How to give a good presentation

Most of the knowledge I have about presentations comes from my study of Psychology, and froma little eBook called “Beyond Bullet Points” by Cliff Atkinson. This book describes what I now look upon as the standard of a presentation. It defines a few simple rules, which are:

1. Use pictures instead of words

2. Don’t use bullet points

3. Use no more than six words per slide

Focusing on the Emotional Layer of the Message

The presentation should focus on the emotional layer of the verbal message. As you verbally give a lot of information of facts, you need to have an emotional layer of information supporting those facts and rationales that you give. I believe the best way to do this is to have pictures or animation that accompany what you are saying.

Use Graphs or Sketches

If you want to give a lot of integrated information, you’ll be better with the use of graphs or a sketch rather than a table. It has been shown that humans can deduct information from a graphical representation much faster than from a table of information. Imagine having a specific stock, and you want to know how that evolved in the last two years, or how the net stock evolved in the last two years. Well, you can look at a graph and graphically see how it developed. You could also look at the table and try to see from the numbers how it developed. However, that would be much harder compared to the use of a graph. Use all the visual tricks that you have and focus on the emotional layer.

Use Prezi

Also, if possible, don’t use the boring old powerpoint. There is a very good program called Prezi. It’s a free web-based software using Flash, so you can use it on a Mac, PC, or even a Linux Celeris. You can use Prezi to make good presentations.

The difference between Prezi and PowerPoint is that in Prezi, you do not have slides. Basically, you have one big slide.  It’s like a desk and you put post-its on your desk in a manner of speaking. You can take pictures of the post-its and just by clicking on this desk, you can make a path that your presentation takes. Just drag and drop things around. It’s just much more flexible than having to deal with slides. On top of that, it is really a great program; easy to use, and it is fun to use. I encourage you to use Prezi.

Know Your Tools

Another important thing is that you should know your tools. I usually use a presenter when I am giving talks and I have this really easy foolproof presenter which basically uses three buttons. One button to move forward, one for backward, and the third button is for the laser pointer. If you know your tools very well, your presentation will work great.

You should know your technique and the different formats available. I prefer to have my own laptop with me (it is a small net book), because I know how Prezi woks in it, and I know I can add presentations to it beforehand. I can plug Prezi into the presenter and I know it will work without worrying about file formats.

Prepare Your Talks

The last point would be the need to prepare your talk. It is not enough to simply give a talk.  If it will be the first time for you to talk in front of an audience, you don’t have the time to correct yourself. Oftentimes, I imagine myself giving the talk. I do this up until the time when I actually have to give the talk.  This way I get to play/replay around the scenes especially at points where I come across words that do not come to mind easily.

What’s better than going through the talk in my mind is to actually do it.  It is a good thing to record your own practice runs, and I do that. Sometimes I just do an audio recording, and at other times I get up and record myself on video; record the whole thing then watch it back. You discover amazing things about yourself on how you give presentations. Often, rehearsing the talk I will be giving improves the clarity and rate in which I will be giving it. It is actually good because it means there is room for improvement.  Improving the rate and clarity means  decreasing the chances of my talk from being boring. If you can do it fast and at the same still have a good and clear idea, then do it.

Know the Common Ground of Interest among your Audience

Most of the presentations I had heard and seen are on the wrong level of instruction. It is not easy to find out at what level to address an audience because the audience might be on different levels. The audience may share the same interest, like attending a talk on how to give good presentations; still, this same audience would have to be addressed, if not uniformly, at the very least on the most common ground you can manage with. I believe it is the best solution to be quicker and to be faster and then go into the details later on, if you know what the people want to know. This, for me, is a much better approach, and this is what you need to do to give a good presentation.

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