Preparing a Killer Presentation
Published on : Monday 03-05-2021
Ninad Deshpande shares a few tips from his own experience on making a great presentation.
Marketing, sales, finance, supply chain, applications, R&D; take any department in an organisation, making a presentation is a task many of us have to often perform in our professional lives. Some of us feel burdened with even the idea of making a presentation, let alone delivering one. I will be focusing on various tips on making a presentation with some dos and don’ts. I am sure this will be helpful for many beginners but might also be helpful for some seasoned presentation makers. I have added my experiences with making presentations and some learning from various events I have attended.
Being in marketing, I have always helped colleagues from sales & applications to either edit their presentation or make completely new ones for their usage. In addition, I have been presenting on stage in various conferences and I make my own presentations. I have added my experiences with making presentations and some learning from various events I have attended. There are many books and content, which might be available, and I am not a master, yet, this article will surely help readers.
The first obvious questions, where and how do I start? The timelines for making a presentation usually turn out to be strict and an annoying part is that they must be handled along with other impending tasks. Before getting down to content, you need to understand many logistics aspects and if you do not know them, then I am afraid you will be riding down a dark path. This eventually will end in only one way; the presentation you prepared will not fit your or your audiences or the presenter’s requirements even if it has brilliant aesthetics.
Not only timelines but also time
You need to understand the basic logistics part that is the timelines for the delivery. Well, preparing a presentation is very hectic and similar to meeting a project delivery deadline. Thus, first you need to know how much time you have to prepare for the presentation. Start reverse engineering or calculating so that you are on time with the delivery. Timelines play a vital role, but what about time? Confused? Before starting, you need to know the time slot available to the presenter for presenting. One might ask why? Based on the time slot available, it is important to prepare your slide deck. Usually, I would stick to the OSTM rule, which is an abbreviation for ‘One Slide per Two Minutes’, so if the presenter has 30-minutes, then a slide deck with around 15 slides would be sufficient.
I have seen some presentations, where a presenter has 60-90 slides for a 30-minute presentation. Here either the presenter does not respect the time allocated or he/she runs through the slides saying, “This is not important so I can skip.” Well, if it was not important, why in the world was it there in the first place, you could have deleted it. However, there could be reasons for having more slides and drifting from the OSTM rule. I have at many times prepared or reviewed presentations, which go well beyond the OSTM rule, with the number of slides going to as high as 23-25 slides for a 30-minute talk. While preparing a slide deck, before going to the content, please verify the time available for presenting, who is presenting and the time you have to prepare a great presentation, which the presenter will be happy to deliver.
Audience of the presentation
Once you have all the logistics facts, you would think you could get down to content. I am afraid not. You need to know your audience. They should always have precedence while preparing a presentation. The content should be able to reach the audience. It is the skill of the speaker to engage the audience, yet slides supporting this could also be very helpful. If the audience were from R&D, applications, software developers, field engineers then focusing on technology content would seem interesting. However, imagine such a presentation being made to owners, directors or C-level delegates. They might not be too impressed. This set of audience would rather look at business and application of technology for their company’s growth.
Is it time for content, yet
A big sigh of relief, Yes. It is time for content. Split your content in three basic elements – introduction, body and summary or conclusion. Introduction will cover the introduction of the speaker and agenda. In my opinion, an introduction should cover a maximum 10% of the entire time allocated. The one thing you could avoid especially if the presentation is for an event is the company introduction. I, being from marketing know the importance of marketing your company and I am not saying do not do it. Simply, I am saying avoid it in the introduction. You can highlight your company and its offerings in not more than 2-3 slides at the end of the presentation. The body takes most part of the content around 80%, which should have a maximum of 3-5 key messages, which the audience can take back from your presentation. I am not a research freak, but I am sure the amount of talk stored in memory at the end of a long day should not be more than 15%. Especially, in daylong events, when there are 10 speakers bombarding the delegates with information and slides on varied topics, then this figure could be even smaller. Thus, it is important that you have the best content with limited key messages. The summary should provide a clear message of the 3-5 goals you have set yourself to be achieved. Company briefs can follow this part.
Many aspects, one motive
Presentation is not just slides and content. It is essential to understand how the content is placed in the slides. The slides should have a perfect mix of images, text, and if possible, videos.
Text, images and videos – Do not clutter
I have come across many presentations, which have loads of text and paragraphs of content. It is just a put-off. Make use of bullets not exceeding one line. One slide should have a maximum 5 main bullets, with sub bullets being fine. Animate the text in a logical and systematic manner. Lesser the text, more effective is the talk. Colour of the font is very important as it affects visibility. Avoid use of light colours such as yellow, light green, fluorescent, etc. Consider sticking to black. I recommend sticking to 16-18-point font size for the main bullet. I have heard many presenters say, “I am sorry for the small font size, it might not be legible from the back.” In case you have more content on a particular topic exceeding 5 bullet points, then I recommend using another slide to add more points. Do not reduce font size to fit everything in one slide.
Your presentation should have good images and be suitable to the text on the slide or the heading. Keep the placement of images consistent in the slide deck. Do not have one image on right on one slide then next slide on left, next slide bottom aligned and on some slides at the top. The audience might lose focus of the presentation. I might recommend, right aligned images and text on the left side could be a good practice. Again, as said for text, too many images in one slide is also not great. A recommendation, limit to a maximum of 3 images on a slide in line with the text context with a resolution of around 300 ppi. Next obvious question would be “where do I get images?” The Internet is a rich source of images, but most images are licensed, which might lead to copyright issues. I recommend using photos provided by your marketing team. You can also buy images of your choice from various websites offering such services such as iStock, Shutterstock amongst others. I am not saying these are the only good ones; there are many more and even some country specific alternatives. Just think before using images. Other options are to make you own images and own the rights, such as taking photos from your camera or sketching an image. Just a note, I would only recommend images from the internet as a source if you are making an internal presentation not for public distribution. However, please do make use of images, as it is rightly said, “A picture speaks a thousand words.”
A video helps a great deal in your presentation, if the video provides more knowledge in graphical format than in words. Again, use the video, which is your organisation's property, we do not want copyright issues. Embed the video in the slides; make it auto run on opening the slide. On your slide, do not keep a link to the video, which is stored on the laptop drive or do not try to stream the video online. Please avoid this as you might miss important points, which you wish to make through the video. On the event location, plug the presentation, take a trial on the organiser system, and see if the video works as desired.
Animations – too much or too less
Before adding animations, remember you are making a professional presentation. Basic animations are decent and sufficient, mostly jazzy animations are not needed. I have learnt that such animations are more of a distraction than attraction. Be simple. Too much of anything is not good. Animations should be used to build the presenter’s story. If a slide needs all bullets to be shown at once, then have them shown at once. Animations are not only for emphasis but also for providing an element of surprise for things to come. A good presentation maker will be a master at this.
Who makes the presentation?
Everyone would think, why this is even a question and why is this in the rule or included in tips and tricks. You would say, isn’t it the job of the marketing team to prepare presentations? Well corporate presentations, yes, must be made by marketing. However, from my experience and as a recommendation, a presentation for public forums, should be prepared by the presenter and should be reviewed or edited by an expert from marketing. However, if the person delivering the presentation prepares his/her own presentation using all above points, then you have already prepared for the presentation delivery. Your story line is clear in your mind making it easier for you to deliver on stage.
If the above few points are followed avoiding the don’ts, then I am sure you would make a great presentation. However, this is a job half done. Preparing the presentation is just one part, the next part is to deliver a presentation, which will be covered in the next edition of ‘Lessons learnt’.
Ninad Deshpande, Head – Marketing and Corporate Communication, B&R Industrial Automation, has made it a mission to get to know the needs of internal as well as external customers and understanding their unfulfilled desires thus, being able to provide extraordinary experience. Whether it is executing an exhibition, seminar, conference, implementing a campaign for print or social media, delivering a technology oriented presentation, implementing a branding campaign, or internal and external branding, Ninad takes pride in providing best in class service and experience in record time while always leading by example.