How to Present a Great Power Point Presentation

Most people have heard the line that more people are afraid to speak in public than they are of dying. Whether that’s an exaggeration or the way a lot of people really do feel, there’s no question that presenting ideas to others – any kind of public speaking for that matter – can be very stressful.

One type of presenting that has become so popular in recent years by shows like TED is the power point presentation. All good presentations should be audience focused yet message-driven. They should be well-researched, thoroughly prepared, rehearsed, and easy to understand.

Using Slides

Speakers for conferences should realize that the slide information (the words) displayed on the screen for the audience to see/read are only there as a ‘headline’ for them and a trigger for the speaker. The number of slides (though fewer is generally better) is not as important as the slides being easy to follow, so the focus is on the presenter and their ideas-not on a slide filled with too many words.

Less is actually more when it comes to the number of words on each slide. Too many words make it hard for the audience to see what’s on the screen and follow the speaker at the same time. Use as few words as possible on each “page” or slide.

The presenter should know their material so well that they only need a few words on the slide to trigger what they want to add.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

There are many important aspects to being properly prepared for any type of presentation. One key is for the presenter to take the time do their homework. Beyond knowing their topic, they should also know as much as possible about their audience in advance.

For speakers, the challenge is ensuring that their needs and the needs of the audience are both met.

Know the messages that should be delivered, and prepare to reinforce those “key messages” thoughtfully throughout the presentation.

Where Should the Presenter Look?

One of the most common “mistakes” that inexperienced or nervous presenters make when using “slides” is not facing the room/audience. Too often, they will have their backs turned almost completely away from the audience.

They look at the screen and either simply read the sentences/words on the page/screen, and spend too much time looking at the screen (or at their laptop computer) to see what’s on the page/slide.

Again it is important for the presenter to know their subject so they don’t have to look back to the slides constantly. Only turn to the screen to review the “trigger words”, then turn and speak naturally to the audience – with confidence.

The Importance of Eye Contact

Making natural eye contact is important in any kind of presentation. In a power point setting, if speaking to a large audience the presenter should ensure they are facing the audience and connecting with different individuals in the audience as they are speaking. Especially look for people who seem interested or are nodding supportively and connect with them.

It’s OK to look at the screen to pick up “trigger” words, then naturally re-engage with the audience. Feel free to move around (within reason) in the room. It’s not necessary to stand next to the laptop.

In a smaller group, engage with everyone in the room and be focused on the individuals in the room – not the screen.

Taking Questions

Often speakers want to make the audience wait until their presentation is over before they take questions. When a speaker uses this approach, it can sometimes give the impression that they will be “thrown off” or are afraid they will lose their place if they are interrupted. Questions are not an interruption. They are part of the energy in the room, and an opportunity to really bond with the audience.

Show confidence by inviting questions throughout the talk. If someone is unclear about something that was said, or in some way agitated, it only compounds the problem if they can’t ask a question for half an hour, for example.

If someone in the audience begins to ask too many questions, or asks questions that are not relevant to the topic, the presenter should politely suggest that they and the person asking the questions speak privately, “off-line”, after the talk.

The Back-up Plan When Technology Fails

By definition, a power-point presentation involves technology. Sometimes, technology fails.

If something happens to the laptop, the projector or the screen, the speaker should have a hard copy of the presentation handy. It will act as an informal “trigger” to guide them through their talk and they will still be professional in their approach.

Building Confidence

Most people feel stress or anxiety before a “talk”, including a power-point presentation. Whether it’s to colleagues at work, your bosses, a major address before a skeptical audience or to a friendly Church group, speaking in public is not something most people do routinely.

But an individual can build their confidence by practicing on a consistent basis. In fact, this is why some people decide to join a Toastmasters group in their area so that they can get the necessary practice to overcome any anxieties they might have of speaking in front of a live group of people.

Brett Sartorial

Brett is a business journalist with a focus on corporate strategy and leadership. With over 15 years of experience covering the corporate world, Brett has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, analytical and insightful journalist. He has a deep understanding of the business strategies and leadership principles that drive the world's most successful companies, and is able to explain them in a clear and compelling way. Throughout his career, Brett has interviewed some of the most influential business leaders and has covered major business events such as the World Economic Forum and the Davos. He is also a regular contributor to leading business publications and has won several awards for his work.