Having attended a great number of networking and training events it continues to surprise me just how many of them are not taking the simple steps that could enhance their presentations that lack professionalism both in PowerPoint design and the structure of their sessions. That said, I have also attended some fantastically executed presentations and I can confidently tell you from experience that the professional edge can make a huge difference with audience engagement and feedback. I am going to assume that you already know how to create a PowerPoint presentation or that you have someone on hand to help with the design, however if this is not the case there are plenty of resources online teaching you the basics of PowerPoint. The purpose of this article is to highlight some simple steps that can take to make your presentation more professional, which leads to an audience that are more likely to trust, respect and listen more intently. Ultimately this makes your job easier and delivers better results; Sounds great right? Well then, let’s get started…
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Step 1: Understand Your Audience
This may seem obvious but I have attended internet workshops packed full of industrial business owners and the lead presenter is using technological development jargon and giving off a patronising vibe that they should all know what he is talking about. Well a lot of them didn’t. They all whispered among themselves hoping the other might understand and the majority of them left feeling more dismayed and confused about how to improve their website rankings. No matter the type of presentation there should be enough information to prepare yourself for your audience. Training workshops will have an attendee list with company name and title and internal or client meetings are pretty targeted – so think about who they are and the best way to communicate. The industrial business owners are business savvy and know their industry but when it came to technology and up to date google algorithms they need to hear the laymen’s terms and understand ‘why’ it was important to them.
Step 2: PowerPoint Structure
The purpose of your PowerPoint presentation is to prompt you to discuss the points in more depth and engage the audience with a visual aid that presents memorable short and precise information. It is certainly not a good idea to pack your slide with loads of information and simply read from it. Break down the full copy or script you have planned into good bullet points and make sure they are sectioned off in a logical way and order. You can have the full script on your laptop or printed out in front of you if you need reference during the presentation. For example, if I was to give a presentation on this subject I would break it out under similar headings to the steps in this article including a title page and introduction, using a slide for each new section with imagery that keeps my audience interested and closing off with a summary of everything we have gone through in the session. It is also a good idea to finish with some suggested resources, a questions and answers session and finally inform the audience that you email them a copy of the presentation. You can save the presentation as a PDF and maintain the professional looks in your follow up email the following day. This email is also a good opportunity to request feedback using audience response systems that help to analyse your performance with easy to use feedback forms.
Step 3: Professional Design
The importance of professional design for your company as a whole, ensuring consistent branding throughout the entire business from your business card, website, email signature and headed paper to your PowerPoint presentations is imperative if you want to be taken seriously. Please don’t underestimate the power of design as a tool for gaining respect and trust in business and make sure that your presentation looks impressive and professional. If your company branding is in place already with professional design then you will have specific fonts, a logo and colouring that is used and hopefully a PowerPoint template ready to go – great! However, in many cases smaller businesses to do not have the budget to implement strong branding and get lost along the way using previous presentations or standard templates or awful clipart that will scream ‘beginner’ to the majority of your audience; that is not a great message to deliver before you have even had the chance to speak. General things to avoid are clutter, clip art, pixelated images or logos and bad colour mixing or busy clashing of colours. If you are not great at design or layout then appoint someone in the office that is to review all presentations. Alternatively, search for some good templates online or use a PowerPoint template that closely links with your branding. A top tip is that simple looks professional. Keep the design clean and clear and use good high resolution photos to help lift the visuals, avoiding clutter. The great thing about PowerPoint is that you can click on by, so if you want a good picture to take up an entire slide, then let it! Don’t cram to save space. I have provided an example of a good clean business template above.
Step 4: Include Breaks and Exercises
If your presentation is any longer than thirty minutes then I would recommend including a ‘break’ slide within the presentation offering everyone a short break for refreshments. It is also a good idea to include more interaction exercises. For example you could ask them to speak to the person on their left and ascertain what it is about their presentations they feel confident about and where they need improvement. It is highly likely each will have advice for the other and this encourages networking. You can follow this up with asking them to feedback with any common issues so that you can make sure you cover those off at the end of the training session. This ensures that your presentation has been of value and that at least some of the audience will walk away feeling like they have gained something from the session. This should lead to great feedback in your audience response form, which all helps towards getting that bonus or promotion you are after!
Step 5: Proof Read & Get Feedback
A simple spelling error or mistake could undermine all the good work you have put in to the presentation. Have a good look through and ask someone else to have a look through it. Make sure you are staying on point and that your presentation has a clear objective, is explained clearly and delivers everything that the audience are expecting. As mentioned previously, once you have completed your presentation make sure you have a method for obtaining feedback. The best way to improve your presentation skills is to hear what your audience think so simply asking them with a follow up email, form at the event or using audience response forms is a great way to make sure you are getting it right. Following these simple steps can make all the difference and set you on the right path to PowerPoint excellence – even if it does take some trial and error along the way.
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