The QiRanger Adventures

Five Factors For a Great Presentation

with 48 comments

I have been in the public eye since 2002, when I started my own business. One of the hardest things I had to achieve was to develop a sales pitch in less than 30 seconds that would entice the listener. While crafting these messages, I was very thankful that while in High School, one of my classes had a Public Speaking and Toastmasters unit. It was there, I developed a sense of style and comfort when speaking in front of an audience.

If it hadn’t been for that class, I would have never had made it as an emcee or broadcaster. I owe a great deal of thanks to Mrs. Patenge and all the hard work she put into that class.

As I get more and more involved with education here in Korea (both in supervising various projects and assisting my students become more comfortable with English), I find the same mistakes being made time and time again. It’s not because those presenting the information are ignorant at what it takes to put on a good presentation, but rather, that they’ve never had a public speaking and presentation course. Therefore, I wanted to take time out during this final week of Term 4 to post some tips for my students and fellow educators as the new term begins in December.

FACTOR ONE: Know your audience

It doesn’t matter if you’re in school or pitching a multi-billion dollar product. When crafting your presentation, you need to keep your audience in mind. Your presentation needs to be interesting to THEM and answer all their questions. If you’re writing a presentation for school, the project needs to address all aspects of the assignment. If it’s for business, ask the client what they need or what to know – then build your presentation around that. If your presentation doesn’t resonate with the audience, then you’ve lost them and there’s no hope of a sale or a good grade.

FACTOR TWO: Have a good conclusion

When presenting any kind of speech, it’s important to wrap things up nicely. This not only lets the audience know you’re through, but give them some closure on the topic. Getting up in front of people and spouting off a long list of fact can lead to a great presentation, but if there’s no theme or conclusion, they just sit out in the cold doing nothing. Taking the time to bring everything together allows the flow of speech to end naturally. It also provides an opportunity to invite the audience to ask questions related to your information and to clarify topics. Abruptly stopping your presentation sends the message that you’re done talking and don’t care about the audience – it’s not something you want conveyed.

FACTOR THREE: Powerpoint is a tool – Not the presentation

If you take nothing else away from this passage, please take this information and hold on to it dearly. Powerpoint is an application to help you present information, it is not a teleprompter. Unfortunately, most people who use Powerpoint use it as such – having every single word they will say appear on-screen. That is the worst thing that can be done. Powerpoint was developed to put key ideas, graphs, definitions, goals, etc. on-screen. It’s the place where you put brief summaries. This is why the most effective Powerpoint slides have six or less words on a line and no more than six lines per slide. Anything more takes the audience’s attention off you and they begin reading instead of listening. Also, if you’re reading everything on the slide, then you’re not looking at the audience. If you’re not looking at the audience… you’re not engaging them. At the heart of a good presentation is a personal connection with the speaker. It can’t be done if all your focus is on the screen.

FACTOR FOUR: Slow your speech

Many times when we get up in front of an audience, we’re so nervous that we just start rambling. It allows us to get through the material quickly, but sounds abnormal. When you give your presentation, actively think about slowing your speech. In most cases, it will still be fast! Slowing your nervous rate of speech also makes you sound more confident and knowledgable – both good things. This is especially important when you’re giving a report for school, since many times one must present for 3-5 minutes. Letting your nervous voice quickly tick off your talking points, will put you in under the mark and earn you a lower grade. The same can be said with a business presentation: if you go too quickly, it may appear that you’re pushy or looking to get onto bigger and better things.

FACTOR FIVE: Practice, Practice, Practice

I can’t stress this enough: YOU MUST PRACTICE YOUR PRESENTATIONS! The reason you do this is two-fold: 1) So that you become comfortable withe material (which goes back to speech rate and eye contact); 2) You can identify errors in the flow of information. There are various schools of thought on what’s the best way to practice. In my mind there are three. First, you can use the old standard “practice in front of a mirror” routine. It’s good, but I personally find it distracting. Another option is recording yourself using a video camera. I really like this, since you have the ability to capture your body language and get to see yourself from the audience’s perspective. The fact that most computers have a webcam or point-and-shoot cameras have a video function make it easy to record and review. The final practice step is to perform your presentation in front of someone and get their feedback.

The above Five Factors aren’t by any means the end-all and be-all of the presenting world, but are a good start for those that will be presenting in school this next term. I hope they’re as helpful to you as they have been to me over the years.

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Written by Steve Miller

November 27, 2009 at 4:11 pm

48 Responses

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  1. Having a good conclusion is essential – great point.

    I’m suprised you left out haveing a good opening. If you don;t get your audience in from the opening, they wont hear your conclusion.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts on this.

    Cheers

    Darren Fleming
    Australia’s Corporate Speech Coach

    Public Speaking Course

    December 4, 2009 at 11:01 am

    • I agree with your assessment. I typically work with students, so they tend to have a good opening for school presentations. When I worked with private businesses back in the US, it was always a struggle to get unique openers that would grab the audience’s attention. However, in my experiences, the five factors come up more often than not. I’ve seen great presentations start off with a bang, but then falter.

      Thanks for reading this post and taking the time to comment. I really appreciate it!

      Steve

      December 4, 2009 at 1:15 pm

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  3. The powerpoint…point… is a great… point.
    Even at university a mass of students would do that and it was exhausting to watch. I’m no good in the confidence, I never practiced enough I suppose, and rushed horribly. But I barely ever used powerpoint.

    Great post!

    Andy

    August 20, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    • Thanks! I hate Power Point… Although, one of my last seminars at University of Phoenix was instructing faculty members how to use Power Point (back in 1999).

      Steve

      August 20, 2010 at 2:03 pm

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