Presentations are part and parcel of today's academic and professional environment. It is the simplest, most effective way of communicating a message to your audience. While university students like to go crazy with MS Powerpoint and make presentations to their heart's content, a corporate presentation has some basic rules that vary from most presentations we made as students.
1. Design a story
This might sound a little cliché, but the need for creating a story in your presentation can never be overstated. Whatever the content of your presentation is, it can always be woven into a storyline.
The recipe is simple: an attention-grabbing beginning, then problem statements, next some possible solutions, and finally the recommendation. The audience will take away most from the presentation only when they feel connected to this flow of the story.
2. Have a clear objective
Every presentation must have one clear and direct objective. Either you are asking for a plan's approval or demonstrating the result of a campaign or simply pitching an idea: make sure the objective is clearly stated at the initial stage of the presentation. This helps the audience to set their mind accordingly and react to the presentation in the desired manner.
3. Use a storyboard
Storyboard is a very effective technique of planning for a presentation. One of the biggest mistakes in preparing for a presentation is directly jumping onto Powerpoint without proper planning first. A storyboard can help immensely in that regard. Storyboard is simply drawing a demo of the slides you want to make. This can be done with pen and paper or on a board. Once the layout is finalised through storyboard, then the contents can be replicated on Powerpoint.
4. One point per slide
The golden rule is each slide should have only one takeaway which the presenter would want the audience to remember. This saves us from making the mistake of trying to cram too much information in one slide. As a result, the audience can easily process the message and store it in their mind systematically.
5. Bullets hurt
Although Powerpoint's default format is bullet points, it's not always the best policy in slide making. Bullets automatically suggest that we need to have three to four points in the slide to fill it properly. Then people squeeze in unnecessary and irrelevant information, examples, etc. Rather a simple statement of the main point with supporting illustrations, if needed, serves the purpose best. If you want more information, think of using a chart/graph or smart art. No need to get bogged down with Powerpoint's default smart art options, there are plenty other tools available online. I use a free add-on called Flevy Tools for my smart art needs.
6. Consistency is key
Consistency is an elusive concept, which is easier said than done. In a presentation, there should be consistency of font, size, colour, and theme. This means there should be one font used throughout the presentation. The font size should be same within the same layer of text.
Similarly, the colour scheme must also have the same tone across all slides, if not the exact same colour. All these components together make a harmonious and pleasing final output.
7. Animation is a trap
We might have used a lot of animations or slide transition effects in university presentations, but it's usually discouraged in a formal presentation. The main reason is that animations are distracting and can shift the audience's attention from the core message. I am not saying never use animations, but use them only when it's absolutely relevant; and even then, use the simplest animations like “appear” or “fly in”.
8. Images need care
Just using a random picture from Google doesn't cut it in a corporate presentation. First thing to remember while using an image is if it is big enough for the slide. No one likes seeing a distorted or broken image that hurts the eye. It's also important to ensure that the image is properly cropped and aligned with the slide, other images and objects in the slide.
The most important thing to remember is that the slides are there only to aid the presenter, not to dictate the presentation flow. So the moment people start reading from the slides, the purpose of the presentation is dead. After all, a presentation is only as good as its presenter.
The writer is a marketing professional currently working as pricing strategist in a leading telecom operator. He can be reached at email@example.com.