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Putting the power back in PowerPoint

We’ve all heard of death by PowerPoint – and most of us have suffered through it. But slides have been given a bad rep and it’s time to transform them from the torture weapons they’ve become into the useful tools they’re supposed to be. 44’s Zoe Wilkinson shares her top tips on how to deliver a presentation to be proud of.

What’s your biggest bugbear when someone’s presenting to you? Mine’s mumbling or speaking too quietly. If I can’t hear what you’re saying, then why am I here? We all have our own bugbears, and more importantly, we’re all guilty of pitfalls ourselves.

If you’re doing a presentation then your audience have given up time (however willingly) in their busy schedules to listen to you. Whether they’re your clients, colleagues or employees, they deserve the best you’ve got. So here are my top three tips for a successful presentation:

1. Set the scene

– It was a dark, stormy night and – okay, not that kind of scene-setting. But you do want to get the right feel for your presentation before you start, and this takes two forms: physical and mental.

– Mentally you want your audience to buy in from the start, so make sure you know everyone’s names (depending on the size of your crowd) – and don’t be afraid to use them! If you’ve got any ground rules – you might be a ‘no tech at the table’ kind of presenter – then lay them out at the start, so everyone knows where they stand.

– Physically, you don’t want anyone falling asleep in their chair, or straining their neck to see your badly-placed projector, so have a sense check of the room first. Do you know where everything is? Do you need to open a window? Can everyone see?

2. Keep it simple

– Minimal slides, simple language and a comfortable, easy-to-understand talking pace. Mix these together with some cracking content and boom! You’ve got yourself a decent presentation.

– For extra spice, here at 44 we’ve been exploring the presentation style of PechaKucha – 20 slides (just pictures, no words) with 20 seconds spent on each slide – and boy, is it tricky. But it forces you to plan, cut out all the waffle and really think about what you want to get across. By only using pictures on the slides it draws attention away from a cluttered background, back to the main star of the show – you. Which brings me to my next point…

3. Body language

– If you look like you don’t want to be there, people will be able to tell and they will switch off. Remember, they’ve given up their time to listen to you, so make it worth their while – and make them feel like they’re valued too.

– Get into it, and show it! Gesture with your hands, sit forward, look engaged and make eye contact with your (soon-to-be) biggest fans. If you do, they’re much more likely to mirror your behaviour and warm to you.

Are you still with me?

Apparently, humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish. So if you’re still reading – nice one (and thank you). This might be a sad truth, but it’s something we need to account for when presenting.

People often get distracted, so you’re going to need to win their attention back when they wander off. It’s up to you how you do it, but don’t be afraid to get creative. My colleague spiced up our internal Monday morning meeting with an IC quiz sprinkled throughout and homemade muffins as prizes, which made sure we were paying attention.

Another member of the team has a gif of a dancing potato to mark the halfway slide on his internal presentations. It works as an attention-grabber and helps with time-keeping. Little bits of humour can sometimes go a long way when it comes to dry subjects.

So there you have it

These are some first steps to making that engaging presentation, but everyone’s got their own tips and tricks. And you will, of course, need some decent content to present too.

So what do you think? If you think we’ve overlooked a killer tip, or want more pointers for engaging presentations, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

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