Giving a presentation is hard. At least, giving a good presentation is. Wedged between high expectations on one side and distracted audiences on the other, the pressure is on. You need to use every possible tool at your disposal to make sure your presentation is engaging and memorable.
Slide decks are frequently relied on as a roadmap for the presentation, which of course makes it easier for the presenter to stay on track without memorizing vast amounts of information. However, this can backfire when slide decks are used to cram-in unnecessary information, and makes it harder to read the audience and interact with them.
In general it is better to follow the ‘less is more’ approach, using the minimum number of slides, the largest font, and only a few choice statistics that demonstrate something meaningful. In addition to the general principles for any presentation, specific kinds of presentations have unique requirements for success.
Let’s examine some best practices for some different types of presentation.
Best practices for training and education presentations
Training and education are special areas where presentations have great potential. However, there are also distinct challenges. For one thing, your audience isn’t always there voluntarily; training and education programs are frequently mandatory. So, you have the first task of getting your audience motivated to begin with.
Set goals – By setting out the goal of your presentation early, you help the audience understand their journey, and why it matters to their career. This means connecting the topics you cover to why it matters for them.
Make it memorable – Surprise your audience with a mind-blowing statistic or (even better) a surprising story that’s connected to your goals or learning material. Use humor, special features or guests. Use active audience participation, and think about using ‘skits’ to act out scenarios.
Build confidence – Your training presentation is successful if your audience feel confident about the subject afterwards. We learn with our whole bodies, not our ears and eyes. Try to involve the audience with applying the training in the session. Put your learning program into physical practice, and get the audience out of their seats. You don’t need to involve everyone, as the audience can vicariously identify with the experience of a colleague as they watch.
Preparation - Come prepared with A+ content, and a complete learning journey mapped out. Training sessions need to be more linear, as they’re often process-oriented. However with ‘soft-skills’ training, you have more latitude for experiential and self-directed (non-linear) training.
Simplicity – Keep it easy to remember. Use a handful of broad topics, and go into specifics with more ‘experiential’ elements, and group discussions. Avoid jargon and acronyms, and make it fun.
Best practices for company presentations
Company presentations come in many forms, so how can you consistently give the best experiences? You may be giving an internal company presentation, presenting to the management team, or making a pitch to investors. It’s worth remembering that some of these sessions will also be mandatory, so setting out goals/objectives from the start is always helpful. There’s less space for informal interaction in these sessions, but you still need to engage the audience. This is hard when pitching to investors; they’ve seen it all and this makes it harder to impress.
Logical progression – Your presentation should follow a simple, logical structure. This is especially important for an investor presentation.
- Goal of your presentation
- Illustrate the problem with a story
- Describe the solution and how it solves the problem (without going into technical details)
- Identify the target market, and enumerate key facts such as revenue potential.
- Give an overview of the competition in the market
- Showcase your progress so far: talk about the current status, and timelines.
- Conclude with a call-to-action, summarizing the opportunity in the process.
Establish credibility – This is always a key part of any presentation, but the reasons you use will differ for each situation. Use a story to illustrate why you are the person making this presentation, and why you’re credible. Introduce your role or company, what you do, and why it’s important to the subject.
Clarity and brevity – This is especially important for pitches. Keep your pitches concise and clear. Jargon can sound cheap, so use everyday language and keep it simple. This is also true for internal company presentations. Make your point fast, then back it up with evidence if you need to.
Infuse with energy – Put some enthusiasm and energy into it. Find a way to get excited and put this energy into your presentation.
Few slides – Use the minimum of slides if any at all. Data from one pitch deck tool provider shows that 10 slides is an absolute maximum, and less is better.
Ground in reality – Introduce new ideas with an example that shows it in action. Use storytelling to make it tangible, and surprise the audience with a statistic or bold claim.
Enable interaction when possible – The opportunities for interaction will be minimal with a short investor pitch, but it’s still possible to include this. Offer choices over direction, and use rhetorical questions to encourage personal involvement.
Use visual media and digital storytelling – You can support your presentation and the points you make with relevant digital media including digital storytelling that exemplifies the situations in discussion.
Use open questions – These can be useful for ending a presentation without ending the conversation, and open questions can help involve participants in identifying an solving problems that might otherwise undermine your argument. For example, “The advantages are clear, but can you see obstacles that hold this back?”
Know your audience – Really consider the interests and goals of your audience and personalize your sessions.
Preparation – Always be prepared for difficult questions. This builds your confidence as a speaker, but also shows your expertise in the best light. Create a list of questions in case no one asks any, and raise them yourself.
Summarize – After a final Q&A session, regain control of the narrative by summarizing the points you want them to come away with. Remember, while many people can hold 10 or 12 data points in their head, most people will max out at 5, so keep your summary to 5 bullet-points.
Best practices for sales presentations
Unlike the two situations above, sales presentations typically involve audiences that are already interested and just need persuading on the specifics. As with investor pitches, you need to be clear and brief when it comes to high-level topics, but use interaction to dive into relevant details when needed. Try to make it memorable and different – your brand identity can be useful for this.
Cover the basics – As with all presentations, introduce yourself by telling them who you are, what you do, and why you’re giving the presentation. Outline the goal of the presentation in clear terms.
Outline the problem – Your company’s product or service solves a problem for your customer, so outline this clearly in terms they recognize. Know your audience and what matters to them, and demonstrate this knowledge with digital storytelling.
Create perspective – Discuss current situations, using an open conversation with audience members to understand current solutions and their shortcomings. Then discuss your solution and show how it is different.
Use storytelling for details – Go into the specific details of your situation, using digital storytelling to illustrate the impacts and support claims about your solution. Use digital storytelling software whenever possible to illustrate the problem, options, and your solutions.
Control interaction – Your potential customers are going to make a decision, so you should give them space to talk and process information. Use interaction whenever possible, but try not to lose control of the narrative by keeping discussions focused on key topics.
Experience your brand – Leverage your brand identity to convert potential leads into brand evangelists. Let them experience your brand with digital storytelling, physical props, and 3D content they can explore on their own.
Read the room – If their eyes are glazed over, it’s a clear sign: you’re not being interesting or relevant to them. Keep a close eye on your audience, and use interaction to keep your presentation on a relevant course.
Summarize – Make sure you have a strong and memorable ending. Summarize the main points you want them to remember (using topics that come up in discussions), and give them a gift and a clear next step or call to action.
The future of presentations: Customer Experience Centers and Briefing Centers
Your presentations can truly come to life with a customized Briefing Center or Customer Experience center. These environments are optimized for interactivity and brand experiences, so give the perfect opportunity to energize and engage your audience with immersive presentations they’ll remember.
Powered by capable digital storytelling software like Hyro, you can create incredible experiences that combine digital stories with hard facts and data.
Want to find out more? See some examples of amazing Customer Experience Centers here.
What is the 5-5-5 rule of presentations? You can make presentations easy to digest by sticking to 5 words (or less) per line of text, up to 5 lines of text per slide, and a maximum of 5 consecutive text-heavy slides. And remember, 5 slides of heavy text is probably still too much. Try to reduce this further if you can, and break them up with digital stories or visual media that illustrates your point.
How can I make a presentation more interactive? You can make your presentation more interactive by using slide decks less, and creating opportunities for interaction by taking a poll, using physical props, and using digital storytelling as a way to provoke reactions and conversations about the ideas.
How do you get the audience’s attention? Attracting the attention of an audience can be hard, but it’s easier when you’re talking about something they care about. You can either refocus your presentation on topics that matter to the audience, or use digital storytelling to make them care about something that they didn’t care about before. Ideally, you should do both.
What should a good business presentation include? A good business presentation should include a brief introduction of the topics you’ll cover, appropriate branding that reflects your company and your audience’s company, what you expect to achieve with the presentation (goals), and a summary of important points at the end. You should also strive to include interaction, with a Q&A session and a ‘problem statement’ that sets out the challenge from the start, and encourages the audience to ‘think along’.
What’s the rule of 3 for presentations? The rule of three describes a simple structure for presenting each idea or topic in your presentation. In fact, it’s actually two threes: You communicate your point with 3 elements; a ‘hook’ (e.g., challenging statement), the topic itself, and then your key message about that topic. The next 3 are the 3 points you use to support your key message.