You have loads of interesting technical material that you need to show and explain to your colleagues – your customers – or your business partners – or <fill in the blank>?
You have heard all this talk about having only a few words on your slides? How the heck can you convey all this information to your audience, if you are not supposed to use at least ten bullet points per slide? What about all these details on the contents of the new software/hardware release? No way!
You are not alone and this definitely is not a new issue for presenters of technical material. I have seen literally hundreds – if not thousands – of presentations during my career that are technically “complete” and deliver a LOT of content. Ever since Microsoft® introduced PowerPoint® this has been really simple. And that was not even the first tool to create slides. That tool just made it really easy for everyone to create and deliver presentations, much easier and cheaper than when they still were either 35mm film slides or plotted on overhead transparencies…
If you really believe your audience will be able to, not to mention excited to grasp all the material you plan to present, you are kidding yourself. But there are simple ways, in which you can improve your chances of getting your messages through, keeping your audience awake even after the lunch break and yes, in general making an interesting presentation.
Just follow these steps:
- Make that presentation ready just the way you are used to do. Use bullet points. Try to keep it to a max of 10 bullet points per slide. Add images in sizes that are still clear and any text in them is readable. Do not exaggerate with the quantity of slides, but do put the information on the slides that you believe your audience will appreciate and need. Make sure you have at least one image on every slide that helps understand the topic. Save and close the file.
- Now, open that same file again and do a “Save as…”. Give the file a new name with the word “presentation V1” in the file name.
- This is the hard part. Remove all the text from all the slides – except a few (no more than five or six) key words that describe the gist of what is discussed on each slide. Resize the image on the slide to full size and see that the keywords fit nicely on the slide and are easily readable. They should be in a font size of at least 30. Do not use wild or multiple colours. Choose a simple font (sans serif preferred).
- Rename the original file with all the details as “Handout…”. Have enough of them printed or copied on some digital media so that you can hand them out at the event.
- Go through your new presentation and practice it. To be able to present the material without all the nitty gritty detail will require you to go through it out loud at least five times. Trust me – you will feel much more comfortable in front of your audience, when you have done it. If you can do the practicing in the actual meeting room in advance, so much the better. If not, even going into the meeting room well in advance to have a good look at it will make the upcoming event a more relaxed one for you – you can imagine yourself presenting to the audience in that room. While at it, check the obvious things like connectivity to the beamer and that your slides actually do look good on the screen. You do not want to let any technical problems to ruin your presenting mood in front of the audience!
- It is up to you, if you wish to give out the handouts in advance. It really also depends on your audience, but you do realize that there is always the risk people will start flipping through your material rather than be listening to you. But then again, if you are interesting to listen to – they will more likely not.
So there you have it. You probably need to deliver the detailed material, but you do not need to present all of it. But you have done your homework and you can deliver the details and your essential points to your audience with confidence.
One more thing…
And finally, as a small bonus tip: think of a way to surprise your audience a bit in the middle of the more intense part of your presentation. Way back, when presentations were given using 35mm film slides with projectors, one presenter was going through his material, when his audience of about a hundred people suddenly started to look at each other and smile. He seemed to notice this, stopped and looked back at the big screen behind him and realized the slide was upside down. Guess what he did? He pressed the button and the slide showed up correctly! It took a few seconds, before the audience realised they had been fooled and gave him a big applause. And I can still remember his presentation.