The third element in any presentation is “your story.” Your story is your message. Whether you’re giving a PowerPoint presentation or presenting without any props or aids at all, think of your message as a coherent story.
You want the audience to keep their eyes on you (not on your slides or props). Because we read from left to right, stand to the left (audience’s left) of the screen. Your slides simply keep you on track. The shorter the better. Too much data and your audience will get overloaded and ultimately disconnect. Don’t anticipate your next slide. Look at the slide as though you’re seeing it for the first time along with the audience. Slides exist to queue you. They’re not the storyteller. You are. Use your voice to drive home your point.
Don’t read your slides verbatim. Reading puts people to sleep and completely kills all interest in your topic. It undermines your credibility and is the fastest way to drive people from the room.
If presenting a quote, look at the slide together and say something like, “Read the words of a great leader.” If you’re presenting findings or statistics, don’t try to fit everything into one slide. Select one statistic per slide and be creative. For example, instead of showing a bar chart of your intern conversion rates over the past five years, show one slide that says “Conversion rates up 75 percent.”
End with a quote, a story, a challenge, or a call to action. If you want to keep people’s attention, make eye contact. If you want to make your story relevant, then use the word “you.” Incorporate statements such as “Have you ever” or “I believe you’ll find” or “What do you think about?” Your presentation isn’t all about you—it’s all about your audience.
Remember, if your body language or your voice gets in the way of your overall message, you’ll lose your audience. Delivery can make or break your presentation, so spend as much time on your voice and your nonverbal communication as you do your slide deck.
Sue Keever Watts will deliver Presentation Skills for Aspiring Leaders on Wednesday, June 3, at NACE15. She has been helping leaders develop their presentation skills for more than 25 years.