Sep 20, 2012

9 things to note before you open PowerPoint

What do most people do when asked to make a presentation. They open PowerPoint and then start thinking what to write. Even I have been a culprit of this in my early days as a presenter. Next time you have a presentation, before opening PowerPoint, make a note of these 9 things. You will do a much better job.

1. Are you spending more time on slide designing and less on thinking about what you have to say? Put substance before style. Prepare your content first. Have total clarity about what to say and how. Slide design, images, animations and templates are secondary and can be done later.

2. Your success depends on how well you think and not how well you speak. If you think well and know what to say and how to justify your arguments, most of your job is done. To do well, you need to think well. You are not bad at speaking. You speak all the time!

3. Have a goal for every speech/presentation. Why is the audience here? Have they come to learn, to be inspired or to be entertained? Find out the goal and fulfill it. Work towards when you are planning your content.

4. Respect your audience's time. 100 people in the audience sitting for 20 minutes is equal to 33 hours of their time. You should atleast spend 5 hours preparing. Do not waste 33 hours of time and insult your audience by not preparing. Most presenters do not prepare hard enough before a presentation.

5. Have a clear structure for your talk. What is the topic? What all can you say about the topic. Write down all the statements and arguments. Select five points which you feel most strongly about. Now remember these five and write it down. This is the basic structure of your talk. You will now make your slides, expand and talk in detail about these five points. Add a chart, use an image or say a story about these 5 points. Even if your slides get lost, you will be able to confidently talk about these 5 points. This is the main skeleton on which your talk is based. This is the clear struture of your talk. Come what may your audience will get what you came to say.

6. People have a limited attention span. John Medina says human beings can only pay attention for 10 minutes. When you are presenting, some people pay more attention and some less. Moreover, you can never have the full attention of people who are interested in your talk. There are so many things on everyone's mind. People will switch on and off. Hence you need to give them a simple structure (agenda) at the start and revisit it often. So when people switch back on, they can reconnect with where you are. Make it easy for people to switch back on.

7. Talk about what people care and they will give you their attention. Modify your topic to address audience needs. Know why the audience has come and what they want. If you are relevant to the audience, the audience will definitely listen to you. Take help of the event organisers to know what the audience is looking for. Talk to some members of the audience before the talk and you will have a better understanding of what they care about.

8. On every slide, before placing a chart or a photo or a table you need to ask yourself; 'Why is the audience watching this?'. Retain what is needed and remove what is not. Just because you like an image very much does not mean it should be shown to the audience. If the image is not relevant get rid off it. Have what helps you make the case.

9. Before accepting to speak at an event or conference, ask three questions: a) What does the organiser want from you? b) What does the audience want from you? and c) What are you capable of delivering? Many people are invited to speak at TED, Ignite, PechaKucha and many events and conferences. Never accept to speak at an event unless you have known the answers to the three questions. If you have already accepted to speak and have started preparing, stop by to answer these questions. You will do a much better job once you have these answers.

These tips have are from the book 'Confessions of a Public Speaker' by Scott Berkun. I have already written two posts about the same book. It is a very practical and useful book for any public speaker.

Read more:
Book Review: Confessions of a Public Speaker
12 tips to help you deliver a better presentation