Presenting information to a crowd is an art form. Presenting information powerfully is a talent that can change the trajectory of your entire career. Some people are natural at swooning an audience but for the rest of us, giving presentations takes practice.
The good news is, presenting well in front of a crowd–be it a small group at work, or in front of hundreds of people–really isn’t all that complicated. In fact, a powerful presentations can be summarized in eight simple steps using the acronym POWERFUL:
- Prepare for your Audience
- Open with Vigor
- Weave in the Stories
- Express with Visuals
- Relate with Delivery
- Frame the Content
- Unify the Message
- Leave with a Punch
Click on the image below to enlarge it and read the fine points under each step. Below the image, you can read in plain text the key points to giving a powerful presentation.
Prepare for Your Audience
Know who they are, then give ‘em what they want. Knowing your audience and what they expect is the most important aspect to a successful presentation.
- Who Are They? What’s their education? Occupation? Position in the company? Age? Background? Experience?
- Why Are They There? Do they expect formality or informality? How long do they expect you to speak? Are they expecting to be instructed, inspired, or something else?
- Why Are They There? Did they choose to be there or are they required to be there? Are they happy about it? Will they likely be tired, excited, nervous, or something else?
Open with Vigor
Grab ‘em early, and keep ‘em hooked. Start with pithiness and punchiness and you’ll enjoy the fruits of a captivated crowd. Here’s a list of the ten best ways to open with awesomeness:
- Tell a Story. Human beings love stories. A lot.
- Use Impressive Statistics. Not just any statistic. A “wow” statistic.
- Say Something Provocative. Make ‘em think. Or squirm. Just back it up.
- Tell a Relevant Joke. Make sure it’s funny. And relevant.
- Develop an Imaginative Scenario. “I want you to close your eyes. Now imagine…”
- Pull Out an Object. If it’s interesting, let ‘em see it.
- Do a Demonstration. Show ‘em how it’s done. Don’t just tell ‘em.
- Share a Personal Anecdote. You’ve been there, done that. So share it.
- Give a Quote. A good quote. One that makes you think.
- Ask a Question. Get ‘em involved. Wait for their response.
Weave in the Stories
If you tell it, they will listen. People love stories. They like to know how stories end. They’re intrigued by the plot, the conflict, the conclusion. If you ever seem to be losing your audience, just say, “let me tell you a story.” Watch in amazement as they suddenly perk up and listen. Of course, make sure the stories are relevant and have a purpose. Good stories have five things:
- Purpose: The story must have a purpose. What will your audience gain from the story?
- Reality: Make it real. Don’t make things up or exaggerate. Use real people, real places, real problems.
- Characters: We need somebody to cheer on. Care about. Root for. Give personality and put it in context.
- Conflict: What’s the issue? Build the whole story around it.
- Resolution: Don’t leave ‘em hanging. Let ‘em know how it ends.
Express with Visuals
Think you’re a visual learner? You are. Think your audience might be as well? They are. People remember information almost twice as well if an image is attached to the message. Text isn’t near as effective. Make your slides simple, congruent, and beautiful. And use lots of pictures and simple diagrams.
- Simplify the Slides. Reduce the text to few, if any words, per slide. No paragraphs, limited bulleted lists, and no complex charts, tables, or data sets. Use very simple backgrounds (plain white or black is a good option). Simple is almost always better.
- Use Relevant Pictures, Not Goofy Clip-art. Use images of people, things, and processes that are relevant and interesting. Avoid cheap, pixelated, and unrelated or non-useful stock photos and clip-art.
- Be Design Savvy. Use two fonts—one for headings, one for everything else. Repeat a visual element on every slide (like a logo or thematic icon). Make colors match and reduce all visual noise.
Relate with Delivery
Relate to your audience and they’ll relate to your message. Be smooth, be confident, be extemporaneous.
- Make eye contact
- Smile often
- Move naturally
- Speak loudly
- Intonate your voice
- Keep good posture
- Look at notes, screen, or elsewhere
- Appear bored or uninterested
- Have awkward nervous ticks
- Speak softly or mumble
- Sound robotic, choppy, or monotone
- Slouch, lean, or sway
Frame the Content
Give it structure, keep it organized. Let your audience know where you’re headed, where you’re at, and where you’ve gone. Transition, layer, and build towards a finish.
- Provide a Road-map & Stay on Course. Shortly after beginning, tell ‘em where you’re headed. Then stick
to the plan. No veering off, no tangential excursions.
- Give ’em Signposts. Remind your audience where you’re at and where you’re headed. Take them smoothly to the next point. “This brings up…,” “now to switch gears from_____, let’s move to…,” “so we just did_____; I want to now…”
- Build towards the Finish. Know your ultimate goal and head towards it. Each section of your presentation should build on the previous. Don’t bounce back and forth, avoid repetition.
Unify the Message
Bring ‘em home and tie it together. You’ve covered an array of things—now let’s hear how they call connect.
- Bring the Beginning Back. End where you started. Come full circle. If you started with a story, remind ‘em the purpose. If you gave a statistic, tell ‘em how it makes better sense now. Wherever you started, pull it back in.
- Summarize Key Points. Remind your audience what the main points are. Keep it simple. Narrow the focus into three or four things, reiterating what you told them bore, only much quicker.
- Connect the Dots. You’ve told a few stories, laid out some facts and statistics, explained a process or. But don’t leave anything left wanting. Connect the dots for your audience and they’ll leave filling fulfilled.
Leave with a Punch
Finish strong. Make it clear you’re done so they know when to clap. Don’t ever finish by just saying “thanks” or “I’m done” or “that’s it; any questions”? Lead into the “thanks” and ask for questions after your pithy close.
- Call ’em to Action. If appropriate, give your audience something to do. It may be as broad as changing the world or as specific as changing their toothbrush. But make it clear and make it count.
- Make a Contrast. “We can do _____ or we can do _____ ; which will you decide?”
- Tell Another [short] Story. Give an anecdote that puts emphasis on the message. Make it
short, but make it powerful.
- Give a Good Quote. Find a quote that is relevant, credible, and awesome. Leave
your audience with something to ponder and post on their fridge.