Best Practices for Effective Presentations – Part 1
We’ve all attended an event at least once where the presenter failed to connect with us in a meaningful way. After such presentations, we left feeling disappointed and frustrated with what seemed to have been a waste of time. No one plans or expects for presentations to turn into a disaster but the reality is that this can happen to anyone who is not properly prepared to present effectively.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is the first of a four-part series which focuses on best practices for preparing and conducting face-to-face and virtual presentations. In this article, we will cover the most critical DOs and DON’Ts when preparing for face-to-face presentations.
1. Do ensure your presentation format meets any specific requirements or guidelines for the event.
This is the most important step in your preparation. If for any reason you haven’t been provided with this information, don’t assume you are free to present in any manner you choose. Take the time to inquire about this information as soon as possible. Additionally, ask for a copy of the evaluation that will be used by participants after your presentation. Knowing how you will be evaluated can serve as an advantage.
2. Do confirm that your content is relevant to the needs of your audience.
If the content is not perceived as relevant, it will be quickly dismissed by your audience. If you do not know your audience well or are unsure as to whether your content will meet their needs, speak to the organizer of the event as well as anyone else who can share the level of knowledge your audience may have on the topic.
3. Do offer tools and resources that address the topic and are useful to participants.
While your audience is certainly interested in learning more about your topic, they are also hungry for tools and resources that will empower them in addressing a specific need. To accomplish this, provide your audience with copies of your presentation along with any essential handouts. Make sure to also include your contact information so that participants can reach out to you for more information in the future.
4. Do contact the event organizer to request audio/visual equipment and make any other technical arrangements.
If you need internet connectivity, don’t assume it will be provided on the spot without making a request in advance. In some rooms, wireless connection may be weak in which case a wired connection may be your only option. Similarly, if you plan on playing any audio or video content, make sure to request speakers in advance.
5. Do practice your presentation.
Practice makes perfect so take a few days to review you presentation and rehearse your notes. Also, take the time to ask others for feedback.
1. Don’t design text-heavy slides.
Slides should never serve as your notes. They should be visually appealing and include images to help reinforce concepts when necessary. The more text you pack onto a slide, the smaller the font size becomes and the more difficult it is to read. For this reason, follow the 6/6/6 rule. No more than 6 words per line, 6 lines per slide, and 6 text slides in a row before incorporating an image slide for transition to a new topic.
2. Don’t use custom fonts or fancy slide animations.
Keep in mind that if you are asked to load your presentation onto a facility laptop, your custom fonts and animations may not appear as expected. This happens because some fonts and animations may not be installed or compatible with other computers or older software. This can lead to slides that no longer appear or function as they should. Therefore, only use font styles that are common to most computers and avoid animations as much as possible unless you are certain that they will work on the computer from which you will be presenting.
3. Don’t use small text or colors that makes your content hard to read.
For bullet points and most slide content, consider using large text (font size 24 or higher) as well as theme colors that complement each other well. Making your text larger than usual will accommodate those in the back of a long room. If you’re presenting with the lights on, consider using dark text on a light background.
4. Don’t forget to interact with your audience.
Most participants don’t want to hear a lecture. They want opportunities to be engaged in meaningful discourse. Build in time for questions whether to check for comprehension during the session or for discussion at the very end of the presentation. If this is a training workshop, provide opportunities for participants to demonstrate their understanding and practice specific skills in groups. Also, if the event requires advance registration, find out how many plan to attend as this can alter the format of your presentation. In comparison to a large audience, a very small audience can allow for more interactivity and movement.
Once you have taken the time to properly plan for your presentation, you will feel more confident with its design and structure. As we move on to Part 2 of this series, we will cover techniques for engaging your audience during the presentation so that you can successfully deliver your message.
Check out the entire series on Best Practices for Effective Presentations: Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.