10 Presentation Tips For First-Time Presenters

How do you make your audience listen to what you have to say? Guest writer, Sean McPheat, founder and MD of international management development firm MTD Training and renowned sales training company MTD Sales Training, shares his top 10 tips to help you excel in presentations.

David Ogilvy's tip is very relevant today...

“In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good presenter.” (To present in your related study area click here for all the available opportunities!)

Presenting an idea is just as, if not more, important than the idea itself. This is pretty obvious when you think about it. If the presentation of an idea is poor or worse, then the message simply isn't conveyed effectively, and the receivers don't see or hear the benefits; they're more interested in the way it's said that what is said.

So, to present a message, you need to follow some guidelines that will make the message stand out. Here are some tips to do exactly that.

1) Preparation Is Key

Ask yourself these questions:

What is important to this group?

What do they expect from my presentation?

What do they need from my presentation?

What might turn them off?

What objections or concerns might they have?

What will motivate them to listen and take action? 

When you know the answers, then you can prepare what you need to convey.

2) Put The Flesh On The Bones

Plan what you're going to put across:

The Opening..... Tell ‘Em What You’re Gonna’ Tell ‘Em

The Body..... Tell ‘Em

The Closing..... Tell ‘Em What You’ve Told ‘Em

This is the guide to letting the audience know what the key messages are.

3) Open With An Impactful Message

Help listeners focus on your message by starting with a compelling opening such as:

Relevant stories — “Let me tell you what happened when we presented this information to our customers…”

Intriguing questions — “Is our dealer network trading as profitably as they could?”

Startling facts or statistics — “Three out of five people buyers say the supplying company does not care about their business!”

Challenging statements — “Without a quality website, our clients will be out of business in a year!”

4) Provide A Road Map

Let listeners know how you've organised your presentation with a phrase such as:

“Here are the three main points I will discuss: First I will discuss [main idea #1], secondly [main idea #2], and thirdly [main idea #3]. At the end, I’ll be glad to address any questions you may have.”

Of course you could tell your listeners, “Feel free to ask questions at any time,” but keep in mind that this approach might slow things down or take you in an unplanned or undesired direction.

Choose the format that works for your presentation and your audience.

5) Tell Them Stories

The way to people’s minds is often through their hearts. People are persuaded more by emotion than reasoning, and stories are a powerful way to engage your audience's emotions. Pull from your own experiences to make your points come to life.

It can be difficult to think of stories under the pressure of a presentation deadline, so start a story file today.

6) Ask Rhetorical Questions

Questions help listeners focus as they prepare to hear the answer. For example, rather than just stating, “This is important because…” ask rhetorically, “Why is this so important?” Instead of saying, “Our Company beats the competition in the following ways…”  say  “You may be wondering how our company beats the competition.”

Pause slightly, and then tell listeners the answer. 

If you desire a response to your question, pause longer and, if appropriate, raise your hand to encourage participation.

Consider putting the question on your slide while you discuss the answer. Be careful not to overuse this technique. 

7) Create Surprises & Suspense

In order to get listeners focused, preface important ideas by occasionally using phrases such as: 

“Here’s the secret weapon our competitors use to boost sales…”

“If you remember only one thing today…”

“Here’s the bottom line…”

“I probably shouldn’t tell you this…”

“This next slide may surprise many of you...”

“You will want to write down this next idea...” 

Again, this is a technique you should not overuse.

8) Summarise Often

Listeners may appreciate a summary and brief Q&A at the end of each section or complicated slide. Use this technique rather than waiting until the end of your talk when people may already be lost or sleeping.

Use the words, “In summary,” and watch listeners’ heads spring up as they awaken!

9) Keep Text On Slides To A Minimum

Don’t put everything you plan to say on your slides.

No one wants to watch you read, and long sentences on slides force listeners to choose between reading and listening to you. Most will choose to read your slides and wish that you’d be quiet so they can read without disturbance. If you ignore this suggestion, your listeners will appreciate your sending them a copy of your slides and cancelling the meeting.

They can call you if they have any questions.

10) Have An Impactful Conclusion

Cover the main points again (tell 'em what you told them) so they go away knowing what the main messages are that you wanted them to take away. This is known as the Law of Recency, and will be a memory aid for everyone who heard the presentation.

These ten tips will help you to have confidence when you are putting your first presentation together.

Be aware of the impact you are trying to make, stick to these guidelines and you'll make a great first impression!

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Editor's Notes:

Author Bio: Founder and MD of international management development firm MTD Training and renowned sales training company MTD Sales Training, Sean McPheat is widely regarded as a leading authority on modern day business improvement. Sean is a bestselling author, and has been recognised for his own business building skills through the British Business Awards and has been featured in the Who’s Who Of Britain’s Business Elite.