Nail your next presentation: Anywhere and anytime
You’ve done it in school and college, and you’re likely even doing it in one way or another at your job now; that is to say, you’re likely doing presentations in one way or another. The ubiquitous presentation is a cornerstone of most places where you expect to share and showcase new information, review current statuses, and everything in between.
But just because you’ve done it several hundred times doesn’t mean there’s no room to improve. You might’ve taken a few tips here and there to improve your own way of presenting, but the capabilities and styles in relation to presenting are constantly evolving. Especially in the present day remote working environment, skilled presenters have needed to adapt and change their presenting styles to better suit a virtual audience.
In this article, we will look at a few tips and tricks that can help you better manage your presentations regardless of where you might be and when you might be doing it.
Presentations: Powerful Tools When Done Right
Why are presentations so common in different spaces in the first place? With advances in technology, most people can showcase information in different ways such as emails and even designed infographics. But presentations remain a consistent factor of work, studies, and almost any occupation that requires information dissemination.
Most businesses and professional firms have utilized presentations to better inform, educate, motivate, and even persuade the different stakeholders that are affected by the information. Presentations are built into training modules, sales guides, internal organizational changes, and even team building exercises. Through the power of words, images, and presenting skills, an effective presentation can continue to engage audiences while developing a deeper understanding of the topic at large.
Engaging and Organized Information
Presentations have the unique capability to provide the opportunity to meet customers, stakeholders, and other related participants to the topic in an engaged and connected manner. With presentations, you can begin to influence aspects you might not necessarily have regular exposure to, such as reactions to certain information as well as overall influencing decision-making, social proof, and overall mood in regards to your topic of discussion.
But presentations aren’t just a tool to connect but a way to organize your information as well. With most presentations, a deck will likely be utilized as a supportive measure to better frame discussions around specific topics. This elevates the presentation above the standard speech or monologue, as you can better keep you and your audience following along with a clear and concise presentation flow.
Engaging with your audience can have a significant effect on how your audience buys-in the specific information you’re presenting, and doing this in an organized fashion gives them the confidence that they are getting the entirety of pertinent information on the topic.
Emotional Connection through Narrative
Much like the plays and orators of old, it’s been an integral part for us as humans to receive information in a narrative format. Storytelling has been woven into the fabric of our history and how we’ve come to understand more complicated topics that aren’t so straightforward in terms of discussion.
Even beyond the scope of history, storytelling and developing narratives have been powerful tools in creating a more holistic picture of your presentation. Bombarding your audience with facts and figures is an easy way to lose their attention and can already be done asynchronously through a report or email. With presentations, the goal is two-fold: to provide data and information all while ensuring these are put in the proper contexts.
Context, narrative, and story are all integral parts to your presentation and can help better share information that might be too technical for the entirety of your audience. What’s more is that you likely need to keep your presentation within a set time, so having ready narrative and context-setting information will be key in ensuring the same information remains clear and relevant.
Evolving Presentations for Remote Work
We know that presentations are incredibly useful in building that engagement and narrative when discussing information within, but some of these methods were designed with the idea that most, if not all, presentations are done in-person. As we’ve seen developing over the last few years, remote work has begun its climb towards being a standard practice for most offices. This means that most of what you’ve gotten used to in work will need a shift to better integrate towards a more virtual format. This includes the presentation in its many shapes and forms.
Fortunately, technology has also kept up with the developments of these work changes, providing more avenues for people to do the same work in different (and more efficient) ways. Accessibility was one of the biggest improvements with remote presentations, and sharing information across your team has never been faster.
Newcomers (and even veterans) to a remote working environment will still likely benefit from a few best practices when it comes to preparing and executing their presentations across different channels.
Sync Across Devices
An incredibly overlooked but ultimately very powerful feature that you should not overlook when it comes to remote presentations is to ensure your presentation itself is synced across all of your devices. It may seem like a minor thing, but changes and edits to your presentation are likely going to be happening more frequently than you realize. Sometimes it can be something as simple as spelling and grammatical errors, but other times, it can bring big changes such as entirely new slides or the removal of specific sections. The last thing you want is to begin your presentation with an outdated file that doesn’t have all the required changes.
Modern file sharing platforms and even office suites have the capacity now to allow you to make changes to your file live, and have it synced across devices once they connect to the internet.
An even faster iteration of this is the live collaboration/presentation working platform, as this essentially saves all progress on Cloud servers. You aren’t required anymore to have the file saved as a hard copy on your device, just a stable enough internet connection to make the edits and changes you need anywhere at any time.
Usage of Standardized Templates
Being agile at work has been a bit of a buzzword for businesses, schools, and other professional environments. Essentially, you’ll want to be able to act fast but with enough flexibility to accommodate any uncertainties or changes that will likely occur. If you’ve worked on presentations before, you know how jarring it can be to need to start and make an entirely new presentation from scratch. Presentations aren’t just an information dump and will require some tinkering so your information is shown as clearly and as relevant as possible.
That’s why remote presentations will benefit greatly from the usage of standardized templates, as this allows you to skip much of the design thinking process, instead focusing on laying out your information in a logical and concise way. This means that with the proper template, you can even just utilize all the information given and just dump them on the appropriate slides and in the best order.
It’s not a one-size fits all, however. You’ll likely need to experiment with the usage of certain frameworks and layout best practices in order to get faster with template usage. But with enough practice and usage of ready-to-use methodologies, you can easily craft not just a logical presentation but an engaging and effective one as well.
Develop Organized Content Structures
Alongside the usage of templates, you’ll want to develop an organized content structure to help build the framework around your remote presentation. This is especially key in virtual settings as you’re likely going to be put on the presentation pedestal with less tools at your disposal (no teleprompter or cue cards). It’s best practice, then, to generate your own content structure that logically fits for you when sharing information during your presentation.
This is a little more abstract than other more defined practices and will highly depend on personal style and context. Some presenters might likely work within a three-act structure, similar to films and plays, where you start with introductions, get to the meat of it during the middle sequence, and wrap everything up with summaries towards the end section.
Other presenters might want to discuss their approach less on an overall presentation structure and more on a slide-by-slide basis. A popular method in discussing information can be done through the STAR method, or Situation, Task, Action, and Result. This can help you better round out information that might be on a slide while keeping it relevant with a logical flow.
Whichever option you might pick, it’s important you internalize it and allow it to guide you through your presentation. This can be beneficial in the long-run when you begin presenting with little-to-no pre-work ahead of time as you’ll have the structure to keep you on pace.
Keep Word-Light and Visual Heavy
One of the best benefits of presentations, as we’ve previously brought up, is its ability to tell a story. As with any good story, you’ll need to use the best ways to convey information and messaging in a format that makes the most sense to the most people. One of the easiest ways to do this is to do it visually; use images and other media to better convey information instead of overburdening the audience with text.
It’s said that the attention span of most people isn't as long as we think it is, with the average duration of attention by an adult clocking in around 10 seconds of time (and likely to get closer to 5 seconds as we consume more short-form media). That means that whatever information you’ll need to present will need to capture their attention and hold it for as long as possible.
Images and videos are a great way to convey information in a short and concise manner. After all, as the saying goes, “a picture paints a thousand words”. Use icons, photos, videos, and even animations to convey meaning in the same way that a long form essay can. What’s more is that these visual aspects help ground your presentation in context, making it much easier to digest for those who might not be fully aware of some technical terms you might use.
Provide Opportunities for Engagement
With remote work being a standard, you’ll want to ensure that the engagement you get from a face-to-face meeting isn’t lost once you make the switch to digital. But, unfortunately, it’s been much more difficult in getting people involved in your presentation when they are located remotely. Moreover, remote video conference calls can easily be passively attended, with cameras and audios not necessarily being a requirement to be turned on most of the time.
One clear and effective way to improve engagement then is to provide audience involvement in the presentation itself. This can come out in the form of a quick input gathering from your audience, such as a short brainstorming session that can collect attendee’s ideas about a topic for you to expound on in your presentation. You can also utilize surveys and quizzes to see how well your audience has absorbed the information you just shared (bonus tip: include some interesting incentives to get people motivated to get these questions right).
With engagement, there’s really more than just these few ways to go about it, but it’s always key to keep in mind that presentations don’t have to be a one-way street. Get your audience involved and you might just be surprised at how receptive they can be.