With a little over a month to go before your final presentations are due, it seems like a good time to offer some tips on how to give a great presentation. Having been down this path before - One thing I can assure you is that planning and preparation are key to a successful presentation. So here are some tips to keep in mind as you prepare and when you present.
1. Do not read the presentation to your audience
Put the power in your points. Use bullets only to highlight your topic or concept not explain it. The audience wants to listen to you. A successful presenter has his/her audience looking at him or her - not the slides.
2. Use more pictures and fewer words
You know the saying - a picture is worth a thousand words. It is true. If you use graphics - keep it simple and clear, but use it to support your thesis or your topic.
3. Keep introductions short
Most presenters usually start off by introducing themselves, what they do and whom they work for. Sometimes they take several slides to do this. My advice is avoiding long introductions and get right to the topic. That's why everyone is in the room - they want to know about the topic, not who you work for or your favorite hobbies. Provide just enough information about yourself so everyone knows you are the expert on the topic.
4. Have a bottle of water handy.
One thing that annoys me and I am sure a lot of others would agree is when the presenter finds himself coughing or constantly clearing their throats while presenting. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids before you start and have enough on hand in case your throat does go dry. Stop and pause, take a good drink and then resume. Your audience will appreciate it.
5. Avoid too much text on slides
As you put your slides together, use big fonts 14 - 16 pts or more and provide enough spacing between your lines. Use as few words as possible and make it relevant to the discussion on the slide. You don't want your audience reading the slides.
6. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
Always allow yourself enough time to rehearse. Do it with your family or friends, even if they don't know enough about the topic they can help critique your style and poise.
7. Stand Up Comedy is not required
You may have seen other presenters make jokes to get their audience engaged and laughing. This should not be the objective especially if you are a new presenter. It takes a seasoned and experienced presenter to be comfortable enough to provide humor. It can also be very dangerous if not carefully delivered, especially if it can come across as offensive to certain groups. Some presenters use cartoons like Dilbert - but be careful - use of copyrighted works often requires permission if presentation is distributed.
There are many sources on the web for preparing great presentations. Guy Kawasaki wrote one book I recommend reading - “The Art of the Start”, ISBN-10: 1591840562. The author provides some very useful tips on delivering effective presentations.
Good luck and see you at in Las Vegas!