6 Tips for Stronger Presentations

By Steve Gilman

Businessman Asleep During PresentationDo your presentations fall flat? Does your audience seem bored?  You worked to make sure your slides were dynamic and made sure that your points were clear, and still you flopped.  What you probably missed was establishing an authentic connection with your audience and telling them a clear story. While good design is always important, the most important presentation tips I’ve learned came from studying directing, script writing, and story structure.

Here are six tips to help your presentations succeed, and I promise if you work at them, you will gain your audience’s attention.

  1. Tell a Clear Story – Basic storytelling rules are very important to be able to make strong presentations. And like every good story, your presentation needs to have a beginning, middle, and an end. There are many good books on the basics of storytelling – a good one to try would be: “The Seven Basic Plots” by Christopher Booker 
  2. Have a Hero – This is another tip from the practice of storytelling.  A hero is crucial to any strong story.  Your hero doesn’t need to be the classic hero like superman, of course.  The hero of your presentation could be an idea, a solution to a problem, or the path to achieve an important goal. 
  3. Conflict Works –  Your hero must have an obstacle to overcome and be on a journey to defeat the obstacle. Every good story is a triumph over adversity.  Your obstacle could be a lack of resources, a time restraint or the need for innovation.  Without that basic core theme of an obstacle to overcome, your presentation will never truly hold the attention of your audience.
  4. Make it Personal – This doesn’t mean open with your résumé, or a traumatic story from your childhood. It means, be authentic. Don’t be afraid to show who you are and demonstrate what you really care about. Give yourself permission to be appropriately emotional and passionate about your subject. If you don’t sincerely care about your topic, why should anyone else care?
  5. Use the Unexpected – Working against what’s expected makes people pay attention. Break a visual or verbal rhythm that you have set up, add a surprising photo, or add an unexpected supporting fact or clever analogy. Anything you add needs to be relevant, but peppering your presentation with unexpected moments is a powerful way to keep your audience’s attention. 
  6. Use Humor – Getting people smiling or sharing a brief laugh makes everyone relax and can help your audience be more accepting to your message. If you don’t consider yourself funny and aren’t comfortable taking a humor risk, then try a humorous quote that is appropriate to the topic you are presenting on, your location, or your situation.

Giving a great presentation is equal parts storytelling and performance. Remember that you don’t need to include all six of these tips to succeed, but try to work on at least three and you’ll see your presentations become much more engaging.

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