10 Tips For Designing Extraordinary Presentations

What’s the overarching formula for making the very best possible impression on your audience when you deliver a slide presentation? How do you capitalize on the scarce and precious commodity that your audience is offering you, which is the gift of their time and attention?

This article gives an overview of a powerful, 10-part formula for creating and delivering truly outstanding presentations. It embodies a set of artistic and story-telling principles derived from experimental research on how people best learn, remember, and apply information from multimedia presentations.

We can summarize the ideas behind this presentation formula in these simple terms: Art + Science + Story = Impact!

Begin by Building a Step-by-Step Foundation

Each of these four stages is explained in greater detail in the sections that follow.

1. First, start with a needs assessment to determine what and how much to do. Depending on whether the impression you need to make is low-key or high-stakes, you can decide which principles of the formula to apply.

2. Second, if your situation is fairly low-key, or you have relatively little time, plan to use the Artistic and Multimedia Principles at a minimum to maximize your audience’s ability to understand and retain your ideas.

3. Third, if your situation is high-stakes, plan to apply the Story Principles as well to help make your presentation exceptionally memorable and actionable.

4. Fourth, plan to use three crucial delivery tips when you go to present your slide show in person.

1. Start with a Needs Assessment to Make Your Presentation Remarkable

Before you get started, aim to do some preliminary planning. This important first step can make the difference between a world-class presentation and just another forgettable slide show!

After all, you could eventually expend considerable effort to conceptualize, design, script, illustrate, rehearse, and deliver your slide presentation. So, why not consider which aspects of your situation are most important to you?

Ask yourself at least 5 key questions about your purpose, audience, their actions, the setting, and future uses of your material, as follows:

1) What’s the purpose, what’s at stake, and how critical is the outcome?
2) What is your anticipated audience’s frame of reference?
3) What actions do you want your audience to take as a result?
4) Where are you planning to deliver the presentation — in person or online?
5) In the future, could your presentation expand into something more?

In response to these questions, you can decide how to scale your time and energy investment to suit the needs of your presentation scenario, including how casual or critical it is.

2. Use the Artistic & Multimedia Principles in Any Situation

If you have relatively little time, or the stakes are fairly low, and you have no plans to reuse, expand, or adapt your presentation in the future, you can still make a pleasing impression and produce it fairly quickly using the Artistic & Multimedia principles. These principles pertain to the use of text, graphics, details, and special effects:

Tip #1: Text – Display only one basic idea per slide. Place your talking points (your narration script) in your handouts and speaker notes.

Tip #2: Graphics – Let relevant and symbolic photos; drawings; screen captures; and simple maps, charts, graphs, and diagrams do most of the visual “heavy lifting.”

Tip #3: Details – Put the intricate image details in the handouts instead of on the slides to avoid overloading your audience’s visual processing abilities. Avoid “branding” your slides with your logo, which can be distracting.

Tip #4: Special effects – Use relevant sounds, videos, animations, transitions, and physical props — in moderation — to highlight or demonstrate key points.

3. Use the Story Principles for the Most Powerful Impression Overall

If you have more time, and the stakes are fairly high, or you think you might later develop the presentation into other products or uses, strongly consider applying all of the recommendations. These include the Story Principles below, which pertain to your presentation’s focus, structure, and scope:

Tip #5: Focus – Begin by framing your audience’s role, perspective, and needs. Then introduce the challenge the audience faces and your solution, and explain the actions that the audience members can take.

Tip #6: Structure – Create a logical sequence and flow based on a scalable hierarchy of detail, starting with an audience orientation.

Tip #7: Scope – “Chunk” all of your material into just 3-4 main topics. Include reviews along the way to summarize your information. Practice extensively beforehand while timing yourself, so you can then “scope” your talk using a scalable hierarchy of detail from your outline.

4. Keep These Final Points in Mind to Create Impact During Delivery

After you’ve worked so diligently to create an outstanding, well-illustrated story that focuses on your audience’s needs, use these three tips to make sure your delivery is just as compelling:

Tip #8: Remember to face your audience. If you break eye contact with your attendees to read from projected slides, it interrupts the flow and further splits the audience’s attention.

Tip #9: Remember to converse with your audience. Not engaging the audience enough during your presentation invites their attention to wander elsewhere.

Tip #10: Remember to respect your audience’s time. Running way overtime trying to cover too much information in the time available dilutes your impact and can even cause resentment.

In conclusion, an engaging slide presentation helps broadcast a clear, powerful message; you might have only one chance to communicate your ideas effectively. But if you start with a needs assessment to determine what to do, you can use the Art + Science + Story = Impact formula to make every presentation a smashing success!

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