You may not be able to articulate what made a presentation great, but you felt it. At the end of the last great presentation you saw, you bought something.
If you didn’t actually rush to the back of the room and buy something, you at least “bought in” to the idea or ideas the presenter was selling. Or maybe it was simply a TED talk on-line in which you just had to share on Facebook and Twitter. Regardless, the last great presentation you saw inspired you, or moved you to act.
So, how can you make your next presentation great?
First, understand that great presentation rarely start out great. A great presentation usually only becomes great after many drafts and many practice runs. So start by approaching your path to a great presentation with the mindset that you are on a path to greatness, not thinking that your presentation will quickly be “great,” but that will slowly and persistently work at “getting better” at your presentation. (Q: What if you have to give a great presentation next week? A: Settle on your ideas quickly, continually practice, and re-write as much as possible in the time provided, and when you think you have it down, practice it 7 more times.)
Second, assess your public speaking skills. Have you overcome the common hurdles of: a) rushing through your speech, b) handling notes/outline, c) eye contact, d) gestures, e) the dreaded “um”s, “uh”s, “ah”s, and “you know”s? If not, join Toastmasters and get to work.
Third, have you decided what is the best presentation style for your targeted audience? Presentations, even in boardrooms, have evolved beyond the simple choice of slides/PowerPoint vs. video. There’s many new tools at your disposal. PechaKucha has become a popular presentation style to keep your audience engaged instead of giving them slides to read. Animation tools like PowToon are helping make slides more memorable and engaging. Or if you need individualized help, you can even turn to a presentation mentor like Eloqui.
Fourth – and most important – however, you must understand the power and technique for telling a good story. All great presentations tell great stories. Whether it’s used as a small example or used to structure the entire presentation, story is the key tool of a great presenter. There are many resources for understanding and employing story. I hesitate to recommend just one, but becoming a great storytelling is paramount. (Q: Need some ideas on how to begin your presentation? A: Here’s some: inc.com)
Fifth, finally in the midst of your presentation you have to give some succinct “take-aways” for the audience. Whether it’s the classic sales gambit of a limited-time deal only available at the back of the room for the next 30 minutes, or 3 simple bullet points, or an old-fashioned “moral of the story,” you must give the audience something to take with them – literally or figuratively – for your presentation to be great.