Giving a presentation during a meeting may seem easy on the surface, but many factors can get in the way of being effective.
You may be shy and stumble over your words. You may get nervous and rush through things too quickly in hopes of “getting it over with.”
You may even confuse your audience by sharing information in a scattered or illogical way.
It happens to the best of us.
The good news is, with thoughtful preparation, even the shiest among us can give killer presentations that captivate our coworkers.
How to start a presentation
The best presenters capture audience attention from the beginning. They know that a lackluster start to anything will immediately sow seeds of disengagement.
Whether or not you believe human attention spans are like goldfish, the fact is, a strong start to your presentation will fill the room with energy that perks people up, while a weak start paves the way for staring off into space and discretely checking email.
Here are a few tips to start your next meeting presentation right:
Ask a question
Everyone likes feeling heard. One of the easiest ways to hook an audience from the start is by inviting them to respond to a relevant prompt. If a VP of marketing were giving a presentation about the company’s upcoming brand refresh, they might start by asking something like “How many people here feel like they have a good sense of how we’re perceived as a company?”
Share a story
As humans, we’re wired to pay attention to stories. They’re especially useful when the subject matter at hand isn’t particularly interesting on its own. If a CEO were giving a presentation aimed at motivating the entire company, they might share a story about how many people it once took to operate a battleship.
Effective presentation skills/techniques
Effective presentations are usually the result of careful preparation. Here are a few skills to refine during the preparation phase:
Knowing your audience
Giving an effective presentation means knowing your audience. To earn and sustain their attention, you need to assess what they already know about the subject and how much they care about it.
Use this information to calibrate your approach. You don’t want to assume they’re enthusiastic experts if they’re not, but you also want to respect their intelligence by meeting them where they are without lecturing them.
It’s a delicate balancing act, but when you get it right, you’ll leave them enough room to figure some things out on their own.
Framing your story
If you’ve ever watched TEDTalks, you know firsthand that many of the best presentations unfold like a detective story. The speaker presents a problem, describes the quest for a solution, and leads the audience to a collective “aha” moment where their perspective shifts and they become even more engaged.
Take the time to plot your points in a meaningful way so that your message is not only easy to follow, but also easy to remember. That means eliminating any diversions that don’t serve the story.
When framed correctly, even the most serious and complex subjects can be riveting.
When to use a PowerPoint and when not to
PowerPoints have become the de facto tool of choice for meeting presentations. You can share visuals, advance slides with the click of a mouse, and they don’t take a ton of technical or design chops to look pretty.
The problem is, people tend to hide behind them. While it’s undeniably handy, PowerPoint isn’t the best vehicle for every presentation.
You should use a PowerPoint when:
- You want to review team progress against metrics
- You need to share a revenue report
- You have a lot of technical and/or data-rich information to convey
You shouldn’t use a PowerPoint when:
- You need to create a strong connection with your audience
- You have an important story to tell (e.g. why the company is pivoting)
- You want to motivate and inspire people
If you’re still on the fence about whether you should use a PowerPoint for your next presentation, consider the goal of the meeting.
If you’re aiming to convey something less cerebral—and potentially more emotional—don’t distance yourself from the message. Leave PowerPoint (and all technology) out of the equation.
Presentation tips and tricks
There are a few universal tips that will make your next presentation more effective no matter what it’s about:
Follow a logical structure
Even if you can’t think of a relevant story, the information you present have a clear structure to keep people on track.
Speaking too fast breeds boredom and confusion. Even if you think you talk slow, talk slower.
Use questions as segues
In addition to being great presentation starters, asking questions enables the presenter to shift from one topic to another without losing momentum.
Build your confidence
Letting your personality shine through is a surefire way to convince people they should listen. Practice your presentation until it feels like you’re talking to a friend.