Business PowerPoint Presentations have changed a lot in the last ten years, but some of the best presentation secrets have been around for a while. Almost 25 years ago I was given a little book published in the 1950’s. It was entitled, “Public Speaking as the Audience Likes It”. I don’t remember much of the contents, but I do remember the point- when you are preparing to make a presentation, consider the audience and think about the best way to present your material so they will enjoy the experience and remember the valuable material. So here 3 things you need to know to help you relate to your audience when you design a business PowerPoint presentation.
Consider Your Audience
Before you start to design a business presentation, spend some time thinking about those who are going to receive your message. What do they have in common? What do you know about who they are? What do they feel? What experiences have they had? Where are they coming from? Consider, from the audience’s perspective- what is so important about what I have to say? Why should they listen? How will they benefit? And how can I help them enjoy the experience?
Too often we begin our preparation thinking about what we want and need to say. We think about major point and what information we need them to assimilate or remember. We think about our responsibility, and if we have any fear or trepidation about being in front of people, we just wish it were over and prepare the message without much thought given to the audience.
That last line is too much too true. We prepare the message without much thought given to the audience. We think about the message, what we want to say and how we are best going to say it; we prepare our PowerPoint slides hoping that will “wow” the audience into valuing the material. We remember the KISS method of presentations and we keep is simple, stupid. Maybe we remember the old adage, stand up, speak up, shut up, sit down. Fun little sayings, but not much help.
First in your PowerPoint preparation is to consider the audience and the best way to communicate with them. Think about the specific people, the demographics, commonalities, idiosyncrasies; examine them from every angle you can. Also consider your venue- where you will be making your presentation. Will you be on a stage with people seated in front of you; will you be on the same level as your audience; will they be at tables, round or square; will you use a microphone- hand held, lapel, or stationary; what kind of interaction can I facilitate, and the list goes on based on your own experience and creativity. But always consider your audience; it will influence the rest of your presentation.
Second- Involve the Audience
The days of getting up and speaking and then sitting down have past. We live in an age of reality TV in which we get to vote on the results, interactive games on the computer and via game modems, we have unlimited accessibility through cell phones, email and texting. People are not used to sitting back and just listening, the presenter must get them involved. So you have considered your audience, and you know your message, now how do you get the audience involved?
It is more than asking questions and showing slides, it is putting something in their hands, it is incorporating movement, it is using as many of their senses as possible to get them and keep them involved.
Nearly every book on public speaking skills written within the last 15 years has a section on telling stories, but don’t just tell a story, show it. If you were riding a bike, then show it; if you were going over something, show it; if you were involved in a heated conversation, show it; if you were throwing a ball, show- never just tell a story, but show it, use gestures and plenty of them.
Are you talking about something, an object, show it, better yet, if possible give everyone a sample. If you are talking about something with an aroma, then work the smell into your presentation, use a candle, home baked cookies, incense, whatever it takes. Perhaps it is a sound, a firecracker, jet engine, ocean waves- find a way to duplicate it for your audience’s aural stimulation. Perhaps it is a taste, give them something to remind them of the taste, a candy bar; a drink; ice cream- be creative. Maybe it is a texture- then give them something to feel, sandpaper, a piece of cloth, a rock, use your imagination, but incorporate some type of extra sensory experience for your audience to participate with you in the presentation. Be creative and push the envelope. (Some things I have done- handed out ice cream, given latex gloves and pens so the audience could take notes on their hands (five points-five fingers), lit incense prior so the room would smell like pine trees, given out hotel size soaps; spoken in a Santa Claus suit and a guerrilla outfit; given the participants small craft packages to built a boat made out of wooden ice cream spoons a toothpick and a piece of cloth, given out colored pipe cleaners for participants to fashion antennas… the ideas are as limitless as your imagination. Do it- get your audience involved.
Third- Be Concise in Your Closing
Once you had delivered the main thrust of your PowerPoint presentation and have involved the audience, leave them wanting more. Be concise in your closing remarks. Highlight the high points and then be on your way. Too many speakers close with their main points but continue to drag on thinking that re and re-emphasizing will make the message stick. When it is time to end, then end. Don’t keep re-covering the topics and never introduce new material. If you have considered the audience, gotten them involved, then you can make a quick recap and let their involvement continue to speak after you have stopped.
Besides giving thoughtful consideration to your messages, these are three ideas to help your presentation be powerful and memorable- first, consider the audience; second, involve the audience; and third- make your closing concise.