Challenging your audience with a question (problem
statements, analogies, quotes, and anecdotes work
well, too) is a tried-and-true attention-grabber that
can kickstart your presentation’s momentum.
It must be relevant to your audience, of course; if it’s
also a bit evocative, all the better.
Dedicate your first or second slide solely to the
question – bold font, big letters, lots of white space –
to immediately establish the tone and content of what
they’re about to hear/see, and engage the mental cogs
right from the get-go.
As with most things, less is more. Impactful
presentations stay on point: they set the scene,
structure the information to support the main
point, and sum it up. Keep in mind that you’ll
spend approximately 3-5 minutes on each slide.
So if you’re allocated 30 minutes, your entire
presentation should be only 6-10 slides. So …
*Limit the information on each slide. Your slide
deck is a tool to enhance you, not to replace you.
Do not drop your entire speech into the slide, “read”
your slides, or use them as your “notes” because
you’ll lose your audience. Instead, use slides to
display a single image or a smattering of phrases or
bullet points, and use them as points of intrigue
and/or clarification for your talk.
The rule of thumb is a single idea per slide. Not
two. One idea at a time. It’s easy to recommend
and very hard to do; humans are very skilled at
drifting into tangents and going off topic before
we realize it. The more you can stay on subject,
the more clear your points will be, and the longer
you’ll keep your audience’s attention.
*Keep the main idea in front of people.
Writing tight aside, you may have support slides
to a key point or idea. If you do, do not assume
(you know why, right?) that your audience will
be keeping up with you. So be sure to keep the
main idea front and center (e.g., in a pervasive
header or footer across the grouped slides) to
keep your audience from getting lost.
Colours and contrast are big players in
appeal, and they can play significant roles in
establishing and carrying the tone of your
subject matter. Don’t be afraid to use them,
but do practice restraint. (Unless your
presentation is a study of unicorns in glitter,
reign in the sparkle.)
You want color to support the presentation,
not detract from it. Choose your palate and
usage of same thoughtfully, and don’t
overlook where your presentation will be
viewed. If it will be printed, test to ensure
that the colors you choose look good on
paper and do not, for example, bury the
text or compromise the message.
Complexity is not a good way to drive home a
point. (As Telecomquotes CEO, Michael
Bremmer, says, “A confused mind never
buys.”) To the extent possible – and of course
this depends on your audience – simplify
complicated ideas so they’re accessible and
straightforward. If your presentation feels
pedantic and/or out-of-reach to your audience,
they’ll feel alienated and disconnected, neither
of which will be your goal.
Be yourself. Sure you might be nervous (even
Barbra Streisand is known to lose her cookies
before a performance), but you can still be
authentic. People are receptive to authenticity
and forgiving of a few jitters, as long as you
talk to them (not at them), and you show some
character. Make it light. Tell a joke here and
there. And definitely make eye contact. It will
serve you well.
Part of grabbing and keeping the
attention of your audience involves
breaking the flow. Find opportunities to
mix things up a bit by using animation,
showing a video, taking a poll, or cutting
to a comic strip or joke. If it’s a live
presentation, move around – across the
stage or around the room – rather than
standing sentinel behind a lectern.
If you’ve done your job right, your presentation
should leave them wanting more. Give them
one or more actions they can take
immediately. Including links is good. Also be
sure your name, title, company, website, email,
phone number, and anything else pertinent is
on your closing slide. Make it easy for your
audience to take another step with you.
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