Business communication expert Sarah Walker offers top tips on how to improve your presentations
Structure your presentation
- Mind map all the things you could include on a page. Then start cutting.
- Move from general to specific with each point you make.
- Five key points in a presentation is plenty.
- Tell at the start what you're going to tell them, tell them, then tell them again at the end what you've just told them.
- Choose your style - logical argument, narrative... what works for you?
- Don't talk to your slides - they aren't listening. Your audience should be and they don't want to see the back of your head.
- Brand your slides smartly - black text on white background looks dead.
- Keep your transitions uniform - audiences are not impressed by wondering how the next slide will whizz in.
- Your slides should add value, not simply double up your presentation. They should explain what you say and make it easier to digest.
- This is about you; it is not the wizardry of Powerpoint.
- Our eyes are what give most away.
- Perfect that handshake - get in there first with authority, offering your hand firmly, and keep it to three seconds, maximum.
- No hands in pockets - unless you're Prince Charles.
- Don't shift from foot to foot - either move with direction or stand confidently.
- Point your feet at your listener, and open your hands to boost their trust in you.
- It sounds obvious, but... look at them.
- Break off and ask them questions.
- Surprise them - for example, say you would like everyone who has encountered xyz in the last week to stand up. Make them take part.
- Use a prop to bring your presentation to life. It doesn't have to be fancy - just relevant.
- Keep your energy level high - it's infectious.
Address the crowd
- Work the room - look to people in every part of it, most of all at the back. Focus on different people at various times.
- Head up, strong voice.
- Sound check with a microphone; check your volume without one.
- Project - do not shout.
- Animate your performance - subtle gestures can be lost.