14 September 2013

3 Simple Tips on How to Prepare a Presentation

One of the reasons why most presentations are boring and not effective is that the first thing most people do when they are asked to make a presentation is to open Power Point (or Keynote). This is hardly a correct approach to follow. Instead, you should spend time preparing and organising your ideas in an “analog” way before you even switch on your laptop. Here are 3 tips on how to prepare a presentation that I have learnt mainly from Garr Reynolds, author of the best-selling book Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery

(1) Plan analog

The best presenters often scratch out their ideas on paper or on a whiteboard. Their aim is to create (on paper and in their mind) a storyboard, a logical structure for their presentations. Only at the end of this process do they open up PowerPoint and start designing their story. You can do the same. You can write down your key points and manually scratch images and charts that will support a particular point.
You may be thinking, why do I have to waste my time doing this when I could do it directly on PowerPoint? Well, for two main reasons:
  • Planning analog enhances your creativity and helps you think visually and metaphorically. Metaphors help a skeptical audience to embrace your idea because they connect that idea with something they already know. Even Aristotle said: "The greatest thing by far is to have mastered the metaphor."
  • It does not take more time to plan analog. Once you have created your logical flow, you will spend less time on PowerPoint because you only need to design what you already have in your mind.
Opening PowerPoint before preparing your presentation is like lacing up your shoes before putting them on.

(2) Keep it simple

Pablo Picasso said that“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary”. Simplicity is not simple to achieve, it is hard but it will be appreciated by your audience. Simplicity is hard because you have to think about what to include and what to exclude in your presentation. Ask yourself this question: what is the essence of my message? If your audience could remember only three things about your presentation, what would you want them to be?


Also, to help you keep your presentation simple and relevant, there is another question you should ask yourself when building the content of your presentation: “so what?”. In his book The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki says that we should think of having a little man on our shoulder telling us "so what" after every message we say. I think this is a funny and effective way to make our contant relevant to our audience. For anything you want to say, ask yourself whether that particular point is relevant or not and whether it helps your story in an important way or not. If the answer is no, cut it out.

(3) Tell a story

The best presentations include stories and the best presenters make very good use of stories. Research shows that the easiest way to explain even difficult ideas is by telling a story. Stories are also easier to remember for the audience, so try to come up with interesting examples or stories that illustrate your main points. Better yet, think of your entire presentation as an opportunity to tell a story. Great stories have interesting beginnings, engaging and provocative content in the middle and a clear conclusion.

In sum, the first step to making an engaging presentation is to follow those three guidelines: plan analog, keep it simple and embrace the art of storytelling.