Many projects require a presentation, whether at the beginning, end, or somewhere in the middle. Sometimes it is given to the managers or executives, sometimes to the project team, and sometimes to stakeholders who have a specific interest in the project.
Project presentations can be very nerve racking and difficult for many people, but that doesn’t mean they have to be difficult. With practice and some basic guiding principles, you can give a stunning project presentation that will knock their socks off. I’ve given many project presentations, and I’m going to share my secrets with you.
- Present the Problem and Solution
- Repeat the main point 3 times
- Include an analogy or story
- Keep slides short
- Include pictures and Diagrams
- Connect with the audience
Present the Problem and Solution
Many audience members assume that you know what you’re talking about, and most of the time you do. But somehow, if the presenter doesn’t include the topic of the presentation directly, the audience doesn’t want to decide what it is for themselves.
It’s similar to a sales pitch in that it’s the presenter’s job to keep the audience engaged. If you wish to maximize the communication of the message, you need to state it directly.
Include an Analogy or Story
One easy way to keep people engaged is via an analogy or story. In fact, this idea is so natural and easy to pull off that it should be standard practice for any good project presentation.
- An analogy is a comparison to a similar real life thing, for example,
This product works like a rocket ship taking off to the moon. It takes a bit of preparation time which might seem a bit daunting at times only to have a very quick experience that over relatively quickly, but the experience is worth every second in the end. I’ve become a true believer in the immense power of analogy. Analogies engage audiences in milliseconds and give them something to remember the presentation by. I’ve incorporated analogies in my writing at every opportunity, and the results have been truly amazing. Many project presentations come in groups, that is, they are one out of many. In this case, the presentation with an analogy is the one that will be remembered by the audience.
- A story is an experience that relates to the topic being presented, for example,
Last year I had the privilege of working with sick kids at the hospital. These kids needed life saving medical care, and the doctors were fantastic. It made me realize that this product really has the potential to impact people, and maybe even save lives. A story is a personal experience, either yours or somebody else’s. They work just like an analogy by engaging the audience and giving them something to remember the project by. But they have the potential to drag on when the audience starts to feel like it’s not about them. The key to pulling off a successful story is to keep it short and relevant. If the audience can’t connect it to the project, they will lose interest.
Ideas for analogies are surprisingly easy to find with internet searches. Personal story ideas require brainstorming and thinking about the relationship between the topic and real world experiences.
Repeat the Main Point 3 Times
This is a golden rule in any type of presentation, written or oral. If you want someone to remember something, you have to say it three times:
- Tell them what you’re going to say
- Say it
- Tell them what you just said
In most presentations, this takes the form of an introduction, main body, and conclusion. But all three parts need to spell out the main point in a prominent place, clearly and succinctly. You want to make sure the audience doesn’t need to think, that people can be daydreaming about what they’re going to be doing that evening but they’ll perk up and get hit with a short but prominent main conclusion that they won’t forget.
In most presentations, audiences are not in a position where they want to exercise their thought muscles. Similar to a sales presentation, they don’t want to think for themselves, they figure it’s the presenters job to tell them what to think. Hence, they forget what they are told very quickly.
Speaking of which, did you notice the analogy? I’ll bet that if you remember nothing else from this article, you’ll remember that the audience doesn’t want to exercise their thought muscles.
Keep Slides Short
Many presentations contain long winded verbiage that requires long form reading while the presenter is talking. I see this time and time again in presentations that I attend, and I’ve even done this myself when it seemed like there was no other way to get the point across. But in hindsight this is a waste of good presentation time. Nobody is going to read long paragraphs. In fact, nobody is going to read long sentences either.
The idea is simple. When writing presentation slides, keep bullet points under two lines of text. Any more and it should be said verbally or placed into the next bullet.
Include Pictures and Diagrams
A presentation with only words is boring and will turn even the most interested audience members into a state of deep slumber. Diagrams and pictures are the lifeblood of a good presentation, and yes, they take quite a bit of time to produce versus writing out a few bullet points. But the corresponding increase in audience engagement is priceless.
This idea is self explanatory. Make sure no more than about half of the presentation slides contain only written words.
Connect with the Audience
The previous 5 bullets contained advice for good presentation slides and planning, but what are some ideas to deliver the presentation in a stunning way?
There are a few secrets, but the key to all of them is connecting with the audience.
Remember first that the audience wants to hear your presentation. They wouldn’t be there if they didn’t. However, most people don’t have the attention span to stay engaged for an entire presentation unless they have a very high interest in the subject matter. They will move in and out of attention, remembering only the most interesting (not necessarily important) parts.
Here are a few pointers:
- Use Outline notes
Don’t read from a script. Although it is permissible to read for some of the time, extensive reading from a written script disconnects from the audience and loses the message because people stop listening.
- Talk to one person
I’ve found it helpful to pick one person in the audience and deliver the presentation to them. Don’t look only at them, of course, but let it sink in that you are not so much talking to a larger audience as you are giving many presentations to individual people, simultaneously.
- Don’t let down the most interested person in the audience
Here’s another tip I’ve used in my presentations as well as my musical performances. There’s guaranteed to be at least one person in the audience who loves what you’re saying and wants to learn all about it. So wouldn’t it be a huge disappointment if you let them down? Let all your presentation anxiety submit to the desire to make sure that that one person who really wants to know your information isn’t disappointed. I mean, why are you even talking to everyone else, that doesn’t care, anyway?
Those are my secrets for stunning presentations! Let me know how it goes and what other tips you have in the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you!