Creating great presentations becomes far less difficult and stressful when you break down the process into smaller steps and familiarize yourself with best practices. A beautiful and effective presentation should look effortless at the end, but it takes some work to produce.
You can use your presentation skills to create an online course that's more effective or to draw in new customers who might not know about your business.
How To Make An Effective Presentation In 10 Easy Steps
Of course, you can create different types of presentations, too. Slide presentations work particularly well when you need to illustrate a step-by-step process. You can also try screencasts, which allows you to show your work on a computer screen while you provide voiceover narration, or you could deliver a presentation as a speech.
Try each type of presentation to figure out which ones work best for you, your material, and your audience. In the meantime, follow these steps for creating great presentations no matter the medium.
1. Show Your Passion And Connect With Your Audience
Teaching is all about generating interest in your topic. Some people are born with this skill. They can make learning how to grow grass seem like the most exciting pursuit in the world. Others have to work at it.
For instance, Gary Vaynerchuk, a serial entrepreneur who first rose to fame with his YouTube show, made his mark teaching people about wine. It was his effusive, sometimes irreverent personality that drew people to his videos and made him a marketing household name.
Contrast Gary Vee’s teaching style with that of Vanessa Hill on BrainCraft. She teaches in a far more subdued style, using lots of transitions to images and other assets that help her viewers learn the topic at hand.
However, both online personalities have built massive audiences and are effective at teaching other people new skills and knowledge. Part of it boils down to their passion for the subjects they teach.
If you don’t care about wine, you can’t create great presentations on the topic because you won’t be able to sustain your enthusiasm. Your audience will notice.
To succeed in making great presentations, you must tap into your passion and let your audience join you for the ride. This doesn’t mean you have to talk a mile a minute or use colorful language. Just be yourself, and your audience will recognize your authenticity.
2. Focus On Your Audience’s Needs
Speaking of your audience, a presentation is only as effective as its ability to impact the people who view it. If your presentation doesn’t answer a question or solve a problem, nobody will bother to watch or view it.
No matter how much you want to talk about Topic A, you should focus on Topic B if it’s more important to your audience. That’s just good business.
So how do you know what your audience needs? You ask them.
Conduct a poll or survey to find out what your customers want from your next presentation. Do they have common questions or concerns? Do they face the same problems? Drill down into their communications with you and with each other so your presentation resonates with them.
3. Keep It Simple: Concentrate On Your Core Message
It’s natural, especially during conversations with friends and colleagues, to sometimes shoot down irrelevant tangents. During a presentation, tangents are the enemy.
You want your audience to stay focused and engaged from the moment you pick up a microphone or start building a slide deck. Otherwise, you’ll lose them before the presentation ends—and before you can deliver a call to action that might inspire them to buy your next course or continue the course they’re taking.
Choose your topic, then make sure each point you make during your presentation is responsive to that topic. If it’s too broad, narrow it down. You can always create multiple presentations to cover a broader subject area.
4. Smile And Make Eye Contact With Your Audience
If you’re speaking directly to your audience, make eye contact with the camera. The people watching at home will feel as though you’re having an intimate conversation. It’s the best way to keep people engaged.
Also, don’t let your face fall slack while you’re speaking. If you suffer from stage fright, you might review your video and realize that you look like a slightly animated puppet. If so, re-record the segment. Smiling and making other facial expressions can help keep your presentation lively and interesting.
Of course, it helps if your presentation itself gives you cues. For instance, if you say something funny, a smile is only natural, and you’ll start to get into your presentation instead of just reading from prompt cards. Make the entire presentation as natural as possible so your audience doesn’t feel like they’re being lectured.
5. Start Strongly
A big opener is always a crowd-pleaser. Give your audience a reason to stick around by starting off with a bang.
How do you start strongly? You have several options:
- Tell a joke: It’s an oldie but a goodie. If you can say something funny right off the bat, you’ll get your audience in a good mood and show that you don’t take yourself too seriously. However, make sure it’s actually funny before you say it or include it in your presentation. Run the idea past a friend or colleague.
- Make a startling claim. Have you done original research that reveals something surprising about your topic? Can you share a fun fact that most people don’t know? Use the element of surprise to get your audience engaged.
- Use an engaging image. Kittens and puppies are a little overdone, but you can always impress an audience with a picture of a cute animal. Beyond that, however, engaging images often start a great presentation off on the right foot. It should be relevant to the topic and communicate something interesting to your audience.
6. Remember The 10-20-30 Rule For Slideshows
If you’re creating a slideshow, slide deck, or any similar presentation, follow the 10-20-30 rule:
- 10: Don’t include more than 10 slides in your presentation.
- 20: Make your presentation no longer than 20 minutes
- 30: Format all text at 30 points or larger.
It’s a pretty simple rule to remember.
You don’t want to include more than 10 slides because overloading your audience with too much information will reduce information retention. If you go on longer than 20 minutes, you risk boring your audience, and if your font is smaller than 30 points, you’ll cram too much text on the page.
If you stick to this rule, you’ll see higher engagement levels and greater knowledge retention across the board.
7. Tell Stories
We’re born storytellers. Think about the last conversation you had with someone. You likely told a story at some point during the dialogue, even if it was a quick anecdote about a recent visit to the supermarket.
Since, as a human being, you’re naturally inclined to tell stories, use this inclination to make great presentations. A story has three basic elements:
Your cast of characters could be yourself and your colleagues, yourself and your audience, or made-up people. The point is to use characters to illustrate a point.
Minimize the number of characters you use — after all, you’re only giving a short presentation. However, make them memorable so your audience can connect with them on an emotional level.
Without conflict, there’s no such thing as a story. Conflict is a problem that arises from a set of circumstances. When you’re giving a presentation, the conflict is likely to the problem you’re trying to help your audience solve. Use it to create tension and urgency as you work through your presentation materials.
Have you ever watched a television show that ended in a cliffhanger? You felt a bit cheated, didn’t you? That’s because we expect a story to end with an actual ending. We want all the conflict tied up and the problems overcome.
To that end, make sure your presentation delivers on its promise. Give the audience a solution that actually helps them solve a problem or reach a goal. Otherwise, they’ll feel cheated, too.
8. Use Your Voice Effectively
Actor Ben Stein often uses his monotone voice to comedic effect, such as in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but you don’t want to copy his mannerisms. A monotone, uninflected voice can easily put your audience to sleep. That’s the exact opposite of the reaction you hope to inspire.
Use your voice to put some energy and passion into your words. You can get louder or softer, depending on the part of the presentation you’re delivering, and you can even incorporate long pauses for effect or do a few impersonations (if you’re good at them).
The point is that you only have a few assets at your disposal when you’re creating a great presentation. Your voice is one of them. If you use it effectively, your audience will respond.
9. Use Your Body, Too
Body language is just as powerful as your voice. For instance, if you sit on a stool with your shoulders hunched and your hands curled into fists in your lap, your audience will sense your tension and distrust what you say.
However, if you sit on a chair with your shoulders back and use your hands to help illustrate your points, your audience will become more involved in the presentation. Consider moving around if it helps you keep your nervousness at bay. If you watch TED talks or other speeches, you’ll notice that speakers often move around the stage. It’s an effective way to keep an audience’s attention.
10. Relax, Breathe And Enjoy
If you’re not having fun, you can’t create a great presentation. It’s that simple. Your audience will detect your discomfort, and they won’t enjoy your performance as much.
A little bit of nervousness won’t hurt, but try to find ways to stay within your comfort zone. Try recording a screencast or a podcast first, then branch out into presentations where you actually talk in front of the camera.
Alternatively, stick to slide presentations for a while. Use text, images, and numbers to communicate your ideas. When you’re ready, consider pulling out the video camera.
18 Tips On How To Create Beautiful Slides That Communicate Your Ideas
Slide presentations can have tremendous impact, which is why they’ve become so common. From board rooms to venture capitalist pitches, you’ll find PowerPoint presentations in every industry and sector across the world.
You can use a slide presentation to enhance your online course or to generate interest in your digital products. Either way, follow these best practices to make beautiful slides that get your ideas across in effective ways.
1. Create A Consistent Look And Feel
Think of a slide presentation as a single digital product. Yes, you’ll transition through several slides, but each one contributes to the whole. Consequently, you want to maintain a similar visual impression throughout the presentation.
Choose similar images, fonts, colors, and layouts so your audience doesn’t get confused. If you’ve been using huge text and small images, and you suddenly hit your audience with a large image and no text, you stand to lose them.
2. Skip The Stock Template
It’s easy to pick a stock template and fill it with your presentation material, but as noted above, slides are common ways to communicate ideas. In other words, we’ve seen all the stock templates before.
If you want to create a bigger splash, you need to get creative and design your own slides.
Use free online tools to create slides that wow even the most skeptical audience members. Alternatively, start with stock templates, then move the modules around until you achieve a unique look that you can use throughout your presentation.
3. Ditch The Bullet Points
Bullet points work well in long-form content because they break up the text and give the reader a visual break. When creating great presentations, however, you don’t want to include a lot of text.
In fact, the more you limit your text, the better.
Since you don’t need any visual breaks on your slides, avoid bullet points altogether. Instead, make clear declarations using large font sizes. Stick to one idea per slide, perhaps adding one or two sentences of supporting information, but no more.
4. Use Sans Serif Fonts
It’s easier to read sans serif fonts on an electronic screen. You might have noticed that most books are printed in serif fonts because they’re easier on the eyes in print, but most people will view your slides on their computers or a projection screen.
Shoot for clear, legible fonts that improve readability. Standards like Arial, Helvetica, Calibri, and Verdana work well for creating great presentations.
5. Maintain A Strong Contrast Between Text And Background
Contrast is another way to ensure that your content stands out on a slide presentation. Use light-colored text, such as white or pale grey, against a dark background, or vice versa. Generally, light backgrounds and dark text are easier on the eyes.
Additionally, make sure your images allow your text to stand out. If you’re using an image as a background, it needs to be dark or light enough to create contrast. You can use a free image editor, such as Canva, to brighten or darken an image for the best results.
6. Use No More Than 5 Colors
Avoid color overload at all costs. When you mix and match too many colors, your slides become difficult to follow. Worse, the colors can begin to tire your audience’s eyes, which means you’ll lose people as you move through your well-prepared presentation.
If you can, stick to just two or three colors, but never add more than five into the mix. If possible, just complimentary colors so your slides have a cohesive feel. For instance, choose colors that are next to one another or opposite each other on the color wheel.
7. Use Contrasting Text Colors To Draw Attention
You can also draw attention to specific words in your text that you want to emphasize. For instance, if you’re using all-black text on a white background, you could make one word or key phrase stand out by formatting it in bright red or blue. Just make sure it’s dark enough to stand out from the screen.
Use this technique sparingly. If you force your audience to choose between several attention-grabbing words on the slide, they won’t know where to look, and the emphasis will no longer matter.
8. Think About Topic Transitions
Good presentations have a flow to them. They move from one topic to the next seamlessly, using transitions to connect one idea to another. If you’re not sure how to do this, consider watching a few TED talks. Get a feel for how the speakers line up multiple ideas and connect them with threads.
In a slide presentation, your topic transitions will generally take place between slides. You can create transition effects, such as allowing each page to literally slide off the screen as the next one takes the stage. Other effects, such as fading in or out, can be effective, but don’t go overboard.
In other words, you don’t want to draw attention to the transitions themselves. Instead, keep your audience focused on the presentation material.
9. With Text, Less Is Almost Always More
As mentioned above, too much text will overwhelm your audience. It’s one thing to read an article on a blog or in a magazine with thousands of words of text. It’s quite another to do the same while someone delivers a presentation.
If possible, limit your text to no more than 25 words per slide. It forces you to choose your words carefully and to depend on strong verbs instead of their passive counterparts. A cool slide presentation doesn’t need lots of words to make a big impact.
Additionally, paring down your words will help you hone in on the specific topic each slide addresses. The best presentations focus on one subject at a time to avoid confusing the audience.
10. Use Photos That Enhance Meaning
Stock photos can prove useful for giving good presentations, but only if they’re thoughtfully chosen. Each photo should relate to your topic as well as give it extra depth and emotional resonance.
For instance, when vulnerability researcher Brene Brown gives speeches, she prepares slide decks that include soothing images in jewel tones. Each image illustrates the topic about which she’s talking, such as a photograph of a heart-shaped object while she discusses emotional connection.
You can use this same strategy to make a deeper connection with your audience and to keep people riveted to your presentation.
11. Limit the Effects and Transitions You Use
We’ve already covered topic transitions, but keep in mind that special effects can either be helpful or distracting. When in doubt, leave them out.
These days, people are so used to seeing transitions and special effects in slideshows that they no longer really notice them. Focus on creating a meaty presentation that delivers actionable, useful information instead of wowing your audience with image fades and similar gimmicks.
If you use an effect or transition, make it purposeful. Use it to communicate a thought or drive home an idea.
12. Mask Out Parts of Images to Draw Attention
If you want your audience to focus on a particular area of an image, use masking in Photoshop or Gimp to aid the process. Simply create a new layer over the image you want to use and fill it with white. Add a layer mask, then reduce the opacity to 30 percent or so. Find the part of the image you want to highlight and draw a circle around it. Erase the white overlay from that part of the image, then flatten the image and save it.
You can use the same image multiple times across several slides with this technique. Just mask out different parts of the image as you guide your audience through your presentation. This technique works particularly well for technical presentations and similar subjects.
13. Try Panning Large Images
The panning effect can work particularly well when you want to share a large image with your audience. The image starts at one side or corner of the screen, then pans left or right to reveal the hidden parts of it.
The movement can create momentum and draw attention as you work through your presentation. Plus, you can use panoramic or particularly high-resolution images without compromising visibility.
14. For Video, Don’t Use Autoplay
Nobody likes a video that plays automatically. Nobody. Autoplay can disrupt your presentation, whether you’re giving it to a live audience or recording it for future viewing.
15. Reproduce Simple Charts And Graphs
People like numbers and figures. A chart or graph illustrates those numbers in a highly visual way, which makes them easier to comprehend.
For instance, we could tell you that 30 percent of people like the color yellow, 25 percent like the color green, and 45 percent prefer orange.
Or we could show you this:
It immediately gives the audience a sense of scale and balance without having to create a list of boring numbers. Of course, you can also include the numbers superimposed over the chart segments to further drive home the point.
16. Pause for Questions
If you’re delivering your slide presentation live, consider pausing during the presentation to see if your audience has any questions. In many cases, they can help you elaborate on topics that they might find confusing.
Alternatively, open up yourself to questions after the presentation. For instance, you might record a slide presentation for your online course. After your customers view the slideshow, invite them to ask questions and to submit their own commentary.
Back-and-forth communication can make an online course even more fun and useful, especially if several customers participate at the same time.
17. Provide Time for Study
It’s easy to whisk through presentation slides because you’re eager to deliver the information. Resist that urge. Instead, after you move to the next slide, pause for a few seconds. Let the audience review the information you’ve given them and digested it properly. Then move on with your commentary.
Similarly, you can leave a slide active after you’ve finished speaking. Give your audience another chance to take notes, study any text or diagrams, and feel comfortable with the material.
18. Let Someone Else See Your Presentation
Before you bring your presentation live before tens or hundreds or thousands of people, ask someone you trust to view it in advance. He or she can provide advice and constructive criticism that might make the presentation better.
We often have trouble critiquing our own work. It’s an emotional experience, and we obviously think we’ve created our best output.
However, a little outside advice can go a long way. Plus, you’ll get a preview of how your audience will receive the presentation.
Creating a beautiful presentation takes time and energy, but once you complete the finished product, you’ll have no trouble capturing your audience’s attention.
Think of a presentation as a course condensed. You’re creating an online course to help educate your customers, but a presentation allows you to deliver a significant amount of information in a short period of time.
Instead of asking your customers to listen to long recordings or read extensive articles, you can connect with them emotionally and build rapport.
Create a slide presentation if you need to convey information about numbers or weighty subjects. Screencasts and speeches can work equally well.
These days, you have more options than ever for using creative, beautiful presentations. From blogs and in-person events to Facebook Live, you never know when you’ll have the chance to give an educational presentation that helps your audience learn and grow.
What’s your favorite presentation tip or trick? Have you experienced success with giving presentations during your online courses?
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