Do you need to put together a presentation and want to make sure you have all the necessary ingredients? You are in the right place.
Over the last nine years, I have briefed hundreds of professionals on what to talk about at industry events and the must-have elements to include in their presentations. I recently put together a presentation and thought it was a good time to summarise my advice here for you now. Hopefully this will help when you put your next presentation together.
But before we talk about what your presentation needs to include, we need to talk about the right place to start.
Prepare to Teach
The first thing to think about when preparing for a presentation is what you are aiming to achieve with your presentation. My recommendation is to aim to teach the audience something. Teaching means that you are sharing a skill and showing them how to do something, rather than just showcasing what you have done. It will change how you prepare the presentation and it also has the benefits of giving your presentation a purpose and direction, leaving the audience with something valuable and positioning you as a knowledge expert. Take a moment to think about what you can teach and how you can best approach it to get the learning across in the time available.
Presentations also always take a lot of time. It’s not just the time in working out what content to share, but also in preparing slides (if you need them) and gathering any input or assets from your colleagues (or others) to share. You might need to research some statistics to include or to look up an example you want to reference. Despite needing dedicated time to put together a presentation properly, it is almost always worth it. Not only can you benefit from the exposure and opportunity in speaking, but the process of putting together a presentation can also be beneficial. In fact, I have heard speakers say that they enjoy presenting because it forces them to go deep into a topic, to review results from a different perspective and often they learn more about that activity/campaign/project than they otherwise knew, which has benefited them in their role.
The seven items to include in your presentation:
You have a teaching plan and you’ve allocated some time, so what should the presentation include?
- A Story Presentations that include a story, a humorous recount or an emotional link are the ones that the audience will be more likely to remember. What story can you include in your presentation? It may be a personal experience that you can tie into the learning or an analogy that fits. A story gives you a way to link your presentation for effect. Something to refer back to, or to get a laugh from the audience. One of the presentations I listened to recently compared digital advertising to sex. It was an attention-grabbing start that provided constant reference points and laughs throughout the presentation.
- A Design For the purpose of this article, I’m assuming that you’ll have some slides to accompany your talk. Regardless of how you personally feel about design, I encourage you to take some time to make your presentation look good. This doesn’t mean that you need to use a professional designer to generate it, but at the very least, use a Powerpoint style for consistency and include some basic (small) branding on the presentations. The way your presentation looks will reflect on your professionalism. Also remember that even a single well-chosen image on a slide can speak volumes as part of your presentation. Please don’t load your presentation up with loads of words – no one wants that! Remember to look at Canva if you have some time to add some nice design templates to your presentation.
- A Teaching What you are teaching should be the central theme of your presentation and will provide you with a framework to work around. You may find it useful to mind-map this part of your presentation to work out the elements that you can use to help you to teach. Communicate your teaching approach to the event organisers and get their buy-in that your content is a good fit for the audience. I’m a fan of Sean D’Souza’s concept of Preacher vs Teacher. A preacher provides information, but a teacher takes the responsibility of helping students to learn. Think about what you can do to help your audience to learn the concept you are sharing.
- Examples A presentation teaching a concept will be enhanced by including examples or case studies demonstrating the previous effectiveness of this method. Ideally, the speaker will have an example they have been personally involved in to share, but a publically available industry example can also help. Remember if you are sharing a case study to include the objectives, challenges and outcomes and don’t forget the learnings. With hindsight, there are always things that can be improved next time and sometimes this is where the real gems of value can come from.
- A Quick Win I recommend that presentations should include a mix of longer-term recommendations as well as some quick wins that can be done immediately. This could be anything from recommending some further reading or a tool to use, through to the first step the audience can take to implement their learnings further. Try to include something easy that the audience can do today to progress in this area.
- A Wrap-Up Summary After spending time listening to a presentation that might range from 20 minutes to 90 minutes, I find it useful to have a wrap up at the end of the presentation that summarises the key points. (Where possible, also include an overview of the “3 things they will learn from this presentation today” at the beginning too that ties in with this). A wrap-up summary may simply be a slide re-iterating the core teaching points and a few actions, (with some quick wins) for people to implement. Having a wrap-up slide means you formally conclude the presentation rather than stopping it at the end of a random point. It’s a nice way to signal that the presentation is ending and you are leaving the audience with your key points.
- Your Contact Details Always include your contact details in the presentation. As a presenter and a thought leader, you want to make yourself available for people to follow up with you. Regardless of your motivation in doing a presentation, it is important to be accessible and this may, in turn, allow you to make connections and receive opportunities you didn’t expect. Consider including some of your social networking links/names as well as an email address.
I’m on a personal pursuit to improve my presentation delivery and have been doing some research and listening on this topic lately. I’ve always assumed that being good at delivering a presentation comes from knowing the keys to presenting together with knowing your content. But something I read recently suggested that practice should form a larger part of this and that some presenters go through their presentation over 17 times in preparation.
This is not to suggest that they are learning a script word for word; in fact most advice is not to try and learn a word for word script as then if you miss something, it can throw your whole presentation. Rather, use your slides as a guide and focus on learning the core elements that you need to include in your presentation. Ultimately you want to know your material well enough that you can confidently present, ideally with minimal (or no) notes and be confident in walking around on the stage or standing away from the lectern. Be deliberate about where you stand as just the act of standing at the lectern can make you more reliant on notes than you really are (I’ve made this mistake myself!) Plus, it actually feels a lot more natural and liberating when you’re not presenting from behind a lectern!
Are you interested in becoming a better speaker?
I’d love to help marketers to become more confident speakers. If you are interested in joining me in doing a one or two day course to improve the way in which you present (whether it be in internal presentations, talks to stakeholders or industry speaking opportunities), let me know. If there is enough interest I’ll organise some training and let you know the details.