Improve your presentations

People at a conferenceBusiness communication expert Sarah Walker offers top tips on how to improve your presentations

Structure your presentation

  1. Mind map all the things you could include on a page. Then start cutting.
  2. Move from general to specific with each point you make.
  3. Five key points in a presentation is plenty.
  4. 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.
  5. Choose your style - logical argument, narrative... what works for you?

Using slides

  1. 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.
  2. Brand your slides smartly - black text on white background looks dead.
  3. Keep your transitions uniform - audiences are not impressed by wondering how the next slide will whizz in.
  4. Your slides should add value, not simply double up your presentation. They should explain what you say and make it easier to digest.
  5. This is about you; it is not the wizardry of Powerpoint.

Body confident

  1. Our eyes are what give most away.
  2. Perfect that handshake - get in there first with authority, offering your hand firmly, and keep it to three seconds, maximum.
  3. No hands in pockets - unless you're Prince Charles.
  4. Don't shift from foot to foot - either move with direction or stand confidently.
  5. Point your feet at your listener, and open your hands to boost their trust in you.

Audience engagement

  1. It sounds obvious, but... look at them.
  2. Break off and ask them questions.
  3. Surprise them - for example, say you would like everyone who has encountered xyz in the last week to stand up. Make them take part.
  4. Use a prop to bring your presentation to life. It doesn't have to be fancy - just relevant.
  5. Keep your energy level high - it's infectious.

Address the crowd

  1. Work the room - look to people in every part of it, most of all at the back. Focus on different people at various times.
  2. Head up, strong voice.
  3. Sound check with a microphone; check your volume without one.
  4. Project - do not shout.
  5. Animate your performance - subtle gestures can be lost.