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    How to create and deliver a presentation that is worth sitting through

    August 16, 2016 by Alison Hill

    A friend in the financial services industry told me about a webinar she signed up for, and what a waste of time it was. I’m sure you can relate: after about 20 minutes she took a break and made herself a coffee. When she came back, the same slide was on her screen and the presentation had hardly moved along. She gave up and went back to her work.

    Mostly we’re not able to clock out of boring presentations. Either we need the information to do our jobs properly, or we are stuck in a meeting room with no way out. Most of us will be on the other side of the audience at some time, and have to present to others in the workplace. Knowledge-sharing is a vital part of work these days, and most of us will be called on to give a talk or slide presentation, or to create a webinar or instructional video at some time.

    Whatever method you use, here are some guidelines to follow and some handy resources to help you.

    1. Get straight to the point, preferably with a good story

    So many presentations – particularly webinars – have long introductions that add nothing to the experience. Hook your audience early with a pithy introduction and preferably with a good story that makes them care. There’s nothing like a human angle to get the audience involved. My financial adviser friend recalled the story of a retailer with no business interruption insurance. A car went through the shopfront, smashing the glass and ruining expensive equipment, which was covered, and closing the shop for a month, which was not. That got her attention much more than a statistic about lost trading revenue could ever have.

    1. Know who your audience is

    Actually, this should have been point one. You can’t deliver a good presentation if you don’t know who you are talking to. It affects everything from what technical terms to use (see point 4) to how long you will talk for and what visuals you will use. Take a page from the marketing playbook and create a ‘persona’ representing your typical audience member. How old are they? What do they do in their spare time? What do they already know about your subject? Why do they need to know about your topic? Do some research before you make the presentation, and then tailor what you have to say to that persona.

    A word of warning: it’s annoying to poll the audience at the start of your session and then not act on what you find. Countless webinars ‘poll’ the audience and then do squat to adapt the content to suit those findings. Either be prepared to adapt your talk, or don’t ask. Your audience will only feel ignored and tune out if you fail to respond to their needs.

    1. Don’t overcrowd your presentation with bullet points and endless slides

    Death by PowerPoint – we’ve all been there. There is no point in putting up slides filled with endless bullet points and reading them to the audience; not in person, and not online. Your audience will read your slides rather than listen to you, and they can read faster than you can speak. Use slide presentations to highlight the main points you will talk to and make sure they are interesting. We couldn’t say it any better than in this presentation about great PowerPoint presentations by designer Damon Nofar.

    1. Don’t use excessively technical jargon or in-house terms

    My finance professional told me how she attended a seminar dealing with legal issues in financial advice. ‘When the presenter used terms I didn’t know, I felt really out of touch. I felt dumb until I looked around the room and saw nearly everybody else looking awkward, and realised it wasn’t just me.’ The lesson is that if you have to use technical terms, explain them clearly in words that match the knowledge and experience of your audience.

    1. Use your ordinary speaking voice and put your self into the presentation

    Most of the time, presentations do not need to sound like a formal oration. It’s not the school debating society, nor the Gettysburg address. Put your true self out there and you will be much more likely to connect with the audience.

    1. Mind your professional manners

    My financial friend told me how at an industry event she attended, presenters had cracked ‘jokes’ about their competition in the industry, naming the organisations. Far from making her feel more positive about the presenter’s organisation, she was shocked by their lack of professional manners. Whether you are presenting internally or externally, slagging off the competition, be it another company or another team, adds nothing to your presentation. Bad jokes, in-jokes and snide remarks reflect badly on your professionalism.

    1. Create a strategy to deal with questions

    Think about your pace and how to engage your audience. Reading slides out in a monotone is not going to do it. Giving the audience a chance to ask questions, stopping to ask or answer questions yourself and periodically checking the audience’s understanding helps to keep people tuned in.

    Questions and answers need to be controlled, however. We’ve all been in a presentation where an audience member takes up the group’s time with questions that are not relevant to the rest of us. ‘I was impressed by a presenter who could deflect unhelpful questions’, my financial adviser friend told me. ‘He offered to collect all the questions and answer them at the end if his presentation hadn’t answered them, and dealt with important ones as he went along. He struck a good balance between being engaging and taking up too much time with things that were not interesting to most of us.’

    1. Call on the professionals

    Challenge Consulting’s People Services runs Presenting with Impact workshops on presentation skills, as well as a presentation skills test for candidates.

    Copyright-free images to use in your slides are available on many sites, including Pixabay.  Easy-to-use graphic design site Canva helps with images and infographics. Both can be used for free. Prezi is a great alternative to PowerPoint. There are plenty more learning resources and tools out there. Use them to make your presentations sing.


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