By Paola Pascual on Aug 30, 2021 5:27:01 AM
If I were to name the two main challenges of presentations, they would be (1) bringing across your key message, and (2) keeping the audience engaged. And these two also happen to be the most relevant aspects of any presentation. So after our webinar on presentation skills last week, I've decided to give you 8 little changes that will make a big difference with your presentations. These tips will help you convey your key message and make sure your audience is engaged and paying attention.
Download this quick presentations checklist to guarantee your next presentation is a hit!
#1 Start by crafting your story (not your slides!)
Oftentimes, speakers struggle with figuring out exactly what they want to say. They know their topic but they’re not exactly sure what story they’re trying to tell. And this leads to the big mistake that I see people making - they try to jump into working on their slides first before they even know exactly what story they want to tell or what they want to say.
The first step is to write down what you think you need to present. Some people get overwhelmed when they need to prepare a presentation in English –especially when they are not native speakers– because they have a lot of knowledge and they don’t have time to convey everything. The thing is - you don’t need to convey everything. Start by writing down the info you think you need to present - this is called a brain dump. Don’t worry about how nice it will look later.
For that, I usually use post-its and write the major plot points of my talk. These are like the major concept or ideas I want to convey. So for last week's webinar, I wrote something like this:
#2 Decide your WHAT, WHY, NEXT
To deliver a successful presentation, you first need to decide your WHAT, WHY, NEXT: What is your presentation about? Why should they listen to you? What should happen next (e.g. they need to reply to an email, they need to write a report, you will send them the materials…)? Once you decide, make sure your audience walks away with a clear idea of these three.
#3 Use the rule of three
Once you have all that, go back to your brain dump and try to organize your presentation in groups of three. This is called the “rule of three,” a writing principle that suggests that a trio of events or characters is more humorous, satisfying, or effective than other numbers. It appears not only in literature (The Three Little Pigs or The Three Musketeers) but also in marketing (e.g. Just do it, I’m lovin’ it, See what’s next).
For my presentation, using the brain dump I did, I chose "Key information," "Structure & Slides," and "Engaging delivery." This way of organizing my information in groups of three helped me make the webinar more memorable.
#4 Record yourself
This might be the most awkward tip I can give you, but trust me –it's going to make a big difference. Before a big presentation, practice out loud, do a dry run, and time yourself to make sure you are on track. When you do that, record yourself! It can be cringe-worthy at the beginning, but watching and hearing yourself on the screen will help you spot mistakes and improve small things around your delivery and your body language.
#5 Prioritize the beginning and the end
If you look up tips on presentations skills, you’ll see that most books and blogs mention that the beginning and the end are very, very important. But why? Well, there’s this thing called the primacy and recency effects. You don’t need to memorize the name - what you need to know is that people remember the beginning and the end best. If you look at the graph below, you'll notice that the opening and the closing are what people retain best, and we tend to forget the stuff in the middle.
This means that to maximize impact, you will want to:
- Mention the key message at the beginning
- Repeat the main takeaways at the end
#6 Add powerful recaps after each section
Don't wait until the end of your presentation to offer a recap. Summarize after each section and then restate the main points in one or two sentences. This will help you bring your message across and keep people engaged throughout your whole presentation.
When you do these recaps, make sure you use different words and structures. This will help those in the audience with a lower level of English fully understand what you're trying to convey. This technique is called paraphrasing.
Download this quick presentations checklist to grab useful phrases to recap and restate your point.
#7 Use color intensity to guide your audience
A very easy way to guide your audience through the slides without using a pointer is to use color intensity. Choose darker colors or less transparency to highlight the part of the slide you want your audience to look at. You can do it with text or with images:
- For text, use a dark tone for the words you want to highlight, and a lighter tone of the same colors for the words you want to keep in the background.
- For images, keep 0% transparency for the image you want to highlight and set the rest to 70% transparency (under format options > adjustments > transparency).
#8 Use simple language
We –and especially non-native speakers– often like to sound smarter by using fancy words. But the truth is, you’re more memorable when you use easy vocabulary! In fact, a study found that most US presidential candidates speak at grade 6-8 level. So instead of saying utilize, say use. Instead of initiate, say start. You can also sound more engaging by using short phrases. If you can say something with one word instead of three, do it! Replace "It was necessary that we" with "We had to...", and use active voice instead of passive voice. Without getting much into grammar, active voice means that you start your sentences with [WHO + ACTION]. Instead of saying "before the termination of..." say "before we finish..."
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