Whether you're presenting in a boardroom or at a conference, a strong presentation can go a long way toward furthering your career. If you project confidence and competence, you'll be able to engage and impress any audience.
But as you might imagine, pulling off a great presentation or conference talk isn't easy. A confident speaker can still be foiled by a low-quality presentation deck, and likewise, a great deck can't make up for lack of preparation.
I've had the question of what makes a great presentation on my mind a lot lately. On March 9, I'll be speaking at SXSW for the third year in a row. My talk is called "The Visual-First Method: Boost Conversions Now," and will explain how organizations can transition into making visual communication their primary means of communicating both internally and externally. After nine years running a visual communication agency, it's a topic I know well. Even so, a great deal of preparation goes into this and all the talks that I deliver, which total dozens a year.
With all of this in mind, I'll outline the six elements that every successful presentation needs.
1. It has a clear objective.
What are you trying to achieve with this presentation? Should your audience walk away impressed and informed with what you achieved? Ready to learn more about your company? Excited to download your ebook?
Define your goals clearly, right at the outside. The objective of your presentation will drive everything from your script to your slide deck.
2. It's useful to your audience.
No one likes to sit through an hour-long sales pitch. Nor do they want to hear a talk that doesn't teach them something, or benefit them in some way. So if you think that talking about what your company does for the entirety of your next conference presentation is a good idea, you're sorely mistaken.
Every presentation should genuinely and meaningfully offer value to its audience. That means sharing key strategies that have worked for you; offering up enlightening data or insights; or telling a story that they may be able to learn from. Only in considering your audience's needs will you gain their confidence and trust.
3. It's well-rehearsed.
Yes, you absolutely need to practice. What you say should not only be said clearly, it should be delivered in an organized fashion and should be carefully coordinated with what you show on screen. Practice also helps you project confidence as a speaker, and that, too, will be more compelling for your audience.
And even if you've done this presentation a dozen times, rehearsal is essential. After all, every audience is different, so you may need to adjust your presentation each time to your audience's unique needs and interests.
4. Your presentation deck uses as little text as possible.
We've all attended one of those presentations where the slide deck had too much text. It's impossible to read more than a few words at a time while also listening attentively to the speaker.
Don't give attendees a reading assignment. It'll make the overall experience of your presentation less enjoyable. Your audience is liable to feel distracted and even a little stressed. Instead, focus on visualizing the topics you're discussing and supplementing them in meaningful ways -- with the help of graphs, for example.
5. Your contact information is clearly featured.
On my conference presentation, I include my company's logo and our Twitter handle on every slide. I want to make sure that the audience has ample opportunity to learn who we are, and to reach out and connect. This is especially useful for conference presentations, and may not be necessary for internal presentations at your place of work. Still, don't forget to make sure that everyone has a way to reach out to you, and remind them of your name and contact information on your last slide.
6. It includes a call-to-action.
Just as every presentation has a clearly defined goal, so too must it have a clear call-to-action. What do you want your audience to do at the end of your presentation? You'll need to give them an easy way to follow through on next steps.
At conferences, I like to leave audiences with a way to learn more about the topic I've been discussing. That's why I'll often share a link to an ebook at the end of my talks.
Still, when it comes to calls-to-action, there are as many options as there are goals. Determine what's right for you.
Incorporate these strategies into your next presentation, and you'll see more engagement and improved conversions. It will also make for more satisfied audiences, no matter where you're presenting.