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How to Make an Effective Presentation

Updated: May 19, 2022

Written by Rajat Goel

Are you struggling to make your presentation attractive? Do you feel that while delivering your presentation, people often lose interest? Or have you been putting in too much effort in your slides but still feel like you are not impactful? This article is your step-by-step guide to overcoming these issues that most of us face while working on our presentations, whether researchers, students or professionals.

The user-friendliness of MS Office Powerpoint makes it one of the most popular and ubiquitous products. But are you using it effectively? If you haven't yet asked this question, now is the time to reflect on your presentations. If your slides look too wordy, crowded, unattractive, or confusing, don’t worry. The co-founders of Spark Mentoring, Anusha and Ammar, with over ten years of experience in academia, share some suggestions to help you become a more effective presenter:

Pro Tip #1: Don’t make your slides first

We know that you have lots of work and have many deadlines to meet - and yet we are asking you not to make your slides right away! Instead of starting with designing your slides, we highly recommend that you spend 5 minutes thinking about the presentation. Thinking about the goal of the presentation, your audience (for example, consider whether they are investors, researchers, development people, or the marketing team) will help you tailor your content according to the audience’s interest. Further, think of a logical structure, a story, or an analogy with which you would like to start your presentation. It might sound like a lot, but you will finish this exercise in less than 5 minutes. Once you have this workflow in your mind, you will be ready to prepare the slides!

Pro Tip #2: Designing your presentation

We often try to beautify our slides by adding images or graphics to slides. This is not a bad idea, but slides with fewer distractions are more appealing. Moreover, do not load your slides with paragraphs of unnecessary text. Restrict the textual content to the main headings and critical takeaways. Use bullet points. A good rule of thumb is to convey one idea per slide. This will help you capture your audience’s attention and facilitate their understanding. Make sure all your charts, figures, and drawings are clear, concise, and understandable. Moreover, they should not be cluttered together. Excessive content can overwhelm and zone out the audience even before you explain it.

Pro Tip #3: Delivering your presentation

We are often mesmerized by a 15-minute TED talk or a CEO speaking for five minutes, but we often miss that they have practiced the same talk numerous times. Each word is carefully chosen and relevant to the story. Remember: making a presentation is just 50% of the work. The rest depends on your practice to deliver it.

If needed, you can consider making notes or cue cards for each slide or at least for the important ones so that you don’t miss saying anything crucial to the audience's understanding. One must work on their intonations and volume. You can use the intonations and volume of your voice to express the critical points. With proper pauses, repetitions, and an appropriate amount of audience engagement, e.g., eye contact, question, and answer, or light humor, you can do wonders!

While delivering a presentation, try to guide your audience through your slides. For example, describe whether you are explaining the slide from the top left corner, etc. Another thing to remember is to stick to the allotted time limit. Finally, try to visit the venue a day before the presentation, look out for the technologies you will use, and check your presentation in that system.

While these are some of the key tips and tricks to effective presentation skills, there is always scope to learn more and improve with practice. Remember that learning the art of making effective presentations requires patience and time - but this one skill will serve you well irrespective of the profession you end up in. For more detailed insights and case studies, you can watch our YouTube video - “How to Make an Effective Presentation.”

Thanks for reading till the end!

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