4 ways to improve your presentations

Microsoft PowerPoint
Microsoft PowerPoint (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s imagine for a moment that you have been asked to develop a presentation for your manager about a new HR policy. You begin by opening up the corporate template and start typing using the default settings in PowerPoint with its obligatory bullet points. Blah…blah…blah….

Before long you have lots and lots of slides loaded with text and you’re bored with the whole process.

It’s more than likely that your boss has provided with little or no guidance about what the point of the presentation is, or why it needs to be developed, or even who it’s for.

You want to create something professional. You’d like it to be a bit different, but not zany because you don’t want people to think you are weird and it won’t do your career any good to be thought of as too ‘out there’.

So where do you start with creating a presentation that is effective and gets the message across? Here’s where I can help.

1. FIRST THINGS FIRST

If possible sit your manager down and ask him or her the following questions:

  • Why do we have a new policy? Does it solve a problem or clarify a situation?
  • Who is the presentation for? If she says everyone, you might need to make two versions. One for staff, one for managers.
  • How are people likely to respond to the new policy? Will they see it as an improvement to their working conditions or a hindrance (you really need to know what the target audience is feeling about the issue that the new policy is attempting to address).

2. TELL THEM WHY IT MATTERS

Start your presentation with the reason why there is a new policy. For example a policy on working from home has been created because the organisation recognises that work doesn’t just happen at work, and that workers have complicated lives. Always start from how the policy will affect the people in the room and what problem it is trying to solve.

3. KEEP YOUR MESSAGES SHORT

Put your key points on the slides. One point per slide please! Make every effort to avoid corporate speak. Be straightforward and direct. So for example, instead of saying that the organisation has to rationalise their resources because of competing priorities, just say ‘we have limited funds and we need to use them wisely’. People really appreciate clear messages that get your point across.

4. TELL THEM WHAT YOU WANT THEM TO DO

Be very specific about this. Tell them exactly what you what them to do, don’t make them guess. Using our working from home example, ask them to read the new policy and speak to their manager if they are interested in working from home.

And that’s it. You will have created a presentation that is clear and helpful. It will tell people why they need to know and what they need to do. You’ll be a star!

4 thoughts on “4 ways to improve your presentations

    1. Hi Emma and thanks for commenting.
      One of the advantages to restraining yourself to one idea per slide is that it forces you to really crystallise your thoughts. This means that you have to think deeply about your message. The audience benefits from your clear thinking as well as your clear slides.

    1. I can’t wait either! Let me know how it goes for you. It can sometimes be hard to get your manager to articulate exactly what it is that they want to say. We live a in a world where people seem to get away with using a lot of words but saying very little. Sometimes asking a few questions helps people clarify their thoughts and they appreciate the opportunity to explain what they really mean.

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