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Creating and delivering effective presentations

In a competitive business environment, the ability to present effectively has become increasingly important. It is no longer enough for you to be great at your job. Today’s business leaders are expected to be able to talk well and present with confidence and clarity.

For many people however, giving a presentation is no easy task. But just how do you make the most out of your presentations, speak with confidence, engage your audience and compel them to take action?

1. Live your brand

Like any business, you are competing. As such, you need to be clear about what makes you stand out from the crowd and,  just as importantly, you need to be able to communicate this to the wider world. For the most part you communicate in three ways:

  • The way you look
  • The way you sound
  • The way you behave

To enhance recognition and memorability, your brand must become a part of every communication you produce, everything you are and everything you do. When creating a presentation representing your business therefore, it’s vital that you first understand your brand identity.

Consider the aesthetics

Forget unnecessary sounds and visuals. If the content of your presentation is good you don’t need complex transitions, animations, clip art, sound effects and cluttered templates.

To manage your brand successfully however, you will need a consistent, unified look across all marketing and communication channels – a look that is instantly recognisable as ‘you’. This visual identity should be set out in your brand guidelines and should include guidance on how to use your logo, colours, imagery, typography etc. With a comprehensive set of brand guidelines, if you don’t already have one in place it should be relatively straightforward to create a stylish PowerPoint presentation template.

While I’m a firm believer in substance over style, a poorly designed and badly put together presentation will detract from your overall message. Your slides don’t have to look ‘flashy’ and content is indeed key, however they should look professional. Your slides should help support your presentation, not detract from it.

Establish your tone of voice

Your tone of voice is the way in which you write and speak. It’s what you say and how you say it. While everyone has their own unique voice, there should always be a consistency in the way people who are representing your brand and business express themselves. This consistency should stem from the type of business you are, and the type of business you strive to be. Once you have a tone of voice in place, make sure to refer to it when planning your presentation. The more consistent you are in using your tone of voice, the more likely it is that people will come to recognise, understand and trust you. If you don’t have a tone of voice already established for your brand, a good copywriter should be able to help you with this.

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
Nelson Mandela

Walk the talk

Businesses, like people, have personalities. A distinctive personality not only gives a business authenticity, but it also makes it memorable. A well thought out personality helps build customer loyalty, which in turn makes your business more competitive. Take the time to figure out the attributes of your business. Are you commercial, ethical, forward thinking, a combination of all three or something completely different? Once you have established who you are, these attributes must become part of everything you say and everything you do. When creating any presentation it’s important to keep these attributes front of mind at all times.

2. Figure out what you want to achieve

Before you even begin to create a presentation it’s important that you first consider:

  • Who are you talking to?
  • What are they likely to want from the presentation (i.e. knowledge, info to make their life/job easier, help to win more business etc.)?
  • Is the presentation relevant to the audience?
  • Are you using language they will understand?
  • Is the information of interest to the audience?
  • What do you want to achieve (i.e. to be seen as a thought-leader, to raise your profile, to build your network, to sell services etc.)?
  • What’s the one thing  you want your audience to take away from the presentation. This should be an identifiable key message. Once you have established this make sure that everything you present is consistent with, and supportive of this message.

3. Make it personal

In a competitive marketplace nothing differentiates like your own personality. A big dash of personality makes everything so much easier to understand and keeps you front of mind. It changes the way you deliver key messages, and it changes the way people think about you.

Top tips for adding personality:

  1. Keep it professional but lead with your personality
  2. Talk the same way you would face-to-face
  3. Choose the right topic. You can’t fake enthusiasm
  4. Have confidence in your convictions
  5. Give them something they can’t get elsewhere

4. What’s in it for them?

The key to a great presentation is making it relevant to the audience. Don’t leave them asking “so what?” at the end (or even worse in the middle!). Advice from seasoned presenters suggests that the following aids are received warmly by audiences and could be considered when creating yours:

  • Real life case studies. Little convinces people of your credentials more than authoritative word of mouth.
  • High-profile examples/hot-topics which have been publicised in the media which relate to the subject matter . These breathe live into your presentation and are also likely to be remembered by listeners.
  • Additional supporting information to be provided as hand-outs in addition to your main presentation.
  • Scenarios to encourage audience participation and feedback. Ask questions if possible — get some interaction between you and the audience.
  • Copies of your slides to be taken away from the event. If your prefer you can create a slimed down version for presentation purposes and a more detailed version to take away. Let the audience know you will be providing these up front and stop people from frantically note taking rather than listening to what you have to say.

5. Top tips for delivering a great presentation

  • Keep to the point. Once you know what you want to say, take all of your information and boil it down. Present only the information that your audience can’t do without. This will stop you from rambling.
  • Once you know what needs to be included, plan the structure of your presentation. Outline not only your speech but your slides as well. For the most part presentations should begin by introducing your main point, follow this with supporting evidence and then end with a compelling conclusion.
  • Think about your presentation in advance. It sounds obvious but you might be surprised by how many people let themselves down by not respecting the time of the people they are presenting to.
  • Question your presentation. Not sure if it’s interesting enough? Ask ‘so-what?’ to everything you write.
  • Stick to the time limit given. Prepare in advance and factor in time for questions if needs be.
  • E-mail your presentation to the event organisers in advance and ask them to confirm that it looks fine. The last thing you want to worry about is the technology when you arrive at the event.
  • Don’t forget about your tone of voice when presenting.
  • Face your audience. Even though your presentation is likely to be on a screen behind you, your audience is unlikely to appreciate staring at your back.
  • Find ways to inspire your audience. This will make them more invested and will help them retain the information more accurately and for longer.
  • Be enthusiastic about what you are presenting and make the audience understand why it’s important.
  • Ask for feedback. The more presentations you do the better you are likely to become at presenting. Audience feedback is crucial to this improvement process.

6. Just do it

First a foremost, don’t be beaten by the blank page. Write headings/ideas, anything to start the process. Identify the main point you want to get across; people can only absorb so much information, so you need to bear in mind what your key message is. Finally don’t get bogged down in detail. Structure, length and the right words can come later.



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