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Master the Art of Engaging Presentations: 12 Rules to Captivate Your Audience

Presentations - Great Narratives
How to use Storytelling in a Presentation

  1. Sort out your information BEFORE you create a single slide: Take the time to thoroughly organize your information before even opening PowerPoint. Start by outlining the key points and structuring your content in a logical manner. Consider the flow of your presentation and how each piece of information builds upon the previous one. By having a clear roadmap of your content, you can create slides that effectively support your message.

  2. You are the focus of the audience's attention, not your slides: Remember that you, as the presenter, are the primary focus of the audience's attention. Your slides should complement your presentation, not overpower it. Instead of relying on text-heavy slides, use visuals, such as images, diagrams, or charts, to enhance understanding and engagement. Keep the focus on your delivery and use the slides as a visual aid to reinforce key points.

  3. Don't use a standard Microsoft template, unless you can truly make it look unique: While using a default Microsoft template may seem convenient, it can give the impression of unoriginality. Instead, explore alternative design options to create a unique and visually appealing presentation. Customize the colors, fonts, and layouts to align with your branding or topic. Consider using professional design tools or seeking inspiration from design resources to create a distinctive look that captures the attention of your audience.

  4. Don't use animations or builds unless you have truly mastered them: Animations and builds can add visual interest to your slides, but they should be used judiciously and purposefully. If you are not proficient in using animations, it's best to avoid them altogether. However, if you are confident in your skills, use animations sparingly to highlight key points or create impactful transitions. Practice the timing and execution to ensure a seamless and professional presentation.

  5. Rehearse, so your delivery seems seamless: Delivering a presentation should feel effortless and natural. Rehearse your content multiple times to become familiar with the flow and structure. Practice your timing, transitions, and gestures to create a smooth delivery. By rehearsing, you can confidently present without relying on the slides to remind you of what to say. This allows you to engage more effectively with your audience and build a strong connection.

  6. Your audience can't listen and read at the same time: Keep in mind that your audience needs time to absorb the information on your slides. Minimize the amount of text on each slide and use clear, concise language. Instead of reading directly from the slides, provide explanations, examples, or stories that expand on the content. Pause after presenting a slide to allow the audience to grasp the information fully before moving on.

  7. Did we mention pause? It's the most powerful thing any presenter can do: Pausing is a powerful technique that helps emphasize key points, create anticipation, and allow the audience to reflect on what has been said. Strategic pauses give your audience time to process information and engage with your message. Use pauses before or after important statements, after delivering a punchline, or during transitions to create a sense of rhythm and impact.

  8. Slow down: Speaking at a slower pace than normal conversation ensures that your audience can follow along and absorb the information. Aim for an average rate of around 80 words per minute, allowing for clearer articulation and comprehension. By consciously slowing down your speech, you create a more deliberate and authoritative presence, commanding attention and ensuring your message resonates.

  9. Keep your slide layout simple: Cluttered and complex slide layouts can overwhelm and distract your audience. Aim for simplicity in your design by using clean and uncluttered layouts. Limit the amount of text on each slide, and use bullet points or concise phrases to convey key ideas. Incorporate ample white space and make use of visual elements to enhance understanding and engagement.

  10. Remember when you move to a new line or slide, the audience immediately starts viewing/reading: When transitioning to a new line or slide, be mindful that the audience's attention will shift accordingly. Pause briefly to allow them to absorb the new information before continuing with your narration. This pause ensures that your audience can grasp the content effectively and prevents them from feeling overwhelmed or rushed.

  11. Imagery is stronger than words: Capitalize on the power of visuals to make your presentation more impactful and memorable. Incorporate relevant and high-quality images, infographics, or diagrams that complement your content. Visuals have the ability to convey complex ideas quickly and resonate with your audience on an emotional level. Use them strategically to enhance understanding, evoke emotions, and reinforce your message.

  12. Test everything about your venue in advance: Technical issues can disrupt your presentation and undermine your credibility as a presenter. Arrive early at the venue and test all the necessary equipment, including your laptop, projector, microphone, screen, and sound system. Ensure that everything is functioning properly and that you are comfortable with the setup. By taking the time to test in advance, you can avoid last-minute surprises and deliver a seamless presentation.

Remember, these guidelines are meant to enhance your presentation skills and engage your audience effectively. Incorporate them into your preparation and delivery to create impactful and memorable presentations that leave a lasting impression.

Mark Westbrook - Presentation Skills and Public Speaking Coach


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