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5 tips to make your presentations sparkle

Have you ever had the misfortune to sit through a truly awful presentation? Too long, too verbose, visually suffocating, or just plain confusing?

Graphs that feel like big data dumps, too much jargon, and awful default templates make us want to lean forward in our seats, only to reach for our phones with heaving sighs and rolling eyes.

Presentations delivered with passion, persuasion, and impact can shift the audience’s perspective on a subject and may even empower them to act.

My name is Philippe Tardif, I am the Brand Lead here at CDS. I’d like to share with you a few tips on how to build, and most importantly deliver (!), awesome presentations that stand out – for all of the right reasons, and none of the wrong ones.

Here are five tips to help you improve your presentation skills:

Extracted gem #1 - Know your audience

All effective communication begins with knowing your audience and speaking their language. Ask yourself these very simple questions: Who are you talking to? Colleagues? A Minister? Beginners or Specialists? What are they interested in? What could captivate them?

Knowing your audience will help you adapt your content to their needs and select an appropriate tone. Failing to consider your audience’s needs will result in them quickly losing interest. Misjudging your audience is a faux pas you don’t want to make! Learn all you reasonably can about your audience.

Extracted gem #2 - Define structure first and then create content

Framing what you want to say is another vital part of preparation. What’s the outcome you’re aiming for? Are you trying to inform, build consensus, implement change? Fine-tune your story so that its core message becomes clear and simple for people to digest and … remember!

Bonus gem! You can’t visualize ALL the information in your head, but you can scribble down your ideas. Use a piece of paper or a storyboard to help you visualize the structure of your presentation. By breaking a story into linear, bite-sized chunks, it will allow you to focus more efficiently when the time comes to put it all together.

Extracted gem #3 - Build your slide deck: Content is not King, Content is the Kingdom

It’s time to start creating content and build out your deck. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this! Your storyboard is there to help you design slides quickly and efficiently.

Use your storytelling skills to build a content-rich narrative. Always aim to tell a compelling story. People remember good stories much better than dry lists of facts or bullet-ridden slides. Walls of text never ‘wowed’ any audiences, ever. Breaking up big blocks of text into smaller chunks of text helps with content processing.

Write with clarity. Be concise. Use short, simply-constructed sentences and your clarity will skyrocket. When writing, ask yourself this: “How can I help people understand this better?” Once you are satisfied with the written content, ask someone to proofread it.

Avoid clutter and chaos. Express your ideas in clear, visual statements. Keep fonts and colors to a minimum. Use visuals that inform and enhance meaning.

Graphs should simplify comprehension and not become puzzle-solving exercises for people. When it comes to design, find the right balance between text and images.

Extracted gem #4 - Make an impact

The goal of your introduction is to capture your audience’s attention and connect with them. The end is all about leaving them with a memorable message.

Here’s a great way to start any presentation:

  • Introduce yourself and acknowledge your audience.
  • State your presentation’s topic/purpose (what are you talking about? Why?).
  • Define your objectives and outcomes (an information session or a Town Hall meeting?).
  • Mention the process details (ask questions before, during or after? Listen? Take notes?).

Remember to say last what you want the audience to remember most. Here are some tips on how to deliver an effective conclusion:

  • Signal that it’s nearly the end (“and that brings us to the end”).
  • Summarize and draw clear conclusions from your key points.
  • Conclude impactfully (a quote, a photo, a statistic, etc.).
  • Provide next steps (call-to-action, Q&A, useful resources, contact information).
  • Always thank your audience.

Extracted gem #5 - Rehearse to deliver your presentation confidently

Awesome job! You’ve put together a presentation! Now it’s time to plan for a smooth delivery.

It’s natural to feel nervous before giving a presentation. Everyone gets butterflies; the trick is to get them to fly in a formation. Don’t panic! Anxiety decreases as a speech progresses. The best way to gain confidence is to practice in front of people.

An effective presenter’s relationship with its audience is very important. As an audience listens to your ideas, it also responds to your body language and how you use your voice. Be assertive, not aggressive. People consuming your presentation should be invited to be a part of it.

Rehearsing using the same software that will be used to present your final product will help you to avoid unpleasant surprises. Try to recreate the presentation environment. Practice moving around the room.

Do a dry run either live or via a video call with friends, family or colleagues. Collect their feedback to allow you to refine your delivery until the words, story, and substance are right.

Make sure that the speed of your delivery is easy to follow. If you speak too quickly or too slowly your audience will have difficulty following your presentation. And don’t stick robotically to scripts. You’ll lose the connection with your audience.

Most importantly, be yourself. Play to your strengths. Focus on delivering an authentic and meaningful speech. Make the talk your own.

Concluding remarks

There is no one good way to create and deliver an effective presentation. Remember the importance of knowing your audience. It is crucial to structuring your presentation appropriately. Without this understanding you cannot prepare relevant content.

No one becomes an expert of slide decks or a better speaker overnight. Putting together and delivering knockout presentations that will motivate audiences to do more than just listen takes time and practice.

Weave your story so your message becomes clear, compelling, and memorable.

May you have happy and effective presentations!