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Advancing in your career is all about creating a great impression on the people you work with. You want to peak the interest of senior staff and land yourself a big, fat promotion. One of the best ways to do that is to prove yourself in a presentation. Well-designed, highly structured presentations are an excellent way to put your mark on a company and demonstrate to senior management that you’re the real deal.
Great presentations don’t feel like presentations. They feel like being taken on a journey. People should get something out of it while not fighting the urge to close their eyes and go to sleep. Here are some tips to help you give a killer presentation.
Some speakers like to waffle on at length about things which are only tangentially related to the subject in question. They think that they’re being smart, but waffling on like this actually turns off your audience and can make them feel frustrated.
The best business presentations, says Eddie Rice, a writer for a speechwriting company, are those that stick to the point. They don’t rely heavily on lots of slides filled with text he says. Instead, they’re short, sharp and stick to the point while offering numerous opportunities for discussion. Presentations that stick in people’s minds are those in which they’re able to bring their own questions.
Mark McMillion, a director at a leadership company, says that people need to lead with their main point when they’re giving a business presentation. He says it’s best to avoid the gimmicks and just focus on ways to engage people with your core message as quickly as possible. McMillion says that he’s sat through too many presentations that try to tell a story and where the tension is built up like in some Dostoyevskian narrative. Business presentations aren’t designed to excite an audience, they’re designed to convey ideas. As a result, he says, stick to the issues you need to focus on and then move on.
Good presentations don’t come out of nowhere. They require a lot of rehearsal beforehand, according to Andrew Zurbuch, an international broker. His advice is to use Google slides themes, perfect the visuals, and then spend a whole day practicing and going through what you want to say. Even with the help of slides, some presentations can become garbled, he says, unless you take the time to practice. The more you practice your presentation skills, the more fluent and engaging your presentation will become. And that’s exactly what you want if you’re trying to advance your career.
If YouTube and social media have taught us anything, it’s that authenticity is seductive. The most popular channels on YouTube aren’t highly scripted business presentations. They’re just people mouthing off about what they think from the heart.
Of course, in a business setting, you might not want to behave like PewDiePie. But it’s good, according to Brandt Johnson, to let your personality show. People will quickly get bored if they can see that your heart is not in it. Your lack of enthusiasm, he says, will quickly infect the room and the whole presentation will become far less effective.
When people go to a presentation, they kind of half expect to be entertained, even if that expectation is unconscious, says Ken Boyd, a director of a private education company. He says that presenters need to exude high energy, otherwise people will start falling asleep and losing concentration. The whole point of the presentation format, he says, is to hold people’s attention throughout. He suggests trying to keep total presentation time below 45 minutes. Going beyond that is usually a bad idea, since it is difficult for most people to concentrate for longer than that.
According to Parker Geiger, the CEO of a startup company, some presenters have a habit of jumping from one topic to the next, without bringing people with them in a natural way. This, he says, can make a presentation feel jarring. Presenters, therefore, need to make use of bridge word: little words and phrases that help link one idea or sentence to the next. Words like “moreover,” “however” and “finally” are all great for tying one idea to the next in a seamless fashion. You can also do the same with phrases. Suppose for instance that you find yourself referring back to something you mentioned earlier on in the presentation. Try saying something like “as we discussed earlier .;.” or “back when I talked about ….” These bridge phrases help to bring the entire presentation together into one seamless whole.
Communicating your ideas isn’t just about the words that come out of your mouth: it’s also about the body language that you use, according to Matt Reischer, the founder of a legal company. He says that the only way to keep an audience engaged at work is to include eye contact, hand movements, and facial expressions. He sometimes even goes as far as to include props in his presentations in order to keep his audience interested.
Perhaps the most important single piece of advice for giving a great presentation is to keep things simple. People don’t want to be taken on a highly technical tour of a topic that they’re unfamiliar with. Instead, they just want to get the gist of it and then be able to use it in a way that benefits them. According to Gary Tuch, the founder of a science academy, there’s no point jamming a bunch of data and equations on a slide that nobody understands. Doing so is a huge mistake. People are quickly alienated and frustrated because they often have no idea what the relevance of the data are or how the mathematical theory was derived. Instead, Tuch says, keep it simple and use simple graphics to reinforce what you’re saying.