In 2017, the Align Team posted an article on Presentations.  I went back and reread that article to see if Align has made changes to the way we are presenting material today, especially in the era of online meetings and Zoom calls. If it’s been awhile since you’ve examined your approach to presenting, take a couple of minutes to review these tips, both old and new, and how they can help make your presentation more effective.

2017:  Be animated. The more technical and dry the material, the more entertaining you need to be.

2021:  Open Strong. Engage your Audience. Good presentations include stories. Unlike facts, stories speak to the heart, and every good presenter uses stories to illustrate points and to help people make an emotional connection to their message.  Be entertaining and consider using relevant use cases if your material is on the technical side. Show your passion, connect with your audience and focus how your presentation meets their needs or concerns.

2017:  Power Point doesn’t make a bad speaker better. It only enhances the misery.  Slides should be 3-4 lines at the most and fonts should be large enough to read from the back of a room. Don’t hesitate to keep slides minimal, clean and to the point.

2021:  This tip on slides hasn’t changed all that much. Continue to simplify and limit the number of words on each screen. Use key phrases and include only essential information.  Presenters who constantly “flip” to the next slide are likely to lose their audience. A good rule of thumb is one slide per minute.  Do not read from your slides. The content of your slides is for the audience, not for the presenter. Be thoughtful when using graphics or images. Make them relevant to the message to help in visually connecting with your audience.

2017: Be prepared. Know your time.  Know your material. Know your Audience.

2021:  These comments from 2017 are still relevant today.  Be prepared!  But also have a “Plan B” in place in the event of technical difficulties.  How many times have you been at a speaker luncheon or business forum when something went wrong?  Write an outline!  Know your material so you can present it with or without visual aids. Match the material you’re going to present with the time you have and include Q & A!

2017: Practice! Don’t make stuff up! It can hurt you in the end.

2021: Practice with someone who has never seen your presentation. Ask them for honest feedback about content, flow, word inflection and any effects or graphical images you may be including.  If using Power Point, know how to and practice moving forward AND backward within your presentation. Audiences often ask to see the previous screen again.

2017:  Leave the audience with optimism that they can change, grow, or find the solution. If you leave them with doom and gloom, don’t expect to be invited back for a long time.

2021:  For a presentation to be GREAT you need these elements.

Content:  Every presentation needs to start with the right content.  That means a clear message, supporting your message with facts, and use only what you need.

Design:  Two essential pieces here are clarity and consistency.  Effective design makes your content clear and leads viewers down the right path to your message.   Remember too much visual information is just as bad as a story that goes on and on.  Eliminate visual elements that don’t reinforce your message.

Structure:  Everything must have a place, both in the presentation and out. Presentations are stories told in time, and they need to have a beginning, middle, end and hopefully a clear ‘call-to-action’. Presentations need to be structured with the audience in mind. A great presentation is targeted to its audience, both in terms of message and content.

Delivery: “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!”  All your great work on content, design and structure doesn’t mean a thing if no one sees it.  Presentations are an experience shared between a presenter and their audience. But just as important as the Presenter’s skills, is the platform and technology you use to deliver your presentation.

2021Advanced Technology.

Presentation software is just one of the many ways in which technology has changed the way speakers present their material. Let’s look at two ways technology helps speakers present.

Social media. Presenters can use Facebook and Twitter to interact with audiences during the presentation. For example, hashtags can be used to encourage audiences to participate through live surveys, constructive feedback, or chatting through live forums.

Zoom Conferencing.  Not all meetings and presentations can be held in person these days and Zoom has made it possible for audience members from remote locations to connect in one meeting.

Today there is an explosion of presentation tools targeted to specific audiences and platforms. In addition to PowerPoint, there are additional tools such as Canva, Prezi, Google slides, and Visme for example.  Which one is right for you depends on your content, your design and your audience.  Try incorporating some of these strategies into your next presentation.  By doing so you will see more engagement and improved conversations. It also makes for more satisfied audiences!

Cathy Drzal for the Align Team