Nov 15, 2013

3 Tips that will Dramatically Improve your Presentation Skills

There are zillions of presentation tips in this world. My own blog has more than 460 posts and I must have shared more than 100 tips by now. Every tip is meant to make you a better presenter.

But it is not possible for you to follow all the tips in your next presentation. Hence, I present to you just 3 tips. I believe some tips are more powerful than others. If you follow just these 3 tips in the next presentation you make, you will drastically improve as a presenter.

Why? Because these three tips address the biggest weaknesses we have as presenters. They are also related to the most important part of making a presentations.

#1 Practice. Practice. Practice.
Rehearse your presentation before you deliver it to your audience. Rehearse it at least 5 to 10 times. Rehearse it as you would present it eventually. So stand up and start talking. Most presenters never rehearse their presentations this way, and end up fumbling. The ideas do not flow properly. They forget what comes on the next slide. It becomes extempore and you end up reducing the power of your presentation. You worked so hard to make the presentation, but your delivery suffers because of lack of practice.

If you practice your next presentation at least 5 times (and incorporate the changes that you might have to make post this rehearsal), you will become a 100% better presenter.

#2 Plan in analog. Ditch your computer.
Most presenters think on the computer. They start working on the presentation by opening their software (PowerPoint or Keynote). This is the wrong strategy.

Start planning your content on paper (or whiteboard). Get complete clarity on what you want to say. Write down the crux of your content on paper. Now get the flow of the presentation as well. Even plan out what kind of visual or graph is needed on which slide. Once everything is ready, now focus on making slides. This will help you save time in making slides. It will also help you get complete clarity on your content.

Computer is good for editing not for thinking. Do not overestimate the power of your computer.

#3 Avoid bullets, replace loads of text with visuals.
The third and final tip is about how we go about making our slides. We fill it up with list of bullet points and we end up writing a lot more than we should. We do not make our presentation visual enough.

Visuals (such as photos or graphs) make it convenient for our audience to understand and remember our message. So do two things: 1) Avoid using bullet points and 2) Use very less text on each slide. Try using more and more visuals.

Do not use slides as a crutch to remember your content. If you practice your presentation, you will be able to afford less text on your slide.

I thought about these 3 tips while I was driving my way back home. Later I realized something interesting about these tips. There are three stages of making a presentation; 1) Plan your content, 2) Design your slides and 3) Deliver your presentation. Each of the tip relates to one part of this process. Tip #1 is about delivery. Tip #2 is about planning and tip #3 is about slide design. Together these tips improve every aspect of our presentation.