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 Six Steps to Presentation Success

By Roger C. Parker

To a great extent, the success of your business depends on your ability to prepare and deliver convincing presentations. Whether your audience consists of clients, investors or employees, it’s important that you are comfortable with the presentation process. Although Microsoft® PowerPoint® 2000 can help you efficiently produce great-looking visuals, the ultimate success of your presentation depends on you and your ability to identify your message, organize it as a logical series of arguments, and communicate your ideas as simply and convincingly as possible.

Use the following six steps as a framework for translating your business goals into convincing presentations using the numerous, enhanced features built into PowerPoint 2000.

Plan Your Presentation    Return to Top
Effective presentations begin with planning. Before choosing presentation colors or layout, you need to choose or create a framework, or structure, for your presentation. There are two ways you can create your presentation’s structure. One is to use PowerPoint 2000’s AutoContent Wizard. On the File menu, click New, and then select AutoContent Wizard. Click OK. Select Presentation Type, and the AutoContent Wizard offers you a choice of sample presentation structures that you can easily adopt to your specific needs. (See Figure 1)

Figure 1
Figure 1: The AutoContent Wizard provides a jump-start for creating different types of presentations.

If you prefer to work on your own, start by asking yourself questions such as:

  • What is the purpose of your presentation?
  • What is the single most important idea you want to communicate?
  • What is the action you want your audience to take?
  • What arguments can you provide to support the desired action?
  • What are some of the reasons your audience might not accept your arguments?
  • How can you best overcome their objections?
You may want to jot down answers to these questions on a sheet of paper and refer to it as you create the slides that make up your presentation.

Format Your Slides and Overheads   Return to Top
Next, choose the colors and layout most appropriate for your presentation. If you are using the AutoContent Wizard, select Presentation Style and select the output device you will use to deliver your presentation. PowerPoint chooses an appropriate combination of foreground and background colors, as shown in Figure 2. Click Next and the AutoContent Wizard shows you where to add the presentation title, slide number, and date to each slide. This adds a professional touch to your slides.

Figure 2
Figure 2: The AutoContent Wizard chooses a presentation layout and color scheme best suited for the output device you use to deliver your presentation.

If you prefer to choose from a wider selection of professionally created presentation designs, click the Format menu, then click Apply Design Template. You can then choose from among several dozen presentation designs, previewing each as you click its title, as shown in Figure 3. Click the Apply button when the format you like is displayed.

Figure 3
Figure 3: Choose from among dozens of professional presentation designs.

Edit and Organize Your Presentation   Return to Top
The new screen layout in PowerPoint 2000 makes it easy to translate your presentation goals into completed presentation visuals. PowerPoint 2000 displays the current slide along with an outline showing the title and contents of each of your slides. This makes it easy to organize your presentation into a logical and progressive development of your ideas. You can see at a glance how well each slide fits in with the slides that precede and follow it, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4
Figure 4: See not only the slide you're currently working on, but also the contents of the slides that precede and follow it.

Limit each slide to a single idea. Enter the idea in the Slide Title area. Replace the "Click to add text" placeholder with the ideas and arguments that best support the premise of the slide title. At any point, you can easily rearrange the order of your presentation by dragging the slides to a new location using the Outliner.

When entering ideas in bulleted lists, restrict yourself to keywords rather than full sentences. This encourages you to restate the ideas in your own words during your presentation, rather than reading to your audience (who can read what's on screen without your help!). Remember: your goal in creating presentation visuals is to provide a framework for your presentation, not eliminate your need to show up. Presentation visuals should support, but never replace, the presenter’s words, enthusiasm, and ability to instantly respond to questions and comments from the audience.

Enhance Your Ideas with Visuals   Return to Top
Text is seldom enough. Whenever possible, translate words into visuals. Visuals such as charts, graphs, and tables are more effective at communicating comparisons, hierarchy, relationships, and sequence. To insert a chart, click the Insert menu, and then click Chart. To display the Drawing toolbar and access its numerous AutoShapes, right-click the menu bar in PowerPoint and select Drawing from the list of Toolbars.

Exercise restraint when adding clipart to your slides. Emphasize visuals that support, rather than decorate, or distract from, your ideas.

Return to Top

Prepare Speaker’s Notes and Audience Handouts   
Speaker's notes and audience handouts are as important as the slides that make up your presentation.

  • Speaker's Notes (a tool of PowerPoint 2000) enable you to review your presentation on an airplane or in your hotel room without turning on your computer or disturbing your slides or overhead transparencies. Each page of your notes should contain a thumbnail (or small version) of each slide plus important points you want to emphasize while delivering your presentation. The new interface of PowerPoint 2000 displays the Notes pane below the current slide, allowing you to enter ideas on each Notes page as you work on the slide itself. This is much easier than going back and creating Notes pages after you have completed your presentation.
  • Audience Handouts (also a function of PowerPoint 2000) keep your presentation alive long after the audience applause has ended. Audience Handouts are take-alongs that your audience can refer to later or share with co-workers. You can print handouts with 2, 3, 4, 6 or 9 slides per page. If you select the 3 slides per page, the handouts will include space for your audience to take notes during your presentation.
To print Notes or Handouts, click the File menu, click Print, and then select either Notes or Handouts from the Print What drop-down menu.

Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
Rehearsing is a key to successful presentations. Rehearse your presentation by speaking out loud (preferably in an empty room). Rehearsing helps you identify and eliminate awkward word combinations. Rehearsing out loud also shows you how much time is needed to deliver your presentation.

Timing is everything!   Return to Top
Never include more slides than you have time to show. If you include too many slides and don't pay attention to how much time you should spend on each one, you'll rush towards the end or—worse—omit slides. Either alternative greatly diminishes your credibility. Never run over the time allotted. Your presentation should always be shorter than the time you have available, allowing time to respond to audience questions.

With PowerPoint 2000 you can time your presentation while rehearsing it. From Slide Show, select Rehearse Timings. PowerPoint displays each of your slides on your computer screen. Speak out loud as if you were delivering your presentation, clicking the mouse button to advance to the next slide. At the end PowerPoint will show you the total elapsed time of your presentation. The time you spent on each slide will appear next to each slide in the Slide Sorter view.

Conclusion   Return to Top
The six step process outlined above can help you appear cool, calm, and collected when its time to deliver your presentation. By using the features of PowerPoint 2000 to plan, create, and rehearse your presentation, you'll be rewarded with a fast and enthusiastic reception of your ideas...and a gratifying round of applause.

 


Over a million and a half readers in thirty-seven countries own books by Roger C. Parker. Roger's latest book is One Minute Designer (MIS/IDG). Visit www.rcparker.com for more information.

 


 
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