So as we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, our goal is to come up with some general topics, such as our first The 3 P’s of Better Business Presentations, and then to go into further detail about the main points of those articles. In this article, our goal is to help understand why giving professional presentations will be more effective in both your immediate goals for that presentation, and possibly, your long term career. To do that, we will look at 2 areas of professional presentations that will make a difference:
- Do you stand out from the crowd? and
- Having Respect for Your Audience
Do you stand out from the crowd?
As a 20+ year sales veteran of the high tech industry, I went on many, many sales calls. I’ve been face-to-face with prospects, cold called for an hour per day every day, and presented to possible prospects, customers, vendors, and collaboration partners. When it comes to creating & giving a professional presentation, it didn’t take long to learn that some very basic rules apply. These rules focus primarily on your appearance and attitude, as well as the appearance of your presentation.
The first rule is that first impressions DO matter. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, as many baby boomers can relate to the motto “dress for success”. While this may be a bit superficial, and reasons for how you dress in presenting may vary, a good general rule is to always dress a step above what your audience will be wearing. My goal isn’t to tell you what to wear, but just understand that audiences DO notice things like uncombed hair, wrinkled shirts, and sloppy attire – and they notice it in a not so positive manner.
This specifically holds true for my sales & technical colleagues, as you must put yourself in the mindset of prospect/customer. Who will gain credibility quicker, or be someone you can trust? The person who shows up a mess, or the professional who has their act together?
Does your presentation differentiate itself in a positive manner?
The second part of standing out from the crowd and having a professional presentation goes beyond you as the presenter, and is based on the content and look of your presentation, including (but not limited to):
- Does your presentation use standard PowerPoint (or Keynote, or other presentation tool) backgrounds?
- Do you simply rely upon the standard PowerPoint Times New Roman fonts?
- Do you use bullet points?
- Do you use cartoonish clipart?
- Do you have a focused message?
- Do you have an intended action for your audience?
- Have you practiced your delivery, or do you rely upon the presentation to remind you of information?
- Can you keep your presentation within the time limits allowed?
If you answered yes to ANY of these, we can help you become more professional with your presentations, which may make the difference between getting a new prospect, a sale, a partnership, or even a promotion.
There are many books and ideas on how to make professional presentations. You can also go and look at presentations online to see how they are being designed by artistic types. There are some great informative presentations out on the web, and so I include those in this list of places to obtain ideas:
As it sounds, this is a site for numerous free downloadable fonts. The only thing you need to remember when using non-standard fonts is that you must package them with the presentation, or others may not end up seeing the presentation you designed because their system substituted the next closest fonts. This is why I often recommend using simple san serif fonts most of the time for internal presentations (Arial, Verdana, etc.) as you don’t need to worry about what others have if you will ultimately share the presentation.
For outside of the office presentations, feel free to experiment and go bold, but realize the audience you are presenting to and what style they may prefer. After all, the goal is to get your audience to remember your message and the content of that message, and ultimately act in a way you recommend.
This is a Slideshare Presentation by Eugene Cheng that, while not done in our preferred structure, it does have fantastic suggestions and locations (including the aforementioned “Font Squirrel” site) on type, color, etc. Eugene has the makings of a good artist, but as we have mentioned previously, while the creative is important, it is only 1 part of building an effective presentation.
Another good professional presentation on typography that will help you design better looking slides.
Paint company websites
For those of you who are color challenged (it is true, I am color blind, but luckily can duplicate corporate branding or find good color combinations), I recommend going to some house paint websites, and many of them will have color combinations that you can choose from. This is an easy way to eliminate having to worry about many of the challenges in selecting good colors for your design.
Whether you are reading some of the traditional books on presentation including Presentation Zen, Slide:ology , etc., it is important to remember that different types of presentations could call for different thems for the look of your presentation, as well as different structures. While some people like to stick with hard & fast rules, we believe in looking at the overall big picture, and using some general guidelines that can be adapted for your audience, location, and type of presentation.
For the purpose of this article, we aren’t going to get into all the specifics, as we feel it is more important to understand the big picture – creating a good looking presentation can give you an advantage, and it is important, but it IS NOT THE ONLY FACTOR that will make your presentation more effective. Have you ever heard of the phrase “putting lipstick on a pig”? We have seen many presentations that look better, which is good, but ultimately they fall short of their intended goal because they lack structure and tools (which we’ll get into in the next blog article when we discuss “Powerful” presentations). You can have a professional appearing presentation that is all style, and still have little substance.
Some of these better looking slides that aren’t necessarily more effective are the new trend to utilize stock photo images as metaphors for what you are telling your audience. Again, this leads into the “Powerful Presentations” article coming up, but there are distinct reasons we don’t recommend using metaphorical images (which we essentially believe are just redundant), and those reasons have to do with how you are directing the audience, capturing their attention, and making them think about your messaging and then looking to you, the presenter, for the answers.
Do you respect your audience?
This last portion of being professional and giving a professional presentation is what can really help differentiate you, your product, and your organization from those who are all style and no substance. Having respect for your audience comes in a number of different forms, and we’d love to hear more from our readers if you have additional ideas.
The first concept of respect is to have common sense respect for their time. Finish your presentations in your scheduled amount of time, don’t have your cell phone on while presenting (this implies you have little respect for the time they are giving you if you answer a call or text during the presentation), and be as concise as possible while still getting your message across. Again, in the next article where we’ll discuss “Powerful Presentations”, there is a technical reason you’d like to keep presentations as short as possible – but for now, just understand that rambling, not understanding your own material, and not practicing your presentation will all demonstrate a lack of respect for your audience.
The second concept that many presenters don’t often thing about when it comes to respect is the intelligence of your audience. By loading up your slides with text and reading it to them, you insult them by implying they can’t read (even if you don’t mean it). Additionally, if they can read much faster than you can read it to them, why are you wasting their time doing it? Do you see the circle back to the respect for their time?
Essentially, any slide that has bullet points, lists, or paragraphs that can be read by the audience shows a lack of respect for their intelligence. The problem many presenters cause, is that by producing all the necessary information on the slide before the audience, they actually render themselves (the presenter) irrelevant. If the audience can understand your presentation without you, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. You aren’t building credibility. In the world of technical presentations, legal presentations, or sales presentations, this can have a definite negative impact, as you WANT to be looked at as credible and an expert on the topic.
So stick with us as we progress through these articles, or send us a note, or give us a call, and we’ll help walk you through how to eliminate all that text from your presentations, reduce them in size, and end up scoring points because you look professional, your presentation is designed professionally, and you demonstrate YOU are the expert, as well as respecting the time and intelligence of your audience.