23 Sure-Fire Ways To Improve Your Presentations

Last Updated Sep 22, 2011 8:54 PM EDT

I've had repeated requests for a checklist of techniques to make presentations more effective. Here's that list, along with links to Sales Machine posts that have more detailed suggestions and a step-by-step method.

BEFORE YOU START

  • RULE #1: Research your audience's preconceptions, desires and fears. Why: Every audience is has unique driver.
  • RULE #2: Focus on the decision you want the audience to make. Why: That's why you're giving a presentation.
  • RULE #3: Compile information that has emotional punch. Why: Decision making is an emotional act, justified by facts.
  • RULE #4: Eliminate opinions that can't be backed with quantifiable facts. Why: Opinions simply tell the audience you're opinionated.
  • RULE #5: Build a story, ideally with the audience as the heroes. Why: Your audience are interested in themselves, not you or your firm.
  • RULE #6: Plan to build a presentation that is half as long as you first think it should be. Why: Most presentations are WAY too long.
WHEN YOU BUILD YOUR SLIDES
  • RULE #7: Use a simple, single color background for your slides. Why: a busy background distracts the audience from your message.
  • RULE #8: Use large fonts in simple faces (like Ariel); avoid boldface, italics and UPPERCASE. Why: small fonts in funny faces are hard to read.
  • RULE #9: If you must use clip art, buy the high quality stuff, not the junky free crap. Why: Cheap clip art makes your presentation look cheap.
  • RULE #10: Use the minimum amount of visuals that you need to tell your story. Why: Do you want them to remember your story or your slides?
  • RULE #11: Exclude complex graphics and/or highlight the data point that's important. Why: complicated slides confuse people.
BEFORE YOU PRESENT
  • RULE #12: Think through the emotional impact of EVERY slide; remove the overly controversial. Why: you don't want a discussion that goes down a rat hole.
  • RULE #13: Review your presentation with a colleague to make sure that it's appropriate. Why: This will weed out the irrelevant material.
  • RULE #14: Check, then double-check, the equipment setup, before you present. Why: Do you really want to spend five minutes fiddling with the microphone?
  • RULE #15: Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Why: Mentally walking through the presentation will make it seem more natural when you really do present.
  • RULE #16: Avoid presenting at the end of the day, the end of the week, right before a holiday, or after bad news. Why: Your audience won't be able to focus on your story.
WHEN YOU PRESENT
  • RULE #17: Never spend more than one minute introducing yourself or your firm. Why: The audience simply doesn't care, frankly.
  • RULE #18: Never read from your slides; instead use them to reinforce your message. Why: your audience aren't toddlers who need to be read to.
  • RULE #19: Never present the same material to the same audience twice, except in brief summary. Why: people tune out stuff they already know.
  • RULE #20: Avoid jargon, buzzwords and biz blab. Why: if you don't, you end up sounding like an unimaginative jackass.
  • RULE #21: Don't skip around. Why: On-the-fly improvising makes you look unprepared and scatterbrained.
  • RULE #22: Unless you've got real skills as a comedian, don't tell jokes. Why: Nothing kills a presentation faster than polite laughter.
  • RULE #23: Prepare some questions for the question/answer slide. Why: You may need them to get the ball rolling.
READERS: Any additional rules that ought to be on the list?

RELATED POSTS:

NOTE: I spend an entire chapter on sales presentations in in my new book How to Say It: Business to Business Selling now available for sale here:

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