The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Effective Presentation Slides Part 1

19 May 2011  


   Image by alice_c


We all suffer (or sleep) through too many presentations that are about as exciting as watching paint dry.


The thing is, presentations are often the best way to pass information to our colleagues. Unfortunately, they’re often not as effective as they could be – whether it’s because of a boring vocal tone or irrelevant subject matter or poorly prepared slides.


Of course, presentations are not the focus of this blog. But effective slides are essential for a presentation to succeed. So for the next couple of weeks, I’d like to consider how to write effective presentation slides.


Today we’ll talk about the basics of presentations. Next week we’ll look at using visuals in slides. And the week after that we’ll focus on some language tips.


TASTEful presentations—the basics

I recently worked with some colleagues on a joint presentation. The first time we met to discuss it, one person said something like, ‘OK, let’s write the slides first and then practise what we want to say.’


I was shocked to hear this (though I probably shouldn’t have been) and quickly responded, ‘Wait a minute. Let’s think about what we need to say first and prepare the slides later.’


Similar to writing, we can (and should) use the TASTE process for preparing presentations and their accompanying slides.


Think first

When you begin to prepare a presentation, THINK about and write the answers to these questions:

What is the purpose of my presentation?

Who will be in the audience?

What will the audience need and expect from my presentation?

What do I want the audience to feel, know/believe and do as a result of my presentation?

What details do I need to include to achieve the purpose and enable the audience to act?


Organise and rehearse

Just as you need to ARRANGE (organise) a written document to be logical and easy to follow, you also need to think about the best way to organise a presentation. So look at your answers to the questions above and quickly outline your presentation content.


Rehearsing is the closest presentation equivalent to the SKETCH stage in writing. Look at the points you want to make and the order you’ve put them into. Then start rehearsing. Find a place where you’re able to practise your speech aloud – and do so at least three times. To become aware of and improve your body language, rehearse in front of a mirror.


Revise and edit

The more you rehearse, the more you’ll probably change the content and/or order of your presentation. This is the spoken equivalent of TRIMming and EDITing a written text.


Some people prefer to write out their full speech. If that’s what works for you, then do it. Just be careful that what you write down is what you would actually say out loud. It needs to sound like natural speaking – not like a written document. Otherwise, you’ll certainly put the audience to sleep.


Prepare the slides next

If you work on slides before (or even while) you do these earlier stages, you’ll probably waste a lot of time and end up with a lower quality presentation. So take time to do the basics first, and everyone will benefit. You’ll save time, and your audience will be grateful for a useful and interesting presentation.





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