by Dr. Wesley Carter
Making presentations can increase the heart rate and anxiety level of even the most tenured executive. In business, the oral communication and the physical document are the two most common components of every presentation. Public speaking terrifies most individuals. Thankfully, there are organizations dedicated exclusively to helping individuals develop their speaking skills. A quick search on the Internet will provide a list of resources.
Presentations should be developed based on the specific audience for the information. In business, presentations are typically geared toward selling an idea, product, service, or concept. Therefore, it is critical that the presenter is very knowledgeable about the respective topic.
The oral portion of a presentation is different than the actual physical document used to convey an idea. Both, the oral and physical presentation must tell a story. And both must contain an introduction, middle, and conclusion. However, the oral presentation actually sells the idea, product, service, or concept. Hence, the importance of making a presentation that is memorable, persuasive, and succinct.
Before making a presentation, gain as much knowledge about your audience as possible. Will your audience consist of experts or will your presentation be their first introduction to the topic? If your audience consists of experts on the topic, your oral presentation can be presented at a high level with details included the Appendix, should you need to explain a concept in more detail. However, if your audience is not very knowledgeable of your topic, your presentation should be designed to teach and sell.
Know your topic! Nothing is more ineffective than listening to a presentation made by an individual with little or no knowledge of the topic being presented. Reading to the audience is a presentation no-no. Skilled presenters practice their presentations, and some even choreograph their gestures for emphasis, until they are smooth and natural. The tempo of the presentation should be conversational. Beware of rushing through the presentation.
At the beginning, the presenter should introduce themselves and the topic. Experienced presentations speak clearly, making frequent eye contact with the audience. Attire should be neat and professional to minimize distractions.
Generally, presenters should plan to spend about one minute per presentation slide. Upon the conclusion of the presentation, the key points should be reiterated. The presenter should invite questions. It is wise to repeat the question before responding because the audience may have difficulty hearing the individual posing the question.
The physical presentation typically consists of slides produced on a computer. There are several presentation tools available. It does not matter which tool presenters use as long as it produces professional presentations that can be accessed easily using the hardware that will be available at the presentation site. Design themes and templates should chosen to align with the presentation topic.
The slide layout is absolutely critical. Slides should be consistent and easy to follow. Dark words on a light background are easier to read from different vantage points in the audience. Punctuation, fancy fonts, and words spelled using all capital letters, tend to detract from the presentation. Presentation experts recommend that each slide consist of no more than five bullets, no more than two different fonts, and less than 35 words. However, this is a guide rather than a rule.
Slide transitions and animation should be kept to a minimum. Presentations that include numerous slide transitions and lots of animation are clear indicators that the presenter is a novice. When an audience is presented with heavy animation, it can be a like a dog chasing a squirrel, the audience becomes preoccupied anticipating the next transition. The topic of the presentation gets lost in the animation theatrics.
Just like the oral presentation, slides should be organized with an introduction, middle, and conclusion. Spell-check is a presenter’s friend. Typos can destroy the effectiveness of any presentation. Slides should include page numbers.
Finally, skilled presenters generally arrange for a trusted individual to review the slides before actually making the presentation. Another set of eyes will often uncover errors or inconsistencies missed by the creator of the presentation. A carefully prepared presentation is a valuable sales tool.
WESLEY CARTER DM, authors an advice column that leverages leadership and management strategies to solve common business problems. Carter holds a Doctor of Management (DM) degree with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership, an MBA, and a B.A. in Management. Carter is a partner at KRS Consulting, LLC in Charlotte, NC. If you have a question, email email@example.com. All submissions become the property of Wesley Carter. Call (704) 992-1211 or email to book an engagement. This article originally appeared in “The Charlotte Post”.