m62 would typically recommend building a presentation by asking fundamental questions about who it is for, and what your objectives are – and then building a story from there. Don’t simply re-use material that you have already. Sometimes, however, nothing else is possible, and when you already have material that works, it can make sense to re-use it. In this situation, how do you make the most of the presentation material that you have? How can presentation optimisation make your presentation work? What should you do when you don’t have the budget to bring in a presentation agency?
- Successful presentation optimisation (or optimization for our American cousins) starts by having clear objectives. Then, the presentation can be optimised in terms of those objectives. If a presentation isn’t aiming to do anything in particular, how can it be optimised to do it better?
- Go through all the material in the presentation and eliminate everything that is interesting to you but not to your audience. Limit the amount of information in your presentation, and what remains has more impact. Many companies go overboard in proving that they are big and global and powerful – which has its place, but can usually be achieved in just a couple of slides.
- Group content into coherent sections. When deciding what sections to create, ask What matters to the audience? What headings would they be interested in hearing you talk about? Five sections is optimal. Any more than seven is too many.
- Eliminate bullet points. This doesn’t just mean cut down the number of words in your bullet points, or increase the font size in your bullet points. It means get rid of them. They don’t work. Slides that are going to be presented shouldn’t make sense without a presenter talking. If the audiences read your bullet points they think they have understood your point, and they disengage, sometimes without bothering to listen to what you are saying. Use visual cognitive dissonance instead.
- Look for the visuals that help you get your point across. Presentation optimisation involves turning “visual aids” into something that actually helps the presenter. Does a slide show a series of dates? Then use a timeline. Does a slide explain the order in which something happens? Show a process map. Does a slide compare numbers? Find the right graph. Does a slide explain how something happens? Show this by moving photographs around on a slide. Can’t find the right visual? Use some photos to illustrate your point.
- Presentation design matters. To optimise your presentation you will want it to look good. Find a tasteful PowerPoint template. Consolidate the number of colours and fonts that you use. Destroy all Clip-Art, and cut out the more tacky stock photography. Reconsider that Word-Art. Only use animation to guide attention or to convey meaning – never to make things look “interesting”.
- A presentation is about a speaker and their slides. Presentation optimisation must, therefore, optimise the PowerPoint presentation and how the presentation is delivered. Practice delivering the presentation; often, using a camcorder to watch and review can give valuable and rapid feedback. Don’t say what you would say if you were presenting – actually present the presentation, even if only to an empty room. When delivering the presentation, remember that people rarely complain that a presentation was too quick. Don’t speak too quickly – but deliver your material in a concise and pithy way.
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