5 golden rules for effective presentations


For some, Powerpoint is synonymous to presentations.  If this sounds like you, then you might just be like me – that is headed for trouble.  Don’t get me wrong, this is what I used to believe.  It’s one of the methods of dealing with the nervousness of public speaking, “The slides give me structure and help me stay on cue”…. is what I used to think.

Just recently I had the peculiar experience of seeing myself present through someone else eyes – so to speak.  And through these ‘fresh eyes’ , I learned that I needed to radically rethink how I used Powerpoint. And with this I wanted to share 5 golden rules for effective presentations that John shared with us.

Presentations that are slide driven or slaves to the slides, are just some of the many ways I recently discovered will diminish the value of the presenter, that is –  You.  Not only will it reduce the impact of what you are trying to say, it will also confuse or distract the audience.  Having to read a slide AND listen,  only has for effect of reducing the quality of information being absorbed.

Consider the following stats. In communicating a message, how much does your audience remember?  A study by psychologist Mehrabian at UCLA on non-verbal communication, showed that after 6 months:

  • 55% remembered your behavior
  • 38% the tone of you voice
  • 7% what the actual message was

Albeit that I feel quite comfortable speaking in public, I still wanted to go the extra mile.  I attended a highly regarded training, given by John B. May (http://www.mayintl.com/) –“Presentation Skills”.  Initally I thought it would focus on PowerPoint slides and how to make them more effective.  I couldn’t have been any more wrong.

The first day was focused only on us, presenters. What our body language conveyed and our tone of voice.  In front of a group of peers, we each had the chance to practice 10 presentations over 2 days and gather immediate feedback from everyone. A 360 degree feedback review.  One of the most rewarding learning experiences I’ve experienced.  More actionable feedback was provided than ever by any customer or manager.

Without divulging too much (you would have to take the course to get that), I did want to share one of my key take-aways that provided me a clear framework for conducting presentations – with or without Powerpoint.  For many that deal in the circle of presenations, be it beginner, moderate, or veteran, there are some basics I wanted to share… or re-share for some.

5 Golden Rules

  1. Attention 20/20:  Whether in presentation or in impactful writing, you have to get the attention of the audience immediately.  When attending a presentation, many expect to be bored. Hence why they come ‘prepared’, with phones, laptops, notepads etc… Its not for you silly. Its to distract themselves if indeed they are right, and get bored.    The goal to aim for – secure the attention with the first 20 words in the first 20 seconds
  2. Interest:  Once you have the attention, you know have to anchor that.  Why should the audience keep focused on you?  Two dimensions should be considered: your Legitimacy (i.e. credibility) and how Genuine you are (i.e. connected to the subject and audience).  You need to establish you credibility on the topic (e.g. years of experience) and that you understand the problem and or audience at an individual level.
  3. Conviction: You now have their attention, you have to continue keeping it.  2 words: Relevancy & Clear.  Relevant, make sure that you know your audience and make the key points relevant to them.  Clear, not everyone has the same pro-efficiency level in a language. Using too long sentences, complex words, or phrases will alientate a portion of the audience.
  4. Desire: What makes them to take action after your presentation?  Knowing your audience is critical.  Demonstrating the benefits through a story is key here I beleive.  Storytelling is one of the greatest ways of getting your audience to connect emotionally with your presentation.  It helps them envision themselves with your key points in their own world. Emotionally anchored!
  5. Conclusion:  People tend to remember almost exclusively the beginning & end of anything, be it presentations, books, or conversations.  Its to do with the concept of Novelty & Recency.  Novelty, introduction of the topic gets their attention “Whats all this about?!”.  Recency, because, well, its literally the last thing that entered their minds.  So a good conclusion, clear with an action (what you recommend they should be doing or thinking) and a concise summary of key benefits, will ensure that at least they get the critical stuff.  Even if they caught some Z’s in the middle….


One thought on “5 golden rules for effective presentations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *