Presentations are an essential part of marketing and academia, but they’re also inescapable in schools and colleges. That’s because, no matter what work you do, you’ll likely need to give a presentation at some point. The ubiquity of the presentation is about its ability to transmit new ideas quickly. But some presentations feel like they’re transmitting old ideas at the speed of continental drift. What sets the great presentations – the ones that actually grab your attention and make you curious and even enthusiastic – apart from the bad ones?
Nothing can replace great content. But there’s also a place for great, ahem, presentation. With that in mind, then, here are ten presentation ideas to take your awesome idea and make a killer presentation out of it – one that people will effortlessly remember, instead of struggling to forget!
1: Be There Early
Showing upon time means you’re still plugging things in, opening applications and generally feeling and looking rushed and disorganized when everyone else shows up. The idea that you might not look confident and in control is one of the biggest worries about delivering a presentation, and you can avoid it and look and feel authoritative. Show up early and do all the preparation before any of your audience arrives.
2: Do Your Research
Don’t just know what’s on the slides. Most presentations have a question and answer session at the end. Unless you get five variations on ‘can we look at the slides some more?’ you’re going to need a deeper and wider knowledge base than what’s displayed. Be prepared for the kind of questions you’ll get by asking them of yourself as you craft the presentation. Try to deal with them in advance as you speak. When you hit a rocky part that might be difficult to understand, use a rhetorical question-and-answer approach. What does than mean? It means ask the question yourself, then answer it – like I just did.
3: Know Your Audience
Giving the right presentation is the key to giving a great presentation. Avoid giving information that is:
Irrelevant. If your presentation addresses something your audience cares about, they’ll want to listen.
Common knowledge. Don’t tell people stuff they already know. (That’s common knowledge in that audience.)
Old news. If it’s past its sell-by date, stop selling it.
Too abstruse. If it’s too abstracted or complex the audience will switch off.
Say you’re giving a presentation on general relativity. It’s irrelevant for an audience of dentists, common knowledge to physicists and too abstruse for 10-year-olds. It’s not a bad presentation idea, necessarily, but for those audiences it’s the wrong presentation.
4: Less Tell, More Show
People love to look at images. For some reason, though, we love to show each other text. In the early days of the internet, every website was just a mass of 9-point text, sometimes thousands of words. You are not HTML, and this is not 1996. Your presentation doesn’t have to be on the screen word for word. Images and text together promote intuitive understanding, and your speech annotates and explains that.
5: The 10/20/30 Rule
Sticking with images and text, this rule proffered by Gary Kawasaki suggests you should have only 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes, and never smaller than 30-point text.
6: Let Godin Guide You
Back in 2007 Seth Godin blogged that he was tired of seeing the same mistakes on PowerPoint presentations. Of course, we’re not restricted to PowerPoint, but we can still make the same mistakes. Here’s Godin’s checklist:
- No more than six words on a slide. No exceptions. No bullet points.
- No cheesy, awkward images. No ‘fun’ cartoons. Professional stock photos or high-level graphics that actually add something.
- No special effects: You’re not Hitchcock. No dissolves, spins, fades, glitter explosions or other transitions.
- Sound effects should be used sparingly, sourced from outside the presentation tool and used to augment, not replace, slides and voice.
- No print-outs. Your presentation isn’t a big script you read out to people. Without the spoken element it won’t work.
7: Use a Dedicated Presentation Tool
Using the presentation tool in a standard productivity suite like iWorks, Office or Google Apps will result in a presentation that is… standard. It won’t stand out graphically or compositionally, however great the presentation idea is.
Instead, shoot for a tool like SlideDog that’s built for presentations. You won’t be limited to clip art and bullet points: you can embed rich media including videos as well as images, web pages, text and sound taken from outside the tool and incorporated seamlessly into the presentation. If your presentation idea deserves a wider audience, you can share online in real time. And you can make truly interactive presentations too. Why not give it a go and download the latest version of SlideDog for free?
8: Remember That Thing About Images? There Are Exceptions
Immediately after websites stopped being big, dull piles of tiny text, they became explosive jambalaya eyesores of flickering GIFs in clashing colors. Learn from the past; don’t repeat it. Your presentation ideas don’t benefit from being backed by Times Square, so don’t put anything on a slide that isn’t adding value to the presentation from the audience’s point of view.
9: Be Conservative
Liberal and conservative are contentious terms. But I’m not talking about Washington. I’m talking about colors. If you’re not much of a designer, don’t try to be. Use solid blocks of color for slide backgrounds. (The most readable combination of text and background colors is blue and yellow.) Solid color in slides is like solid color in clothes: you’ll look stylish and assured, and you won’t hurt anyone’s eyes. A basic knowledge of color theory will help. If you’re uncertain, classic choices are deep blue and white, deep brown and white or blue and yellow.
10: The Font of All Wisdom
Typography can make a huge difference to how your slides appear. Think about it: use Old German Gothic and no-one will know what you’re saying. Use Arial, Comic Sans or Trebuchet and most people will read it easily (Comic Sans is the easiest font to read) but it won’t add much to the visual appearance of your slides. There are some classic presentation fonts. But using a mix of simple, highly readable fonts and more characterful typefaces can help your slides stand out and accent your message. (Just don’t use the Gothic ones – and go easy on the handwriting ones too!)
Did we miss out your favorite tip? Or do you have one to share with us? Let us know in the comments section below.