Most of us have been there. We attend a conference or come to hear a talk, only to be faced with mind-numbing boredom. The information may be interesting, but the presenter is reading us a dense paragraph of words that we can barely make out from the back of the room.
It doesn’t have to be this way! No matter how specialized the information in your presentation, you can always make it appealing and easy to absorb. This will endear you to your audience and make sure they remember your work instead of sleeping through your presentation. Here are some tips to set you on the right path:
Create An Outline
Before you start building slides, figure out what you are trying to say. What information is absolutely essential to impart at this public event? What is too detailed to explain in a short presentation? The goal of your presentation will often be to get others interested in your topic, so they want to learn more, not less. Every detail of your extensive research cannot be expressed in a 20- or 30-minute slide show. Which are the most important ideas you need to talk about?
Tell Multiple, Complementary Stories
Don’t forget that images can work in conjunction with your words. There is little more boring than attending a presentation in which the presenter only reads the slides. Considering that most audiences are quite literate, this is a waste of everyone’s time. The slides should use minimal text (no more than three or four lines). Instead of using slides that only contain text, use visuals such as graphs, diagrams, photos, and media clips that add information to engage the audience. If you simply mirror your words with your images, you have given away half the potential of your presentation.
Use a Big Font
Make sure your font is big enough so that the audience can read it. A font size less than 24 point is too small to be read in the back of the room in most presentation situations. A 28 or 32 point size, with titles 36 to 44 point size, is legible in most scenarios. Avoid text that spins or moves too much, so your audience stays focused on the best part of your presentation—you!—instead of the distraction of movement on a screen.
Have Slides at the End of Your Presentation
After your last slide, you may include some slides that answer questions that you expect to be asked during Q&A sessions after the presentation. The final slide should be a blank slide or a slide with your contact information, so you have a final backup for the program.
Remember: Human Interaction is a Powerful Tool
No matter what your text says or which images you choose, YOU are the most important part of your presentation. First, introduce yourself. Next, face the audience the whole time (do not look at the screen and read your slides!). Speak up! You may think you are too loud, but the people at the back of the room will appreciate it. Add information verbally to what you have shown on the slides. This is your chance to add important details that wouldn’t fit on the slide. Finally, make eye contact with at least three people in the room as you present. If you appear engaged, the audience is more likely to be engaged.