Presentation Tips

It is hard to be an excellent marketer if you have trouble presenting your thinking. After all, ideas are our product and the presentation is our packaging. You want your brilliant idea to be delivered in an equally brilliant package. So, how do you deliver a great presentation each and every time you are required to?

Here are seven tips based on my career experience and counsel provided to me along the way by various mentors. Hopefully, they will help you be even more successful at your job and, if applied, result in more approvals to move forward with rather than rejections of your ideas.

Seven Proven Presentation Tips

  • Don’t give too much detail.
    • A presentation is not a license to try and demonstrate how smart you are.
    • Don’t give 10 reasons why you should do what you are recommending. If you can’t sell your idea with no more than three reasons, then the recommendation is fatally flawed to begin with.
  • Answer the question that was asked.
    • If you didn’t understand the question, clarify it.
    • Repeat the question to buy time to think and clarify your understanding.
    • Don’t allow a question to take you too far off on a tangent. Answer the question and then get back on track.
    • Seek first to understand rather than defend. If you don’t you may miss the nuance of the question (aka the real question behind the actual question asked.)
  • Don’t cram too much information in your charts or on a talk sheet.
    • Don’t encourage your listeners to read complex charts, data tables, or handouts.
    • Don’t get Management side tracked by sharing non-relevant information.
    • Highlight the most important things if a chart cannot be simplified.
  • Be responsive.
    • Know your listener’s information requirements.
    • Watch body language. If heads are nodding, move on.
    • Be flexible and open-minded. It is good to have personal conviction, but it is not a game of being right or wrong. It is a game of getting to the best solution.
  • Do the basics and do them well.
    • Thoroughly understand your subject.
    • State the objective of the meeting up-front so people know why they are there. I always like to start every meeting with the phrase – “The purpose of this meeting is …”.
    • Lay out a roadmap for the meeting to set expectations.
    • Always summarize next steps.
  • Never bluff. “That is a very good question. I don’t know the answer, but I will find out and get back to you”, is a reasonable response. If you bluff and are wrong (or get caught bluffing), you destroy your personal credibility.
  • Always be consistent with prior presentations. If your data or conclusion is different, take the time to explain why.

Discussion:

Presenting can be difficult without adequate preparation. What are some of the things you do to prepare when you have an important presentation to give?  What have you found that works to make your presentation better?

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11 Comments so far

  1. George Harben

    April 28, 2012

    Ed, good article. I did not include know your audience, I thought that was too basic for your subscribers/followers.

    1. Know your subject matter.

    2. Never be afraid to say I don’t know.

    3. Take an active part in preparing the presentation.

    4. Do not be shocked if an attempt at humor is not well received or gets few laughs.

    5. Practice at least once.

    6. Important question to answer – can you do your presentation if your powerpoint does not work.

    7. Most importantly – the audience wants you to succeed.

    8. For former debaters – speak slowly. In fact write a reminder in red ink.

  2. Blaine Bateman / EAF LLC

    April 28, 2012

    Most presentations are constrained to a very non-optimal time limit (i.e., too little time). This forces the presenter to make lots of trade offs on how may points can be expressed vs. how much detail can be covered for each point. The trap that we all fall into, especially using PowerPoint, is to keep removing information, “bulletizing” everything until it “fits” into the constraints. This is the wrong way to go, in my opinion.

    I had the luck to attend an all-day seminar by Professor Edward Tufte (http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/), who has made a career out of analyzing how to display and present information. He gave an interesting alternative for how to make an effective presentation. First, everything presented should be carefully designed and rich in content. This is the opposite of what most PP slides end up looking like. The “you need lots of white space” camp has ruled PP presentations since the early days. But ask yourself why? In truth, what you put up on the screen isn’t intended to be read in real-time. So consider more data graphics, and less words, and give the audiece the words in advance, in printed form, so they can read them as they will. Reducing the number of words, making the fonts larger and larger, and making more space on a slide just so that someone could read the entire thing during the 45 seconds you have it on the screen simply results in minimal information transfer.

    The thing Dr. Tufte proposed was to consider the key point of your analysis or findings, and consider if you can craft it into a “supergraphic”. You can look at his materials for examples, or even better, get and read his books. He suggests printing it on larger paper, like 11 x 17 or 8 1/2 x 14 etc, and printing both sides. One side might have the supergraphic which presents the entire concept of what you want to get across in a compelling visual form. Keep in mind this is hard, and time consuming. But, you asked what makes a great presentation, not just an easy one!! On the other side, you can put tables, text, and other supporting information. You give this to everyone before your presentation starts.

    Having said all this, I have found it very hard to meet these standards. What I try to do is to make very good analytical graphics, and build the presentation around those, and I don’t shy away from lots of words, because I figure they can read them later. I never read what is on the slides to the audience, I tell them what is important to draw from the information.

    I know this is all pretty much orthogonal to all the conventional wisdom, so I’ll be interested in the other comments!

  3. Eric P. Canada

    April 29, 2012

    Stories, stories, stories. Help the audience connect to the content with stories of how it works/worked in the real world. People will always relate better and remember stories. Note where each story goes in the presentation. Don’t recycle the same story in the presentation. Find a new one. Allow time for the stories as you plan the presentation by reducing the number of slides.

    Props are also a great aid for making a point. After I wrote the book, Marketing for Results! I gave over a hundred presentations on marketing. These presentation were littered with props. In fact I used to carry an extra bag just for the prop. Some of the favorites: beach balls, nerf gun, rubber chicken, balloons, pasta, ouija board, tinker toys, dice, cards, 5 gallon plastic jar, marketing materials, marbles, play dough, creative stimulus kit, books, magazines, t-shirts, circuit board, rubber hose, funnel… Props take advance planning and practice just like the presentation. But, they can make a big impact. And, they can make you stand out if there are many other speakers. Crowd buzz is often a good thing. However, like jokes a prop can go wrong.

  4. Javier Bernad

    April 30, 2012

    I teach public speaking skills to MBA students and always end the course with this recommendation: appear powerful, and have a clear message. To be powerful, you need to maintain great eye contact, ant to occupy space. To have a clear message, you need it to be one (just like in a copy strategy…), simple, to give it a clear flow, and to hammer it at least six times as people will most likely forget everything you tell them. Dress this up with enthusiasm through your hands and your voice inflection, and you will nail it.

  5. Paul Aydelott

    April 30, 2012

    Being from Minnie Pearl’s hometown, I can give some country advice: Tell ’em, “You’re jest so proud to be here!” Don’t say the words, but make them hear the message through your initial body language. Smile. If you are tense and unsure, you audience will be too. Now, look them in the eyes and talk TO them, not AT them.

  6. Judy Beck

    May 2, 2012

    Join Toastmasters International. Go to http://www.toastmasters.org and put in your zip code to find a cllub near you. You can visit as a guest at no cost, then decide if it is right for you. I have been a member for less than a year and already my presentation skills are a 100 times better than they were before. In addition, I am more confident and eager to speak in front of a group instead of shy and hesitant.

  7. It is our practice to do a dry run to flesh out any possible issues that may be present in the presentation. This especially important for presentations that we are giving for the first time. Ideally we will do the dry run at the venue but if that’s not possbile we will do it at the office. Doing at the venue allows us to get an idea of how the room will sound, how best to display visuals, best placement of the speaker, etc… I can’t tell you the times we have had an idea in our minds about how we want to present in a certain room only to realize that we have to change our approach once we finish the dry run.

  8. Big Awards

    May 2, 2012

    Practice. Practice. Practice. The key to killing it in front of an audience is to realize that you are there for your audience….not you! This is about them, not you. Engage. Entertain. Energize!

  9. Jane Julian

    May 2, 2012

    I always give these quick and easy tips to my staff:
    1. Know your audience
    2. Identify your key message(s) – no more than three
    3. Use pictures and/or few words (I mean really few – say 5 words or one pitcure)
    4. Smile, project energy!
    The last point is actually the most important: if the presenter acts like they have a great message they are keen to give and that they are the expert, they will have a good audience response.

  10. Bob Sanders

    May 7, 2012

    I help marketing firms master presentation skills all over the world, and it often shocks me just how few people really understand the basic skills…

    I too wrote up a bit on this here:
    http://sandersconsulting.com/newbusinesshawk/ad-agency-6-winning-presentation-reminders

    Thank you for the reminders!

    B

  11. Jan Watt

    May 14, 2012

    know your subject – know your subject – know your subject 🙂
    Jane is right – be clear on what your message actually is.
    Start and finish with it – this cements it in the audience’s minds and also helps them tie in what you have said in the middle.
    (good) one liners are important to get your message across – display in writing (if doing a visual) and also use pictures
    Engage with the audience – actually ask them to do something – even if it is put their hands up – or agree with you on something
    if they have to actively think – you have stopped them falling asleep 🙂
    some little tid bits…
    jan

11 Responses to “Presentation Tips”




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