You’ve been asked to deliver a presentation at an upcoming event. You are not happy about this. If you’re like most people, you immediately start designing slides.


Instead of immediately gathering existing PowerPoint slides and shuffling them into a somewhat logical order, ask yourself the following questions first:

    1. Who is your audience? Executives, engineers, investors, peers? If you don’t know, find out. This is critical to your success.
    2. Why have you been asked to present? What is the context of the event overall? Who else will be presenting?
    3. Why should the audience care about what you have to say? Can your knowledge improve their lives in any way?
    4. After people leave your presentation, which three to five points do you want them to remember? (No, you can’t have ten. Five, max.)
    5. What actions do you want them to take, if any? Visit a website? Attend a seminar? Join your association?
    6. How much time do you have? Cut that number in half. (You’ll run long, plus you should allow for questions.)


After answering these questions, do the following:

    1. Create an individual slide for each of the three to five key take-away points you want to make. Preferably bullets.
    2. Combine each of these key points into a single Summary slide. This will also be the foundation for your Agenda slide.
    3. Modify the Summary into an Agenda slide (follows the framework of tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them).
    4. Create a slide that lists any actions you want the audience to take.
    5. You can also create a slide on each of the ways this knowledge will improve their lives.
    6. Create a title slide and a final “thank you slide.” By then, you should be more than halfway done.
    7. Allow 2-3 minutes per slide. It’s better to run short than to run long. (You won’t run short, though.)
    8. Less is more. Plan 20-30% of your allotted time for questions (ask the event coordinator for the desired Q&A time). For example, if giving a 30 minute presentation, have no more than 8-10 slides, including a title slide and a Q&A or thank-you slide at the end.
    9. Only THEN should you try to review existing slides and see whether they match your content framework. It’s better to have plain, simple slides than over-engineered slides or irrelevant content. Your audience will thank you.
    10. Show your slides to several people you trust, and incorporate feedback that makes sense to you.
    11. Practice delivering your entire presentation standing up. Any time you’re in the car, practice your intro. That’s the most important part. If you’re comfortable with that, the rest will flow naturally.
    12. Right before you present, contract your major muscle groups (e.g. pull your shoulders up to your ears and hold, then release; tense your quads, then release). This tends to help more than “trying to relax.”

GOOD LUCK!There are many more guidelines, especially for different types of presentation. I’ll cover those in separate posts. Please let me know which topics are of interest to you.

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