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9 Rules You Need to Follow for Your Next Presentation

As I’m getting prepared for several presentations over the next two months, I thought I would dig out my rules for a killer presentation. While I can’t say that I’ve never broken any of these rules, I can say that I’ve regretted it when I have. My presentations always benefit from a review of the rules, and hopefully these tips will be useful for you, too.
  1. Set up expectations at the beginning of your presentation. Essentially, you’re giving your content to them 3 times: tell them what you are about to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you just told them.
  2. Answer the question of relevance: “So what?” The first question your audience is asking is, “What’s in it for me?” How will it benefit your audience to hear your message? What is the result if your audience acts on your words?
  3. Add stories. Facts, logic, statistics and research speak to the mind, but anecdotes and stories speak to the heart and make your presentation memorable.
  4. Practice, practice, practice. Work to get rid of filler words and to attune your body language. As painful as it may be, watch yourself on video. If you can do your presentation without notes, then you are ready.
  5. Leave room for questions. Repeat questions before answering them so everyone can hear them.
  6. End on time. The schedule for the training is tight and as a result we need to stay on schedule.
  7. Possibly due to our culture’s love affair with television, the average adult’s attention span is only 5-8 minutes long, maximum. Treat your presentation like a TV show – 5-8 minutes of content, followed by a “commercial break” that involves the audience and breaks up the flow. This can be as simple as a quick discussion question or show-of-hands poll, or a longer, more involved exercise.
  8. Have a leave-behind. A handout, job aid, etc. will help your audience remember your presentation when they get back to their communities.
  9. If you are using PowerPoint
    • Think of each slide as a billboard on the freeway. Your audience should be able to ingest the information contained in the slide in about 4-5 seconds or less. A PowerPoint slide shouldn’t be a teleprompter. If it’s longer than a tweet – put it in a document and hand it out. Very few or even no words – perfect!
    • Use a minimum of 30-pt font. Anything smaller runs the risk of not being read by folks in the back. Plus, using a larger font helps to “keep you honest” with regard to limiting the number of words on your slide.
    • NEVER read from the screen. As attractive as the back of your head may be, your audience would rather look at the front of it.
    • Limit or eliminate bullet points. Bullet points are well-named…they kill presenters. (Yes, I realize that this tip is ironically brought to you in bullet-point form.)
So, what rules have I missed? Share your presentation rules-of-thumb in the comments below.

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