I used to hate speaking in front of people. It didn’t matter if I knew them or not, and it didn’t matter how many there were, I hated being the focus of attention. A career in tech seemed like a golden opportunity for me to put on headphones and stare at a screen all day, not needing to know how to present.
But as my career grew, presentation skills became increasingly important. It might be showing my design work to other designers on the team, or it might be showing a project to a prospective employer. What I’ve learned is that being able to present confidently is key to a successful career.
How to Give a Great Presentation
In this article we are going to look at 10 steps on how to give a great presentation.
1. Explore the Points
On paper, take the time to explore the points you would like to make in your presentation. Take your time and think about the story you want to tell. Think about the audience – who will they be? Will the know about this project? Or will they have limited knowledge about this topic. Use this insight to drive how you introduce your subject, the background you will give, the points you will want to cover and the conclusion.
If you’re presenting some pieces from a portfolio, write down a few key problems that you encountered, and how you solved them. Tell the story – a perfect project with no problems might be a dream scenario, but it rarely occurs.
2. Set the Expectation
A few slides at the beginning should show the audience what they’re about to see. Show them, in point form, an outline of the entire deck – including how you will present an introduction, a few points on the challenges you faced, followed by the conclusion.
Status players in the audience might want to derail you with interruptions. If you don’t want to be interrupted by questions, this is your time to make that known. You can explain that there will be time at the end for any questions.
Take time to introduce yourself and the subject you will be speaking about. Now that the audience know what they’re in for, it’s time to get into a flow.
3. Be Enthusiastic About The Topic
If you’re creating a presentation about some of the work from your portfolio, chose projects that you can enthusiastically talk about. If you’re bringing up old boring projects that you don’t really like talking about, this could have a negative impact on your delivery.
If you’re talking about a project that didn’t go well – you can be truthful, but not negative. Try to focus on the learning opportunity that it afforded you. Stay positive. Always try to find the good in something, and emphasise those points, particularly towards the end. Give your presentation a strong, positive and powerful ending.
4. Tell A Story
Are you talking about the sales growth? Give some back story. Are you talking about a design project? Why not give your listeners some context about why the project was a priority. Introduce your audience by giving them some background about the project. Use the rule of 3 to coherently and clearly give your audience an introduction, followed by an account of the work that was done, and finally showing the impact that your work had.
Here is the basic 3 step template:
- Background: What is this presentation about?
- Insights: What was the work that was done?
- Impact: How did the work done impact the product?
An example might be: “So today we’re going to look at how we redesigned the mobile web experience. First, we’ll look at the challenges our users faced on the old platform. Then, we’ll take a look at how we were able to solve those challenges. To wrap up then we’ll show the final designs, along with some findings from our 10% roll-out…”
Bear in mind that step 2 will likely be the largest part of the presentation. You might have 8 – 12 challenges that you encountered, or 8 – 12 insights found in your research. But you should always guide the audience through the introduction and give them closure with a conclusion.
5. Keep Text To A Minimum
Personally, when I attend a talk, I find it hard to listen to someone speak while also reading a paragraph of text on the screen.
When putting your slide deck together, be aware that people who attend a presentation don’t want to read loads of text.
The slide deck should accompany what you’re saying, not repeat it.
If you’re presenting some interesting research insights, play around with how you present information. It doesn’t always have to be paragraphs or bullet points. Think about how you can use your design skills to make the deck more visually engaging.
6. Deck Design
I’ve found in the past when putting together a deck, that there is a lot of inspiration for deck design online. Take the time to check out some ideas on sites like Pinterest or Behance. Play around and experiment with the colour scheme and the layout. Maybe one slide could have bullet points, but the next just a quote. Use icons or images to help illustrate your point.
Play it Safe With Fonts
Readability issues aside, beware when it comes to fonts. For some reason I’ve encountered presentations where the font didn’t load properly and the layout went a bit funny. It would’ve been fine, except the speaker was a very experienced designer giving a presentation about design to a room full of designers who care deeply about layout and typography.
If you’re giving the presentation off-site, in a room where you’re not sure about the wifi, the best thing to do is play it safe with the fonts.
7. Add Some Humour (if you’re comfortable with that)
It might be possible to add a meme or a light-hearted image, but only if it’s appropriate. If you’re talking about sales being down, you can leave this step out. I’ve just found that in the past, adding some lighthearted slides with emojis or a meme along the way keeps the audience engaged, particularly if the topic is less than exciting. Not everything needs to be serious.
8. Write Down Your Speech
The slides shouldn’t repeat what you are saying, they’re a tool to help you illustrate your points. Use the slides for images, designs, graphs and charts. So, how will you know what to say?
Write out the speech you are going to make with each slide. You don’t have to get everything word-perfect, you’re not an actor in a play. But you should have an idea of what slide is coming up, and what you are going to say with each one. This extra level of preparation will go a long way.
This depends a lot on how important the presentation is.
9. Practice It Out Loud
This largely depends on how important the presentation is. If you’re shy or find it uncomfortable to talk in front of people, you need to practice it out loud. Practice it in your apartment to yourself a few times. Then practice it in front of a camera, and watch the video back and critique yourself. Finally, practice it out loud to your family, partner or whoever is nearby that you can trust to give open feedback. The amount of practice you do should be proportional to what is at stake at this presentation. If you’re trying to land a big client or it’s for a dream opportunity, then practice it as much as you can. If you’re just presenting changes to colleagues, you don’t need to do this at all.
There’s a big difference between going over the deck silently to yourself, and going over things out loud. Having to face your audience will give you the experience of not having the ability to look at the slides. You’ll have to know what slide is coming next, and you will realise that you need a little speech to go with each one.
The audience can tell when you’re rushing, so give yourself room to breath. The best presentations are the ones that feel natural and almost conversational. When you’ve practiced your presentation aloud a few times, you will reach a stage where it begins to sound relaxed – you know what to say, when to say it, and you will be comfortable with the things you are saying.
Practicing your presentation aloud for a few people will give you confidence, and that confidence will make you shine. So take the time to build a great presentation, practice it, and everything should go well. You’ve done more than 90% of people who give presentations.
So those are my 10 steps to a powerful presentation, I hope you liked them. If you have any other tips, I’d love to hear from you over on twitter. Thanks for reading.