In a few weeks you will be speaking to an audience of 20 to 100 people in a multi-track conference. How can you make your presentation stands out in the right way?
What makes a good presentation title? Here are some suggestions;
- Short – four to five words might be typical in your industry
- Clear and accurate – specifically what are you talking about?
- Makes you curious – “hmm, that sounds interesting”
- Provides clues – is the talk for novices or experts?
- Word play – example; when speaking about tools, “Don’t be a tool”.
- Key Words – Tips, Tricks, Techniques, Best, Free, Resources, Simplifying, Myths, How To, Improving, Optimizing, Stronger, Faster
The title may be all that the audience reads to decide whether to attend your presentation. In some cases there is room for a paragraph or even a full-page of more information. Be sure to use it.
Here is the opportunity to offer more. Elaborate on the ideas in the title. But, be sure you don’t introduce subjects that are not related. Keep a tight focus. Use numbered or bulleted lists if you can. Specify the target audience. Show a bit of your background, sense of humor and why they should attend.
Your Presentation Slides
First, lets assume that you will publish your slide presentation on the web. SlideShare.com is a common site to share presentations, usually after they are presented, but not always after.
There are also benefits to sharing your presentation on your own website or blog. Why not drive traffic to your own site and introduce more visitors to your content?
I do both.
This allows me to use SlideShare as an outpost, a place where people may find me for the first time (unrelated to the conference). SlideShare offers analytics that show me how many times people watch the presentation, plus I get to use their widget to post my presentation on my website with ease.
Letting your audience know at the beginning of the talk that the slides are available online will cut the note taking anxiety and let them focus more on listening and less on “writing”.
Contact / Sharing Info
Don’t be too shy or too bold about letting people know who you are and if it is relevant who you work for. It can be very helpful to include a website address, email address, Twitter handle, a Twitter hash tag, phone number or whatever is proper (not all that info) to your audience, on every slide.
People like to connect with speakers. Give them that opportunity. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Your slide is not a script to be read from. In fact there is a trend away from lots of text toward visual clues for the audience.
The first slide generally offers the title of the presentation, maybe a sub-text and a graphic. Here or on the second slide your contact information is available in a large readable font. Also give three to five points on you and why people should listen to you. Education, work experience, past clients and an interesting fact usually are enough.
Remember that the slide design is to support the message, not show off your design skills. I like strong, solid colors with impactful text or images. I have made the mistake of jamming five lines of text on a slide. Don’t do that. And you won’t if the slides are for illustration and not your script.
How many slides? Target about one per minute .
How many bullets on a slide? 3-6 seems reasonable.
The last slide again displays your contact information and relevant links. Consider also including a link to your account on SpeakerRate to gather information so that you can improve before the next speaking engagement.
People love additional resources, so include links.
Use shortened links. Have some pity for the note takers and typists in the audience.
Think about the name of the shortened link. You may be thinking about the name of the conference. But, your audience may be thinking about the skill set or discipline you are speaking about. What kind of naming will make the link most sharable and interesting. Refer back to the title information in this post up at the top.
Using Creative Commons photos from Flickr is a great way to get quality images for free. You can include a credit on each slide with the image or all on one slide at the end of your slide deck, which I find less distracting.
Tell the audience right up front that you want this to be interactive and to yell out questions or to hold questions until the end. They have a right to be informed. If the session is being recorded tell the audience to please wait for the microphone before speaking. Guide them gently to successful participation.
Give something away
When I presented after lunch I shared individually wrapped Lindt chocolateswith the audience. It kept them alert in the after lunch time slot and it was fun.
Provide a free document from your website. Offer a PDF of valuable information. This will again drive qualified traffic to your website and introduce more people to your ideas and capabilities. Ensure that the document is well branded too.
Or offer a fun quiz at the end of your presentation and offer small prizes.
Or you could just give prizes to those that add useful comments, ask questions or otherwise take part.
Whatever you give away will make a lasting impression on the recipient.
It is best to assume that the audience is on your side and supportive, especially if this is your first presentation.
Although saying “this is my first presentation” seems like a good idea, I don’t recommend what actors call, “breaking the fourth wall”. Stay on form. Don’t talk about your presentation to the audience.
This is especially hard when the computer and projector problems delay your presentation. Ask for technical help if you need it.
Know that you are the best “you” that there is. Be grateful for the audience. Go out and share what you know without fear. Learn from the experience. Rinse and repeat.
Keep in mind that this post is full of suggestions. There are always exceptions and we each have our own style and audience.
The best slides I have ever seen in person were from Tamsen McMahon. Here is one set which is 146 slides (very long), but don’t miss the last slide.
The PowerPoint Manifesto by John Heaney is recommended.
And Tony Ramos has a blog devoted to presentations.
Please add your further suggestions in the comments below.