Presenting live in front of colleagues can be a valuable career opportunity, but it can also be stressful. A great presentation deck can truly support you when it’s your time to shine, so you definitely want to make the most of it. While you can fill your deck with excellent content, if the presentation mechanics fail you, it can shake your confidence. Avoiding common pitfalls in slide construction, knowing a few shortcuts, and adding features that keep your audience engaged can set you up for success. Here are a few tips for a successful presentation:
Balance slide content with an ample amount of whitespace. When displayed on a screen, the eye will attempt to absorb everything. If the slide is too crowded, the brain will struggle to interpret it, diverting attention from your spoken words. Complex material may be better suited for a handout instead of a slide (see below).
Produce a handout that adds value. The handout provides an opportunity to leave a meaningful message with attendees. If you’re still using the outdated configuration of three slides with lines next to them, you may inadvertently convey that they are an afterthought, rather than the main focus. PowerPoint has a built-in feature that allows you to create a flexible handout that can be modified to include additional information and provide useful space for notes and activities.
Avoid rehearsing to memorize. PowerPoint offers various tools for speaker notes and presentation views that enable you to use them during your presentation. However, if you use these tools to write a script, you’ll be tempted to read your notes instead of speaking to your audience. They will easily detect the difference and may disconnect from your message. If you choose to practice, pay attention to the comfort level of the phrases as you speak them aloud. Notice the flow from topic to topic. Make adjustments as necessary, but avoid memorization!
Don’t treat an online presentation the same as a live presentation. Increasingly, we are delivering presentations online. Facial expressions and gestures play a significant role in communication, and a “postage stamp-sized you” won’t replace the impact of the “live you” in this regard. Regardless of whether you are on camera, your presentation deck should incorporate movement to prevent people from disengaging. Animation can be tricky, but once you learn how to keep things moving without distracting from your message, you can make the most of online presentation opportunities.
Step in front of the room with confidence, knowing that your presentation deck will support you as a speaker and effectively convey your message. Ready to take your presentation skills to the next level? Check out our event, “PowerPoint Presentation Skills for Women: Stand Out in the Workplace.”
About the Expert
Melissa Esquibel is a technology consultant, coach, trainer and speaker.
- She is a consultant, frequent speaker and Microsoft Certified Trainer.
- Since 1991, Ms. Esquibel has assisted a variety of companies and industries with Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook) all versions through 2016. Her strong foundation in finance and accounting was built over years in the banking and accounting industries.
- Melissa has 25+ years of experience in information technology with a background in training, finance, technical writing and business risk analysis.