Whether it’s a start-up company pitching their business idea, an HR manager introducing new management principles, or an expert sharing his knowledge at a conference: In today’s business, presentations are indispensable.
Some people break out in a sweat just thinking of speaking in front of a crowd. For others, giving presentations is like a drug they can’t get enough of.
With our 10 tips for presentations, nothing will stand in the way of your next successful presentation.
1. What’s the big idea?
When you’re preparing a presentation, you should ask yourself what the big idea is. After all, you want to convince your listeners about something - whether it be a sales pitch, or an internal meeting where you’re presenting a new project.
There are three aspects in making an idea a big idea:
What is your own opinion about the subject? How does this differ from other possible opinions?
What will those with a different opinion from yours miss out on?
Formulate the whole idea in one complete sentence.
For example: Instead of giving your internal presentation the title, “Quarterly Figures 2nd Quarter 2023”, formulate the big idea of your presentation as follows:
“The quarterly figures for Q2 are bad. In order to get them back in line, all departments need to support the sales campaign.”
2. People are interesting, facts are boring
What really excites other people - are other people! Therefore, don’t hide behind a wall of facts as hardly anyone remembers them anyway. Have the courage to show some emotion as this will connect you with your audience. Choose your rhetoric and body language so that people can see that you care about the topic.
You can complain about this if you’d like, but in this day and age, emotions count more than facts. Even a fact-oriented researcher such as Hans Rosling relied heavily on emotions in his presentations when he compared his audience to chimpanzees - thus lending credibility and conviction to his big idea.
3. Stories make content clear
People love stories. This is why they spend hours watching Netflix or Amazon Prime and can’t get enough of their heroes. A story is therefore the perfect way to captivate your audience. Whether it’s a personal story, a customer example, or an experience on the street - listeners remember stories more than facts, and they can empathize much better with the heroes.
Speaking of which...
4. Who is the hero?
One thing’s for sure: It’s not you! If you begin your presentation with a long introduction of yourself and your company, you’ll quickly lose many listeners. Your audience doesn’t like arrogance. If you think you’re the greatest global market leader, your audience will be waiting for a mistake.
Instead, change your perspective. Make your audience the hero, and you are merely the mentor. Like Yoda, who taught Luke Skywalker the skills he needed to defeat The Dark Side. If you internalize this change in perspective, you’ll be on the same level as your audience and will quickly win sympathy points and you are assured of attention.
5. Call-to-action - every presentation has a goal
What should the audience do after your presentation? Just as every ad has a clear call-to-action, so should your presentation. It is important to make this request as simple as possible. The audience should understand the benefits of following your call-to-action. So phrase your goal briefly and concisely so that clients, colleagues & managers understand you best.
6. Score with emotion
“You won’t remember the content of my speech, but you will most likely remember how you felt”, said the “Steve Jobs of Market Research”, John Kearon. The market researcher studies how people make decisions. There are seven basic decisions that drive us.
In this TEDx talk, he vividly portrayed emotions all without a single chart or PowerPoint slide - nobody missed either one :-)
See it as preparation for the next presentation and use the newly learnt skills, competences and methods.
7. PowerPoint: Is it necessary?
Which brings us to the topic, “Death-by-PowerPoint”. 10-Point bullet points, senseless infographics, overloaded charts, lame animations… we’ve all experienced this time and time again, right? A survey commissioned by the service provider i-pointing revealed that employees spend 2.2 hours on average preparing a PowerPoint presentation - at least once a week!
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has banned his employees from working with PowerPoint presentations. Instead, they should tell stories.
When you have to give a presentation, it’s best to begin without PowerPoint. There are tools such as mind maps that are better suited to help you to plan what you will say and to develop a dramaturgy.
If it is absolutely necessary to use slides, the principle of reduction should be applied to what is critical. It’s better to use a strong image and a catchphrase than a bunch of overladen text which only distracts from what you’re saying.
Conclusion: Less is definitely more for a successful presentation.
8. Phrase checker: Avoid taboo words
Rhetoric is the science of making speech effective. This definition includes the fact that speech always has an effect, whether we like it or not.
People are often shocked when they see themselves for the first time in a video or hear a voice recording of themselves. That’s me?? That doesn’t sound like me at all!
Oh yes, it does! It’s only when your listen to yourself that you become aware of the language you use every day. The phrases that you use over and over again (“I said...”, “Basically…”, “At the end of the day…”).
Whether you speak short, comprehensible, and complete sentences or create a grammatical carnage that no one can follow.
Or whether you speak in a jargon that may be understandable for experts, but not for an audience that you are trying to win over with your big idea (keyword: Denglish).
Our tip: Use your smartphone to record your presentation without an audience, either as a video or simply as a voice recording. In this way, you can quickly become aware of the rhetorical flaws that can distract your audience from your core message.
The sound of your voice also plays an important role in presentations. If you want to change your vocal charisma, take a look at our article on this topic.
9. The body always speaks
We communicate constantly, not only through our language but also through our bodies, whether we mean to or not.
Many things happen unconsciously:
Crossing your arms - a sign of distance from others
Touching your nose - a sign of stress
Knitting your brows - a sign of anger.
On the other hand, these body signals have a positive effect and generate sympathy:
Making eye contact with the audience but being careful not to focus on just one person and stare them down.
Smiling - the quickest connection between two people!
Standing straight and tall with your feet shoulder-width apart
Using a powerful voice
Making slow, elegant movements instead of running around.
One thing is very important: Authenticity. People notice quickly when gestures or body language have come from training and not from the heart.
Practice presentations with friends, relatives or colleagues and get honest feedback on your body language and your general effect afterwards. With practice you will automatically become more confident and so will your soft skills, rhetoric & body language.
10. Learn from the best: Inspiration from top speakers
Whether you are a professional speaker or a beginner, you learn the most by watching top speakers and adapting their winning formula. Of course, you should also stay authentic and not come across as someone just putting on an act.
One of the best sources for outstanding presentations is the website TED.com. Particularly the section, “Most popular talks of all times”. Here are a couple of examples:
Amy Cuddy on body language
Julian Treasure on speaking so that people want to listen
Dan Pink on what motivates us
Most people break out in a sweat when they have to speak before a group. But with these 10 suggestions you can pimp out your presentation skills:
Your starting point: What’s the big idea?
People are interesting, facts are boring
Stories make content clear.
Who is the hero?
Call-to-action: Every presentation has a goal
Score with emotion
PowerPoint: Is it necessary?
Phrase checker: Avoid taboo words
The body always speaks
Learn from the best: Inspiration from top speakers
We hope our tips for presentations will help you prepare. Practice and regular training make perfect. We hope you enjoy using our ideas.