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Five Tips for Writing a Winning Presentation

By Sheri Jeavons

When people are trying to write great content for their presentations, they often become “stuck” and feel overwhelmed by the fact that they have too much information for the time allotted. They often put off writing their presentation, then scramble at the last minute to throw something together or simply cram too much information into their specified timeframe. During the delivery they end up rushing and are unable to provide all the critical pieces of information.

Sound familiar? If you find yourself in this situation, you are not alone. Many competent professionals struggle to create great presentation content. Usually this happens when you’re not 100% sure of the goals of the audience or you just have too much information to convey. As a result, you may focus too much on your own agenda and not spend enough time considering the audience’s agenda.

Realize that what your audience wants and needs to know may be very different from what you feel compelled to put into your presentation. The audience will tune you out unless you give them the key facts they find interesting and useful. In fact, most people make a conscious decision whether to listen to you within the first one to two minutes of your presentation. If you want to have a room of active listeners who are eager to hear your message, use the following tips to create compelling content that keeps your listeners awake and engaged.

Tip 1: Be your audience: Once you have determined what you will present, ask yourself, “What value does this information provide my audience?”  Since not everyone views your information the same way you do, you need to approach the topic from your audience’s perspective. Answer the question, “What’s in it for them?” after each key point. For example, technical people often give the details of the technical aspect of their knowledge. They state how the process works and how they proved it. The truth is that most audiences want to know why the process works and how it is going to solve their problems and meet their goals. Consider the goals and desired outcomes for your audience prior to putting your presentation together. Once you have their goals in mind it will make it easier for you to organize your information.

Tip 2:  Grab your audience in the first two minutes: Begin every presentation with a short introduction that gives an overview of what you will be presenting. First, state the audience’s critical goals you know they would like to achieve as it relates to your information. Next, state the challenges/pain points you believe the audience faces. Third, simply state the agenda topics you plan to cover. Finally, highlight three to four value statements you will provide as a result of this information.  Paint a picture with your words of how great their business or department would be if they acted on your suggestions. Describe the happy workers, increased profits, or satisfied customers that would result from your information/recommendations. Your introduction is the overview and should be presented in the first two minutes!

Tip 3: Less is more: When writing your presentation content, remember the phrase, “Less is more.” Don’t put every detail into your presentation. It is best to have 2 - 4 key agenda topics you plan to cover. It’s okay to omit some information from your presentation. Too much content can result in going off on a tangent and running out of time. When you try to cram too much into a presentation it usually ends up confusing your audience as they struggle to determine the most important points.

If the information you omit is that important, the topic will come up during your question and answer session. Prepare for potential questions that might be asked and have those answers in the back of your mind. Contrary to popular belief, giving too much information because you want to appear knowledgeable, may overwhelm your audience and cause them to shut down. When you keep your content focused on 2 - 4 key agenda topics, you will actually get a higher level of comprehension and buy-in from your listeners.

Tip 4:  Repetition works: Remember the Winston Churchill quote: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. And then tell them what you just told them.”  It is important to repeat the value statements that you gave in your introduction throughout your presentation. Now that you have the introduction completed, you are ready to provide the support information for the body of the talk. Start by restating the first agenda topic and provide all the support information necessary for the audience to understand your information. You will want to remind the audience why your information or recommendations are good for them. Repetition helps create enthusiasm and agreement for your ideas. In your conclusion, repeat the agenda topics and the value statements, which you highlighted throughout your presentation. End with your requested next steps.

Tip 5: Guidelines for amount of content: Once you have developed your PowerPoint slides (or your handouts) complete this exercise. Review each slide and estimate how much time in seconds or minutes it will take you to convey that information. Write down the amount of time you have estimated for each slide and add them up. Surprise!  Most likely you have just determined that you have too much information for the time allotted. Most people will run long when they present.

Use these timeframe guidelines: 20 minute presentation, prepare content for 15 minutes; 30 minute presentation, prepare content for 20 minutes; 45 minute presentation prepare content for 30 minutes. Using these guidelines when developing your presentation will dramatically increase your success in preparing the right amount of content for the designated timeframe.

Better Content -- Better Results: The more you focus on your audience’s perspective, the better your results. You’ll appear both confident and competent, and will persuade people to agree with your point of view. You’ll excite your listeners to take action and be viewed as a reliable information source and solutions provider. Your credibility will soar, enabling you to get the results you desire!

Read other articles and learn more about Sheri Jeavons.

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