain audience engagement, their pacing may become too fast or distracting for some.
- Unapproachable face: Try to keep a positive expression or smile on your face at all times. While you don’t want to force your expressions, you don’t want to seem tired of your subject matter either.
- Bored expression: A presenter who seems bored with their message may bore the audience. You want to be passionate about your topic and create that passion in the audience.
- Swaying: Swaying your body back and forth is another sign of nervousness that you should try to replace with hand gestures and a confident stance.
- Shifting weight: Some shift their weight from foot to foot or hip to hip. Whatever you do, try to stand still with both feet apart. Centering your body weight helps you feel more confident and sure on your feet.
Many nervous presenters move their bodies during speeches to cope with the tension. However, this can be distracting. Try to relax and keep your waist and legs motionless. This will improve your overall stage presence and stop you from pacing or swaying too much.
It’s also good to stand still and let your hands do the talking. Try to make eye contact with specific audience members who seem engaged and keep them in mind when presenting. You can also quell nervousness by sitting in the audience and watching other presenters before it’s your turn. Keep your mind engaged and distracted while focusing on the topics at hand.
The most important part of a good speech is the connection you build with your audience. After all, you are the reason they are there. Make sure you let your passion for your presentation topic shine through everything else, even if you are nervous. By shifting your focus to your topic and why it matters to you, you can better come across as authentic and enthusiastic in your speech.
4. Focus on the Beginning
When preparing the content of your presentation, one of your focus points should be the beginning of the speech. The beginning draws in your audience and starts the presentation on a solid note. A great start ensures your audience connects with your topic and the entire presentation is well-received, making the beginning few slides or parts of your speech the most important.
To write or create a great beginning, consider what you need to include to grab the audience’s attention. Spend the first few minutes of your presentation holding their attention with a story, a quote, visual aids on a slide, audience interactions or an interesting anecdote.
5. Plan the Delivery
Next, you’ll want to plan how to deliver and convey the information in your presentation. Consider what would be appropriate to include and what form best suits your topic and message. That may consist of a PowerPoint, an online presentation from Zoom or a teleprompter.
Consider memorizing your notes or planning an audience activity you plan to use. You’ll also want to focus on your key phrases, points and messages and communicate those briefly throughout the piece. By keeping the core of your message brief, you can ensure the audience remains engaged throughout the presentation and remembers your points well.
There are three common ways to deliver a presentation. These include the following:
- Reading: Read your speech directly from a paper script or a teleprompter.
- Bullet points: Create bullet points to map out what topics you want to discuss in your presentation.
- Memorization: Memorize your entire speech or presentation.
However, you also have to be realistic. While it may be the best practice to memorize your speech, that might not always be possible. If so, try using bullet points on note cards or a ready-made script to glance at should you need to jog your memory. Remember to keep your tone conversational rather than authoritative, powerful or too passionate.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice
One of the essential parts of presentation preparation is practice. It is no secret that practice makes perfect. If you’ve written up or prepared your speech, you’ll need to practice continually until you know your presentation inside and out.
First, you’ll want to find an excellent spot to practice on your own or in front of a friend. Pick a quiet place without interruptions so you can fully concentrate on each part of your speech. Try practicing in front of the bathroom mirror or grabbing your spouse, partner, family member or friend to practice in front of them.
You’ll also want to practice taking and implementing feedback you receive from friends and family. This can help you improve your speech and gestures leading to the actual presentation. Remember that while you can’t please everyone, you must consider all constructive criticism you receive.
Rehearse your presentation before a colleague or friend and ask them for honest and helpful feedback. You can also time the presentation and use any notes or cue cards you’ll have available to try and see how long it might take you to do the speech. Anticipate questions your audience might have and prepare some responses. Your friends and family might also be able to help you come up with questions you might not be able to answer and think about how to respond to them.
7. Take Time to Breathe
Many presenters may become so nervous during the speech that they forget to relax, pause to breathe and talk slower during the presentation. Remember that taking a short pause is natural during a speech, allowing you to breathe and go slowly. You want to say everything in your speech with intention rather than speeding through it. Concentrate on your breaths and slow down your speech to create a more relaxed stage presence.
Pausing to breathe and focusing on what you have to say next can also help you present better. If you look like you’re enjoying yourself and the topic, the audience will respond to your passion and engage in the presentation. Improve your speech and confidence by breathing slowly and presenting with passion and excitement. Remember your reasons for doing the speech in the first place, and keep that in mind while talking.
8. Focus on Audience Needs
Another way to prepare your presentation is to focus on what your audience may get out of the speech. You can build the outline or write-up around your audience’s needs by thinking about what they want to know while you make your speech.
Try to remain focused on how your audience may respond to certain areas of the speech, such as specific topics or themes. How will they react to that, and how will that affect them? How can you effectively maintain audience interest? Think about the best ways to make the audience understand and respond to your topic while keeping them interested long after the speech is over.
9. Follow the 10-20-30 Rule
The 10-20-30 rule was created by a man named Guy Kawasaki, who worked at Apple. His rule states that slideshows for presentations should include the following:
- 10 slides: The presentation should have no more than ten slides throughout.
- 20 minutes: The presentation should last no longer than 20 minutes. Keep in mind that some presentations may require that your speech last for a longer time.
- 30-point size: Use a 30-point font size for your slides—no more, no less.
The point of the rule is to stop you from putting too much information on your slides and creating a more focused presentation. It also helps you avoid boring the audience or creating distracting slides that contain too many words or images. Remember that slides should enhance your speech rather than distract from your message. If you have to include more information, consider using a handout before or after the presentation to include that extra information.
10. Learn to Use Your Voice
One of the best ways to prepare an effective presentation is to learn to use your voice. While many presenters rely on visual aids to do the work, you are much better off practicing a dynamic and conversational voice and tone that keeps your audience engaged and interested.
Using your voice effectively may look like this:
- Varying speech speeds: Take time to speed up your talking when you want to emphasize specific points. However, you’ll also want to slow down in moments rather than breezing through the entire presentation. Varying your talking speeds can help create an exciting presentation that the audience will like.
- Emphasizing pitch and tone: Try varying your pitch and tone throughout the presentation. You don’t want to sound bored or uninterested the entire speech, just like you don’t want to sound forced or overenthusiastic. Try to sound conversational while varying your tones and pitch to make the audience interested in your topic and message.
Improve Your Presentations With Illuminated Integration
At Illuminated Integration, we can help improve your presentations in various settings, from professional to collegiate levels. We are an audio, visual and lighting company with a focus on designing, providing, installing and training clients on various performance systems, including possible uses for presentation styles and tips.
Our company can perform computer-aided design (CAD) or use 3D rendering technology. We’ll make your vision a reality and assist you with whatever you need. Contact us today to speak to an Illuminated Integration representative, or call us at 717-996-4596.