10 Tips for Designing an Awesome Presentation

By Keith Phillips, Senior Methodologist

1 Tell a story Putting facts on a screen is not enough; neither is interpreting the data into information. We have to tell a story to get the audience to follow along and commit to our presentation. It should have a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning shouldn’t just be an introduction page or an agenda. It needs to outline what we are doing and challenge the audience to form their own opinions on what is to come, while creating questions in their minds that need to be answered. The middle is where we do battle; it is the real meat of the presentation. This is where we focus on what we learned or what we really want to share with those listening. Finally, our conclusion needs to be the resolution of the problem, not just a summary of the outcome. We should frame it in such a way that the audience leaves having learned something they can apply in their own lives or professional careers.

2 Stay true to the topic You billed the presentation as something, whether it was solving a problem for a client, or addressing a concern for an entire industry. Whatever marketing you used to get people interested, there will be disappointment if the content of the presentation doesn’t meet their expectation. Although, you may add new ideas to the presentation and make sure you stay true to the original intent.

3 Only say what is necessary – If you’re presenting in front of a live audience, you may feel obligated to fill the full time slot. It’s definitely true that you should not have a 20 minute presentation when you are suppose to talk for 45 minutes. However, finishing a few minutes early isn’t a problem. In fact, people are often glad to get time back into their schedules. What is problematic is trying to fill time with unnecessary information, that doesn’t help move your story forward.

4 Speak with conviction You may have heard before that how you present is more important than what you present. There is some truth to that. If the speaker is energized, the audience will be, too. A strong, positive, authentic voice, will be interpreted as having strong, positive, and authentic content. Unfortunately, a poor presenter could actually take away from any information being shared. If you don’t have experience speaking to a crowd, that’s okay. Just make sure you know the content, practice what you are going to say ahead of time, and then try to deliver with confidence (even though you may be a little nervous on the inside).

5 Make sure it’s visually appealing I have seen so many presentations that show slides that look like they were created by an amateur, because they likely were (including some of my own).  It’s not just about making sure everything is clean on the page, or including images, and making sure that things are consistent throughout. It’s about having the right look, adding the right images, and having the correct visual content. You are not going to get there by spending some extra time on the presentation. If you want it to look professional, than you will have to hire one (unless you are lucky enough to have access to someone). If you want to get good at creating professional looking presentations than it takes more than practice. Actually learn from professionals and definitely seek presentations that utilize a great visual format.  

6 Don’t over-design Although we all want to add color, shapes, images, etc. to make our presentations look great, we can’t design our visuals in a way that impede the story. The visuals need to enhance it. I have seen colors, images, and even shapes of different sizes, being used for visual appeal, when in reality, they create confusion among the audience, which misinterprets their meaning as more than just eye candy.  

7 Bring in some outside data – Perhaps you are presenting on a piece of research that you conducted. That’s awesome! However, adding in some data from secondary sources can help lend credibility to your presentation. Of course, you will need to give proper credit and get permission as necessary.

8 Make sure the data is digestibleHaving more data isn’t always better. In fact, when giving a presentation, you really want to focus the audience’s attention on important figures. If you show tables, charts, graphs, etc. that have too many data points and are not easy to interpret, you could lose a portion of your viewers. In fact, failure to understand specific data points, may put  your overall story in jeopardy, so you need to frame information in a way that’s easily understood by everyone in the audience.

9 Connect with the audience Some people start off a presentation with a joke or perhaps a little story about themselves. That is a humanizing moment and a way for the presenter to connect with the audience. This can also be accomplished by relating findings or data within your presentation back to your own personal/professional life. When the audience is connected with the presenter, they become more invested in the story.

10 Leave time for questions People always say leave time for questions, but it’s really true.  Some audience members may need more information about something to resolve a burning question they have. However, it’s also a moment for everyone to digest what they just heard.  Ending a presentation and then just running out the door, doesn’t really leave a very good lasting impression.  

Look out for Keith Phillips’ presentation with Microsoft, entitle “Call Yourself a Developer?” at ESOMAR CONGRESS 2017 in Amsterdam on Monday, September 11th either live on or ESOMAR TV.