One of my biggest fears as a small business owner is putting together a boring presentation, especially since I don’t do it very often. I’ve been told I’m a great presenter, but somehow, when I open PowerPoint, all my creativity goes right out the window. I just sit there, not sure where to start.
As a small business owner, we all have to give presentations at least occasionally, either to clients, investors, potential partners, or conference attendees. If you freeze when you open PowerPoint, too, well, welcome to the club!
Luckily, one of my friends is Meghan Dotter, who helps organizations improve presentations, meetings and the behaviors around them through her company, Portico PR. The last time I was feeling stuck, I turned to Meghan for her tips on how to create a killer presentation.
Right off the bat, she said you need to think about your presentation in this order: Content, design, and delivery.
A great presentation starts first and foremost with clarity about your message, goals, and audience. Answer these questions before you start outlining your presentation:
- What is your main message? How can you present it in a way that’s clear and understandable? What is your call-to-action?
- What do you want to get out of your presentation? And how does that intersect with what your audience wants?
- Are you presenting to a new client? On a panel at an industry event? Giving a keynote?
Richard Mayer, a renowned professor of psychology at UC Santa Barbara, has been studying multimedia learning for 30 years. He has found that if we are given something to read and listen to at the same time, we will default to reading. Our brains simply cannot handle doing both at once.
I think you know where this is headed. If you end up creating presentations with too much text or graphics, people will not listen to what you are saying. Therefore, use big, bold images and visuals to reinforce or clarify your message.
Naturally, a presentation that only contains visuals is not much of a handout. Meghan suggests that, when you are speaking at a conference, put together a one- or two-page memo that summarizes your top points. Attendees can bring it home and put into practice what you taught.
Meghan had three great tips when it comes to actually giving your presentation, arguably the hardest part!
1. Be direct and conversational
You want your language to be tight and to-the-point, but also you want to deliver it in a way that’s conversational and informal (people actually remember more when the language is conversational!).
2. Talk with your hands
Susan Goldin-Meadow of Stanford University found in her research of children and their gesture and speech patterns that if you gesture, it lightens your cognitive load. In short, talk with your hands! You’ll be less stressed, making it easier for you to get your message across.
3. Remember that emotions are contagious
“Emotions are infectious.... You can catch the mood of other people just by sitting in the same room,” said Dr. Richard Restak, a neurologist in Washington, DC.
Your audience will immediately pick up on your feelings, whether you are nervous, excited, or confident. Go into the presentation relaxed and with a good energy level.
What is the most memorable presentation you’ve either given or watched – and why?
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