10+2 Random Tips on Presenting

This week I have compiled a list of 12 tips for presenting. While most are seemingly obvious, I amazed by how frequently folks get these wrong. Here goes:  


This week I have compiled a list of 12 tips for presenting.
While most are seemingly obvious, I amazed by how frequently folks get these
wrong. Here goes:


  1. Start sales
    presentations with questions (this applies to both virtual or in person
    presentations) – start with list of probing questions to gauge your
    audience’s interests. Rather than delving right into your slide deck,
    spend 5-10 minutes understanding why you were asked to present.
    Furthermore, the dynamics of this exercise allow you to understand why
    each of the participants is in the room.
  2. Don’t
    use slides if you can help it. Rather use product or service demos, or
    reference customer stories to engage with your audience. If you need
    slides, limit each slide to one line of text. Pictures really do speak
    much louder than words.  Services
    like Webex and GoToMeeting are really good for letting you demo your
    offering remotely. If demoing your offering is impractical, use screenshot
    slides to get your point across.
  3. If you
    need to send a slide deck following the presentation, use “speaker’s
    notes” to describe what you explained when you showed the deck.  Alternatively, record the presentation
    and send the recording (or post it to an online site).
  4. Resist
    the urge to use Powerpoint ‘slide animation” and “custom slide
    transitions.” These are so overused and they are rarely done with good
    taste. Also, keep slide builds to a minimum; they get sloppy quickly. I
    recommend using multiple slides if you need to show a transition from one state
    to another on the screen.
  5. On a
    similar note, resist the urge to wow with complex and overly colorful
    slides templates. Use professional but tasteful templates – minimalism is
    “in.” You want people focusing on your presentation, not on the artwork.  Furthermore, many templates take up too
    much slide “real estate” – make sure there is plenty of space to present
    information, not just the slide header and footer.
  6. Some
    companies ask to get a slide deck before the presentation.  I rarely find this to be useful. In most
    cases, the recipients don’t open the presentation, and if they do, your
    “thunder is stolen” before you begin. Unless for technical reasons, your
    meeting partners will not be able to see your slides while you present,
    resist the request to send slides. If you do need to send something, do
    not send the entire presentation; leave something for the actual meeting.
    To be fair, let your meeting partners know that you are sending a
    preliminary set of slides and that you might be making changes.
  7. It is
    obvious that you need to rehearse before you present, but this doesn’t
    mean hiring a professional guide. Unless you are presenting to a large or
    business-critical audience (such as potential investors), simply use a
    simple home video camera (or computer microphone for audio). You will see
    plenty of things just by “seeing yourself as others see you.”
  8. This
    may also be obvious, but if you are using a remote service like Webex or
    GoToMeeting, test out the connection with someone in a remote location
    before the meeting. I am amazed by how much time is wasted in online
    meetings just trying to get the video and audio working. If you have one
    hour to present and you spend 15 minutes “getting it right,” you just blew
    a major chance to sell.  Plus, you
    don’t look very professional if you didn’t do your homework.
  9. Leave
    plenty of time for Q&A – many people over-present and there is not
    enough time for feedback and “next steps.” Interactive Q&A is usually
    better if you can manage the time properly so this doesn’t get out of
  10. Lots
    of guides tell you to use humor as an icebreaker. I think this is usually a
    mistake. If you aren’t naturally funny (and most people aren’t) or you
    don’t feel comfortable starting with a joke, then don’t. On the other
    hand, a good introduction is important for providing context. The worst
    opening is just to plow into the prepared presentation. For a small group,
    short banter is a good icebreaker. For a larger audience, a short story or
    anecdote that provides context for the meeting is good. Just keep it short.
    I once went to a 30 minute presentation and the presenter spent 12 minutes
    struggling through a personal, opening story…and it was painful. And
  11. Another
    obvious point, but one that needs repeating. People are busy, and if your
    meeting is schedule far in advance, they often forget “what it is about.”
    Also, with people dialing in to remote meetings from all over the world,
    local time changes wreak havoc with scheduling efforts. Send a reminder a
    few days before the meeting, with some detail about what the meeting is
    about, verifying the dial-in/login details, the time the meeting is
    supposed to take place, and with a short blurb describing the context of
    the meeting. If you work with a CRM solution, you can even automate this
    process to alleviate the administrative overhead.
  12. Lastly,
    resist the urge to make a slide for every single point. Many presenters
    come with a big slide deck and the audience gets dizzy watching slides
    whiz by. For most purposes, you should be able to limit the slide deck to
    10-15 “content” slides for a one-hour meeting.  With 40-45 minutes of presenting, this
    translates into approximately 3-4 minutes of content per slide. 

About the author

A technology strategist for an enterprise software company in the collaboration and social business space. I am particularly interested in studying how people, organizations, and technology interact, with a focus on why particular technologies are successfully adopted while others fail in their mission. In my 'spare' time, I am pursuing an advanced degree in STS (Science, Technology, and Society), focusing on how social collaboration tools impact our perceptions of being overloaded by information. I am an international scholar for the Society for the History of Technology.


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