Making an effective presentation

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Presentations are usually a one way process where the audience listens and you the speaker speaks. Therefore keeping the attention of the audience is much more difficult. To gain the attention of your audience, you must first understand your audience. A presentation is made FOR the audience. People will pay attention to your presentation when they are motivated and when your presentation is relevant to their needs.

When making a presentation, introduce yourself and the topic you will be speaking about. Say what you need to say. Don’t keep the audience guessing. Just say what needs to be said. Reinforce this information using visual and other non-verbal aids. Do not stray from the topic and do not get lost in details. The majority of the audience is usually not interested in details. The few who are interested can ask you a question after the presentation. Conclude your presentation by restating the main points of the presentation.

Presentations of different lengths
In most situations, you would have 5, 15, or 45 minutes for your presentation. In a 5 minute presentation, just get to the point. Ignore introduction and other fancy greetings. In a 15 minute presentation, you should not have more than 12 slides with a few relevant visual aids. Get to the point and repeat the main points of your presentation in the conclusion. In a 45 presentation, you should have a well structured introduction so that the audience would know what you will be talking about. Add some aids during your presentation so that people can follow where you are in you presentation. Try to add plenty of visual and other non-verbal aids to keep the attention of the audience. Your concluding slide(s) should restate the main points of the presentation.

Before you present
Practice before you present. Pay attention to your voice and diction. Time yourself. Your slides should not contain more than 6 lines. Use different keywords on different lines. Align text to the left. Use easy to read fonts, nothing fancy. Choose a visually text vs. background contrast which doesn’t make the text difficult to read. Prepare back-up material if the computer system crashes.

How to appear on stage
Get there early. Check the sound. Setup your computer and test your presentation. Look self-assured and confident. Be audible, intelligible, and engaging when speaking. Maintain eye contact with your audience. Move but do not dance. Don’t rush though your presentation. Don’t get lost in details, stick to the point. Don’t stray from the topic. Do not do a second presentation. Watch you body language.

Selling the message
Each presentation is made to communicate one or more messages. If you don’t have a message to communicate, don’t do a presentation. In your presentation, be clear and simple. Don’t give too much information. Ideally give one message and never more than three. Be interested in what you are saying and believe in it. If you believe in what you are saying and are excited about what you are presenting, your audience will too.

Dealing with questions
When preparing a presentation, think of the questions that might be asked and prepare for them. Remain courteous but cautious. Questions are opportunities rather than dangers. Be positive.

Elements of a bad presentation

Poor visual aids
Too many visual aids
Too much information
Lack of preparation
Preparation for the wrong audience
Presentation too long or too short
Mumbling, reading and lack of eye contact
A bad presentation often does not produce questions.

Take a pen and a piece of paper. Think of all the bad presentations you went to. Write down all that you disliked about them. Then think of all the good presentations you went to. Write down everything that you liked about them. Chances are that your piece of paper would be just as good an advice as any article written on this topic.

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