Professional Presentations

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010 , , , , 0 comments

Is there a huge difference between the slides in an amateur or a professional presentation? When should you enlist the help of a professional, and when will a DIY presentation suffice? The run-up to preparing any sort of presentation should be to answer some of the following questions, and we look at each from both sides of the scale.

Should I Use Visual Aids?

With the accumulation of years of Death By PowerPoint, a lot of public speakers now argue against using PowerPoint slides, or visual aids in general. While after dinner speakers and politicians may be able to cope without slides, attempting to explain complex ideas is made much easier by the use of diagrams and animated graphs. Here those in the business world, and other presenters, often find the greatest benefit from visual aids: they help the presenter to explain.

Not only can visual aids make a message clearer when used properly, but they can also significantly increase retention rates. Research has shown that when information is received via dual encoding (i.e. both visually and aurally), retention rates are more than doubled. If you want your presentation to be remembered, visual aids are the way to go.

Can I Create Effective Slides Myself?

Many presenters now understand that bullet points are ineffective. This is definitely a step in the right direction. However, do you know what to do other than avoid bullet points and ClipArt? It is important to really think about your visual aids, and to ensure that your PowerPoint slides are making your presentations more effective, and not just prettier.

There are plenty of DIY books out there that profess that they can tell you how to make amazing, effective presentations. A lot of these books have some fantastic ideas, but none fully encompass the full way to optimise your presentation. If you’re really set on doing this yourself, we recommend reading several different books to give you the broadest spectrum on the subject. We have reviewed several of the top presentation books here, and m62’s very own Nicholas Oulton’s book Killer Presentations is a great starting point for understanding visualisation and presentation psychology.

There are also PowerPoint training videos available on the internet (including on this site), which can help users to understand how to get the best out of PowerPoint. However, it is worth considering what the end result will be: can you make a presentation that will be worth all the effort? And how much time are you willing to dedicate to learning this?

Can my Company Create Effective Slides?

Many companies choose to create their presentations in house in order to save time and money. This idea is rarely proven true. Presentation experts make a living out of doing this, and have had years of practice. They can create a presentation of a much better standard in half the time it would take someone who is not specially trained for it. And of course – time is money.

Another fear many presenters have with bringing in outside help is that consultants will struggle to understand the subject matter. In fact, bringing in someone who does not have an initial understanding of your business can be the best move you could make. An outsider can help to bring clarity to complex subject matter, or agreement when a few members of the team have different opinions. If your company works in a complicated and difficult to understand way, it can often be difficult to explain this to an audience who do not have knowledge of this. Using an outsider to point out these discrepancies will help when team members can’t see from an audience’s perspective.

Is it Worth Paying the Price for a Professional?

It can seem pricey to pay for a professional presentation. Many presenters would rather keep the work in-house, thus reducing cost. The difficulty with this point of view is that it does not take value into account. If having a really good presentation will increase your chances of winning a bid, it is perhaps worth investing some money into ensuring that your presentations are the best they can be. We’ve worked with projects that have resulted in multimillion dollar deals – the price of a presentation pales into insignificance next to this.

And it’s not just about the slides – messaging consultancy and training will help to ensure that your presentation is the most effective it can be.

Signs You Really Should Hire Help

You’ve got the theory; you’ve got the visuals. You’ve even removed bullet points and shoved in a few graphs and diagrams. Yet it still doesn’t look good, and you just don’t know how to do it. Hiring a professional at this point will ensure that you get the best looking presentation possible.

People in your company just aren’t using your slides. We’ve seen this many times. Managers send out slide decks for employees to use, but they keep getting ignored. Or changed. Having one set of really good slides will ensure that all presenters actually want to use them. This helps you control your brand image, as well as making sure that your presenters present enthusiastically and well.

You’re not really sure what the best way to do things is. You’ve read a lot, but can’t seem to agree with all of it, and don’t understand some of it. Specialists have made thousands of presentations and have years of experience. They know what works and what doesn’t; they discovered this firsthand. Hiring a professional will point you in the right direction and help you to get the best results possible.

You’ve seen fantastic slides and fantastic presenting skills. Maybe even your competitors are using them. You know other presenters are doing much better than you are, and you don’t want to be left behind. Hiring help will help to ensure that you stay ahead of the crowd.

You realise your presentation theories are out of date. New theories on presenting and the psychology of presentations are published every day – how are you going to keep up with them all? Hiring specialists means that you are receiving the most up-to-date advice, and working with the thought leaders and latest theories.

You are due to be one in a long list of presenters at a function or bid. Who wants to be the mediocre presenter, forgotten ten minutes after the presentation’s over? Having a really great presentation ensures that you will stand out from the crowd. You will be remembered – for all the right reasons.

You have a presentation looming – soon. You know you don’t have the time to put a really good set of slides together. Hiring an agency to produce a professional presentation will ensure that your slide deck is effectively – and on time.

You have a really important presentation coming up, and you want to ensure that it is as effective as possible. Sometimes it’s necessary to admit when you’re out of your depth, and call in the experts. If the stakes are high, it’s probably time to ask for help.


Ultimately, whether presenters choose to seek professional help or not, they need to understand that there is an improvement to be made. PowerPoint is easy to use badly. It is so accessible that people think they can do it for themselves. The increase of presentation and PowerPoint help books in circulation has ensured a marginal improvement for some presenters, but this is not necessarily a good thing – presenters then become confident in their mediocre slides, and fail to see that there is so much more that can be done with them.

Think about your presentation. Are your slides effective? Do they convey your message in a visual, engaging way? Is your presentation memorable, exciting, and impressive? Do your presenters work fluently with their slides, delivering a seamless combination of visuals and patter?

If your answer to these questions is an honest (and objective!) yes, then congratulations! Your presentations are effective, and you should strive to keep them that way. Ensure that you keep up to date with the latest theories, and keep coaching your presenters and making sure that they practise.

But if the answer to any of the above questions was “no”, you need to rethink the way you work. Perhaps you only need to create a few more diagrams, or urge your presenters not to use cue cards. Or perhaps you really need a complete makeover, at which point a professional could help.

At any rate, do not rest on your laurels. If you want to stay ahead of the game and ensure that your presentations are more successful – whether this means securing more bids than your competitors, or securing the financial backing for new growth – you need to ensure that your presentations are the best they can be. This means really reviewing every slide made, and every delivery carried out. If you think something could be better, take measures to improve it. Don’t settle for second best: remember just how much your presentation could be worth!

Want to engage with the professionals, but not sure who to choose? Our guide to presentation agency selection can help you make the right decision for you.

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