Part 2 – Presentation content

Once you have taken into consideration everything related to the organization of the presentation (Part 1 – Preparation for the meeting and planning beforehand), it is time to start preparing the actual content.

The only thing worse than a boring presentation is long and boring presentation. Perhaps at least once you have experienced the existential despair of being anchored to a boring event which you cannot leave. Now imagine that you are the one causing this torment to others… It is just too much.

To avoid such situations, consider the key factors that affect your presentation:

  1. Purpose: Define a clear goal that you want to achieve with the presentation. For example: to convince someone to buy your product; to establish yourself as an expert in some area; to build rapport. Different goals will require different focus of the content. Here are some examples on how to correctly define the purpose of the meeting:
  • If this is an initial meeting with a prospect, your main goal is to make a good first impression and build trust.
  • In case you are having a recurrent meeting with a prospect, your goal could be to offer a specific solution to the problems you are already familiar with.
  • If an existing client invites you to talk about a new project, the most important goal is to convince them that you have the right skills and experience to handle this new task.
  • Your goal could also be to share certain information in the most appropriate way. You may have to train someone on a specific subject or to introduce a complex concept in an understandable way.
  1. Scope and Formulation: A good practice in presentations is the 10/20/30 rule, pioneered by Guy Kawasaki. The rule is quite simple: A Power Point presentation should contain 10 slides, last up to 20 minutes and use a font size not less than 30 pts. You can find more detailed materials on the topic with a simple web search.Here are some of the other key factors you should keep in mind:
  • Find out how much time you have and how you will be keeping track. How long does it take for you to talk through each slide?
  • Find out what is the audience type and how many people will be present. The greater the number, the bigger chance of diverse backgrounds, which means that the level of language and details has to be more common. Avoid long texts when presenting in front of an audience. This will make the attendees read rather than listen to you. Or even worse – to completely ignore the slide and not read anything at all. Only present the most important concepts in writing and tell the rest.
  • Prepare backup slides – these could be related to secondary topics which will illustrate in more detail some of the topics discussed in the main slides or some other type of entertaining content related to the main topic.
  1. Scenario: It is best to create an example scenario in order to be sure that you will achieve the desired goal and to avoid getting “lost” in the presentation. It will also help you cope with unexpected situations and will help you to:
  • Identify what is the key takeaway of each slide and what information you absolutely want to convey. Is there a specific element to which you will draw the audience’s attention while on a slide, which part do you read and what do you have to say that is not written? In other words, what do you have to remember by heart?
  • Find out what could be the possible questions that may arise on the slide content and how you will respond to them
  • Think of and plan your reaction if you are interrupted
  • Be prepared if you have extra time – have you prepared topics that could initiate a discussion?
  • Be prepared in case you don’t have enough time – if you unexpectedly need to shorten the presentation and you have only 5 minutes left, what will be the most important thing to say? Which slides can you skip and which ones should you go through?
  1. Feedback and Practice: Public speaking is an innate ability for some people…and a terrifying experience for others. No matter which group you are part of, there is one sure way to prepare for such a situation and it is to practice in an environment as close as possible to the real one. Whether you are an experienced veteran in presentations or taking your first steps, you must have passed a series of mandatory rehearsals and dry runs to ensure your presentation goes smoothly. Here are some useful guidelines:
  • If you are nervous when publicly speaking, start with rehearsals in a standing position going through the words in your mind. The next step is to speak your presentation out loud in front of the mirror if possible. This will give you the necessary foundation to take your first steps towards speaking in front of people.
  • Ask your colleagues to spend time with you and present to them. That way you will gain relevant experience and find out what you should work on further and what you are doing well. Listen to your colleague’s guidance and advice. If you cannot convince your colleagues, invite close friends without letting them know that you are going to practice on them, buy some snacks and throw one of the most boring dinner parties of the year.
  • It is always a good idea to get a second opinion on your presentation from colleagues, even if you don’t have the opportunity to present live. In the worst case send your presentation by mail – a second look and a different perspective are always a good idea when the goal is to have flawless content. If necessary, you can bribe your colleagues: offer candy or coffee in return of their assessment. Not both. You do not want to spoil them of course.
  • It is quite normal to be nervous while you are presenting. Even if you are, never mention it to the audience. If you say you are nervous, trying to pass it as a joke, you actually challenge the audience to look at you more closely and to scrutinize for the anxiety signals you are sending. The truth is, most likely, the audience has no idea you’re nervous.

Stay tuned for the final part of our presentation series – Conducting the actual presentation!