It’s fitting on this prominent national holiday to discuss the power of presentation. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t have big screens behind him and to either side showing PowerPoint slides – replete with clever animations, electrifying music and inspirational videos – when he delivered his powerful, soul-changing “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963, and that should teach us something about how we can be effective presenters.
Persuasive presentations aren’t comprised of the ubiquitous PowerPoint slide alone. The key to your presentations is … YOU. In fact, some now believe that PowerPoint has become such a crutch that the effectiveness of presentations has actually declined in recent years. Slick media capabilities lure us into a false reliance on technology and make us tend to minimize the importance of our own performance in delivering the presentation.
Now, not everyone can be the great orator Dr. King was, but we can all learn to become better presenters. It requires some focus and discipline, along with education and careful observation of those around us who are effective presenters (and those who are not as well). But we can do it. Here are some tips:
- Just as with anything else, proofread your presentation slides and materials thoroughly beforehand. Misspellings are embarrassing, but inconsistencies (especially with numbers) are even more so. Also, make sure you run through the flow of the topic or topics to make sure your slides/materials are in the best order.
- As you review your presentation, try to anticipate questions your audience might have, and be prepared to answer them. You do NOT have to somehow incorporate the answer to every possible question into the slides and materials themselves – that is both unnecessary and tedious.
- Don’t be afraid to do a little rehearsing. This can be in your head, or whispering to yourself at your desk, or in front of a mirror at home. Wherever it is, it can’t hurt.
- Know your topic and present it with conviction. What you say should generally be more important than what you show; though visuals can be powerful aids, they should be just that – aids. Again, the key to effective presentations is you, the presenter.
Hopefully those tips are helpful. In Part 2 we’ll talk more specifically about how to put together a good PowerPoint package to support your presentation. Until then … happy presenting!