Great presentations are an end-to-end affair. We only see the good, the bad and the ugly once it’s go-time, but that’s just one part of a multi-step process—seven steps, if you ask us.
If you want to start giving better presentations, you need to start thinking of it like a business or enterprise. You’re coordinating resources, putting together project plans, living up to your part of the final product and holding others accountable to theirs. Here’s how to do it, step by step:
1. Create: Pick up the next bible you run across and read the first few lines of Genesis. It’s sort of like that. Out of the void, great presenters create excellent, resonant, logical content that has a purpose. We recommend starting with an outline, but some presenters really think best in prose. Sometimes, you’ll try a couple of different approaches before your angle really develops. Creating can be a terrifying process, especially when you feel like it isn’t coming together and the stakes are high and time is short. But don’t ever make the mistake of moving to the next step without first getting down on paper what you need to communicate in relative detail.
2. Shape: A great story isn’t ready for PowerPoint or Keynote anymore than great books are ready for film. Presentation content needs to be shaped into a format that accentuates the objectives and delivers the core content in three silos or buckets. This sounds rigid, and so do musical scales. But we’re willing to bet your favorite improvisational jazz musicians knew the scales backward and forward. Know the formula, use it, and improvise only after becoming an indisputable master.
3. Design: This is where most people lose their audience. Really and truly, if we have to see another presentation with blank backgrounds, Arial font and an endless succession of bullet points, we’ll initiate a bearded vigil in remembrance of the victims. It’s fine for just organizing your thoughts and the presentation’s flow, but please put more effort into making the presentation seem professional and polished. The boost in credibility you get from this alone will justify the effort (or cost).
4. Practice: Bare minimum, you have to run through the full length presentation at least 3 times to be moderately prepared, and that’s assuming that you were the one that outlined and supervised the presentation’s development up to this point. You need to time each run through and make notes the third time around when you get bored practicing certain sections—those are the sections where your audience will also be bored. You learn a lot about your deck during this step. Don’t pass up the opportunity to improve it one more time.
5. Ship: Anything and everything pertaining to getting your properly formatted, properly displayed deck up for the audience is on you. From file formatting, backups, multiple display options, and other preparation work, make every effort to get that deck on stage in optimal form.
6. Sell: Once you’re on stage, it’s time to sell. Bring your passion and energy—when you’re on stage, what feels over-enthusiastic looks normal and what feels normal looks sedate and dispassionate. Whatever your feelings are about your message, however it could be perfected, your responsibility at this point is to sell with all your heart.
7. Close: Don’t forget the most important part of all! Many presenters are so glad to be done with the “hard” part—the presentation delivery—that they fail to confidently approach key decision-makers to close them on the pitch before everyone leaves the meeting. Perhaps it stems from that sense of insecurity we get after presenting: part of us is looking for validation after speaking in such a venue, but what we really need to do is go for that confident close and let the big deal validate your performance.
Follow these steps before every presentation and you won’t go wrong.
Question: How much time do you allow for developing a presentation? Days? Weeks? Months?
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