Public speaking can be intimidating, whether you're presenting to a handful of people or lecturing in front of an auditorium. One way to set yourself up for success is to prepare an engaging presentation. Creating a presentation deck requires prep-work, knowing your audience, and practice.
Know Your Audience
One, if not the most, important step is understanding who you're speaking to. With this information, you'll be able to adapt your speech to their level of understanding, interests, and beliefs.
If you can, try to research what your audience has heard already. You won't want to jump into the technical stuff if you're making an introductory conversation about a topic.
First, I know it's tempting, but step away from the slide maker. If you start in PowerPoint or Keynote, you'll likely end up with 50 slides for a 20-minute presentation. You'll spend most of your time finding the right slide or having so much information to share that your audience will feel overwhelmed.
One common death-by-powerpoint mistake is using too much text on each slide. Remember that your audience is there to listen to you, not to read a novel. Try to limit each slide to a few bullet points or key phrases. Another mistake is using clichéd or overly-complex graphics. Stick with simple images that clearly illustrate your point. Finally, resist the urge to use fancy animations or transitions. These can be distracting and often add nothing of value to the presentation.
The best way to prevent death by PowerPoint is by creating an outline. Identify the essential topics you need to convey and then build from there.
Pro Tip: Don't be afraid to ask for feedback from a friend or colleague. A fresh set of eyes can help you trim down the topics to what's important.
It's always a good idea to start with a brief review of the important terms and concepts. This helps to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Pro Tip: Always keep time constraints in mind when building your presentation. You don't want to build a 30-minute presentation if you only have 15 minutes to speak.
Keep It Simple
Keep the design and information consistent and straightforward when building out your slides. Avoid paragraphs, and remember that bullet points are your friends.
The design of your slides shouldn't distract from the information. Use simple colors and large fonts, and be as concise as possible. People may be viewing your slides from a distance, so you don't want them to have to squint.
Make It Fun
You don't have to turn into a professor killjoy for your presentation. You can be yourself. Most memorable presentations are delivered by someone authentic and fresh. Using quick videos and images can help keep your audience's attention. Plus, making analogies to simplify complicated topics can do wonders.
Know Your Presentation
Your slides are meant to support you; they're not meant to be your reading notes. You should be able to glance at a bullet point on the slide and immediately speak about it in more depth. Remember, you're the expert - not your presentation deck.
Practice, Practice, Practice
It may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people forget this step. Practicing your presentation with the slides is crucial. The more times you practice your presentation, the more confidently you'll deliver it when it's go-time.
“Confidence is a skill I’ve built over the years by practicing acts of everyday courage” - Mel Robbins
There are several options you can do to practice. Ask a friend to be your practice audience. Practice in front of the mirror, or you can record yourself.
Just remember, the audience expects to see some nerves. It's ok; just don't let them shut you down. You know your topics, and you know who you are. Lean into your strengths and deliver a discussion that's truthful to you.
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