Making a presentation that effectively gets your point across without losing the audience’s interest is a challenge. So many designers do a great job of using lots of visuals but make the mistake of using endless design precedents or examples without fully explaining what each one represents. We’ve all been to (probably many) designer’s presentations that amount to little more than a scroll through every project they’ve ever worked on, without any explanation of what they MEAN, right?
Telling a great story is all about rhythm, repetition and engaging the audience.
So, how do you make a great presentation yourself?
FIGURE OUT YOUR GOAL
What is the point of your presentation? You should be able to distill this down to a single, concise statement. If you find you have multiple goals consider making them into separate presentations.
MAKE AN OUTLINE
This can be a hand-written list, a series of title slides in Powerpoint or Keynote, a mind-map, or a collection of post-its with the main points you want to make. This is where you break down your goal into sub-headings that detail and support your main point. Don’t think of this as a rigid plan you must follow, but a tool for figuring out how to make your point before you being creating detailed visuals.
START WITH A TITLE
Creating a catchy but descriptive title is an important way to anchor your presentation. You want your audience to be able to attach this label to everything you are about to tell them.
INJECT SOME EXCITEMENT
This is often when people use a pithy quote that illustrates their point. Consider using a short vignette or a compelling anecdote to make your point instead. This is what the storyteller refers to as “the promise” — your goal here is to connect with the audience and make them want to pay attention to the rest of your awesome presentation.
TELL THEM WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT TO TELL THEM
This is where you tell the audience what your presentation is about. You’ve captured their attention, now repeat what you are trying to say and how you are going to say it. State your goal and then give a brief overview of how you’ll be making your point.
KEEP IT VISUAL
Use pictures, diagrams and good typography principles to support your points and keep your audience engaged while you explain the finer points in more detail. Hierarchy of information is key here — use larger fonts, all caps or colour differentiation to emphasize words or short statements that are particularly important.
BUT KEEP IT SIMPLE, TOO
Don’t overload your slides with too much information. It can be tempting to include complex graphics and lots of information in the body of your presentation. If you’re presenting a complex subject with a lot of supporting information, consider showing a summary or graphic representation, distributing supporting data as a handout instead of a showing it on slide.
ENGAGE THE AUDIENCE
Make them work for their information! Set up question slides and ask the audience to supply the answers before revealing the answer on the next slide. These can be rhetorical (Don’t you agree?) or literal (How many points do you think are in this guide? Answer: 10, because that is meaty enough to contain new information but not so long that people lose interest). Even if you don’t ask for audience participation at this point, the question-and-answer structure is a useful technique for shifting the nature of your presentation away from passive instruction to active learning.
REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT
Using repeated statements or elements can help drive home your point. For example, using words or phases from your title and goal to reinforce the different points you’re making. People are often reluctant to repeat themselves but as every great marketer knows, people absorb repeated messages subconsciously without even trying. Be selective and pick just a few key messages to repeat using this method.
WRAP IT UP WITH A CALL TO ACTION
Connect your point to current events. Re-state your goal (again) and suggest ways your audience can apply this principle or information to the project at hand. Be specific, but don’t be afraid to make the audience participate in generating new ideas for how to put this principle into action.