A confident public speaker giving a presentation to his audience with the help of visual aids

A Guide to The Techniques of Presentation

We’re guessing you are here because you’re either tired of having sweaty palms before giving a presentation or you have vowed to become the Steve Jobs of presentations!

Whatever be your motto, we have sworn to not leave you without guiding you through the numerous techniques of presentation.

Presentation Techniques are all the essential skills you ought to develop to deliver presentations successfully and become a better presenter. Presentation techniques include focusing on the audience, cutting down to the core idea, brainstorming, using visual aids, the 10-20-30 rule, structuring, recording yourself, practice and feedback, and open body language. 

We are going to discuss these techniques in detail in the upcoming sections.

Techniques of Creation

A successful presentation requires a good amount of brainstorming and planning before D-Day dawns. Here are techniques you can focus on to create a stellar presentation.

1. The Topic at Hand

This involves first and foremost choosing a subject or topic to present on.

Why choose a topic that interests you?

If you have the liberty to choose a topic according to your liking, see that it is one that you are passionate about. This will help you look forward to the preparation as well as delivery because it is something you believe so much in. 

But what if you have no choice?

However, if the situation is such that you do not like the topic or it is particularly boring, then don’t dread it yet. You can always tweak it by bringing in humor, using a case study, narrating a story, or a personal anecdote relating to the topic.

How to make a boring topic interesting?

Find fun ways to bring your topic to life. Your presentation need not be restricted to you speaking and showing some visuals. You can be unconventional (Like Dr. Jill Bolte-Taylor was when she got an actual human brain on stage during her TED talk!) and make use of sound and video, physical props, or audience engagement activities.

For example, at the beginning of one presentation, a speaker gave out the letters T, E, And M to members of the audience. Towards the end, the speaker highlighted how little difference the letters made individually but when put together, they made a team. 

This shows how simple props can be used to give out a powerful message that generates a great connection through a memorable activity.

2. The Audience

An audience listening to an engaging presentation.
What do you need to know about them?

Form an image of your typical audience member in your head. Jot down things like their psychographic information such as their interests, values, traits, etc. List down their expectations and your aim – to inform, inspire, entertain or prove, persuade and demonstrate.   

This will enable you to tailor your presentation in a way that you can make the audience achieve what you have for them in your mind. Find out how much they know about your topic, then cater your talk, and the language you use to deliver it in accordance with their level and familiarity with the topic. Best to keep the jargon off the stage. 

How can you know get to know them?

If you are presenting at your workplace, you already will have an idea about the interest and values of your colleagues. You can always get to know more about them by sharing your topic with them and asking their opinions on it.

If you are to present in a new setting, try arriving a bit ahead of time and engage yourself in conversation with the audience members by greeting them, introducing yourself, and having a casual conversation over a range of topics.

Be prepared to also face any objections or resistance to your subject and think of ways you can address them in case they arise.

When you have an idea of what they know, believe, and feel about your topic before you present, you can control what they know, believe, and feel about your topic after you are done presenting.

3. Brainstorming

The next thing is to jot down all ideas you have about that topic. Mindmapping is especially helpful when it comes to this. It means sketching out ideas from a central theme, like the branches of a tree. 

Next, categorize your ideas into sub-topics and create a flow for the presentation that you want your audience to follow. 

For example, If you are to give a presentation on the Covid-19 Vaccine, then you can branch out into sub-areas to cover the types of vaccines, the efficacy of vaccines, their advantages, and disadvantages, etc.

4. Cut down to the Core 

We understand the urge to share all knowledge you have on your topic with your audience. But it is crucial to remember that you are presenting to a bunch of normal humans who probably cannot take more than a couple of ideas throughout a presentation. 

If it takes you way too many words and sentences to say what you have in your mind, try giving it more thought. Because when it comes to presentations, less is more.

Hence, condense your presentation to its very core idea and make it a point to repeat it till you reach the end. You can elaborate on this central idea.

Doing this will ensure that if at any point someone asks your audience what you presented about, all of them have the same answer. Thus leaving your audience satisfied with one clear message at the back of their minds.

One thing to pay heed to is the fact that most presentations take longer to deliver than we initially imagine. If you are wondering how to keep it short? We wrote an article that takes you through the 11 steps to help you keep time during your presentation. 

5. Visual Aids

Like it is said, a picture is worth a hundred words. Using visuals will always benefit you because more than 65% of people are visual learners. While data is important to back up your arguments, data alone doesn’t do much if it isn’t presented appealingly. A lot depends on how data is presented.

Keeping up with Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki, came up with this efficient rule for presentations which states that a PowerPoint presentation (or any other app you are using for your slides),

“should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.

Now we know, certain presentations may be an exception to this rule. But the main idea here is to not let the visual aids override the speaker. 

Death by PowerPoint

A presenter presenting to a large audience with the help of visual aids.

This funny, but sadly true phrase refers to a phenomenon caused by poor use of presentation software leading to immense visual discomfort. 

Oftentimes, we observe that very little importance is given to the visual aids of a presentation, even by esteemed organizations and companies. John Medina’s statement reinstates this when he says that

“If companies would have as little respect for business as they have for presentations, the majority would go bankrupt.”

To make certain that you avoid this situation at all costs, we have David Phillips who outlines ways to Avoid Death by Powerpoint in his TED talk where he talks about the following:

1. Limit the text to one message per slide.

2. Do not put up text sentences on the slide to read when you are speaking at the same time. This makes the brain of the listener choose between the two activities, leaving out important points in the process.

3. The Size of your font influences how well it can catch attention, retain in your head and create an impact. So choose it wisely.

(A method for optimum font size suggested by Guy Kawasaki is to look up the age of the oldest person in your audience and divide it by two to get an idea of the ideal font size) Larger font sizes help you to cut down on unimportant bits of data due to the limitations on space.

4. Creating Contrast Steers focus on the essential part of data. Don’t leave the pesky task of decoding data on your audience; make it easier for them.

5. Six or Fewer Objects Per slide is recommended as it makes it easier for the brain to comprehend the information presented to it at a given time.

6. Having a dark background relaxes your eyes and brain. When your screen is brighter than you, you will have to go out of your way to make yourself noticeable enough. It is essential to remember that you are the presentation and your slides are your visual aids; not the other way round.

While making use of visual aids, keep in mind one thing. You are presenting to your audience, not to your visual aids. So always face your audience and converse with them instead of talking to the data on your screen. 

When presented in the right way, visual aids can do wonders to your presentation by enhancing your message and elevating the credibility of your idea.

6. Structuring 

A whiteboard with an outline marked out.

One reason why most presentations fail to make an impact is cause they haven’t been well conceptualized and framed. Structuring is important, not alone for the audience to understand the presentation better but also for you, the presenter to stay calm and exhibit confidence without harboring the fear of missing out on any points.

Creating an Audience Journey Map

“When I think about compelling presentations, I think about taking an audience on a journey.”

Chris Anderson, curator of TED

When you frame your presentation as a journey, you have to decide the point where your journey starts and where it ends. To begin well, you have to create the context of the setting for your audience; by considering what they know about the topic. 

Never try to come off as an expert on the topic or get too technical, because you will lose your audience on the way. Instead, try presenting as a friend who has a new idea and wants to share it with others.

Successful presenters introduce their topic in short, share with the audience why they care about this topic and convince their audience that they should care about it too by taking them on a journey.

Facts and Stories

If your objective as a presenter is to inform your audience and also inspire them to take action, then you must consider taking the approach of facts and stories. 

Nancy Duarte, presentation coach, proposes a way of doing this in her book Resonate. She suggests looking at presentations as a place between two extremes – a record of numerical data and facts, and a story, which has the ability to thoroughly engage the audience. 

Step 1. Start by sharing the realities of the audience’s current world. 

Step 2. Reinforce what is and state what could be. Thus creating an imbalance

Step 3. Go on showcasing the stark contrast in the content of these two extremes, alternating between what is and what could be.

Step 4. Make the audience understand what they need to do to achieve the “ideal” that you’re convincing them for.

Step 5. Conclude the presentation on a higher plane, where everyone now understands your idea and its reward.

Facts share a glimpse of what is, while stories provide the wonderful possibility of what could be. Shifting between these two extremes sparks curiosity in your audience to learn about the next thing to follow.

Techniques of Preparation

A green background having a chat box with the words "Practice leads to perfection" written on it.

Thinking that you’re all set for your presentation once you’ve got your content in place is a little bit like digging your own grave. Inadequate practice is one of the biggest factors contributing to presentation stress and fear.

But as Dr. Rob Gilbert says,

“There is nothing wrong with stomach butterflies. You just have to get them to fly in formation.”

The butterflies resemble fear. And the way to calm the butterflies and direct their flying is this – you must be relaxed; to be relaxed you need to be confident, and to be confident, you ought to be well prepared with your presentation.

Here’s how you can do that.

1. Memory Prompts

If you plan on speaking from memory, you can start by writing notes in full sentences. The first practice usually involves a read-through of your scripted content.

Next, cut the full sentences so that they are bullet points and read with their assistance- in order to rely on notes less. Subsequently, bring it down to just a few words that act as cues or prompts to help you deliver your entire idea. 

2. Aim to be Effortless

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor practiced her famous TED presentation 200 times while another speaker practiced it 12 times. Some people require more time, some don’t. It is subjective, but overall, Carmine Gallo, communications coach and speaker, suggests rehearsing your presentation 10 times from start to finish to be rooted in self-confidence. The idea is always to rehearse it till it comes to you effortlessly. Without the need to constantly think of which word the next slide starts with. 

3. Record Yourself

With the help of your video camera or phone, record yourself as giving the presentation. You’ll surely be surprised by the number of times you use filler words or distracting body language or exhibit a disconnect by referring to slides more than often.

Evaluating your presentation will help you make changes to it before it is too late. Unsure how to do this? We’ve got you covered in this article we wrote on 6 Ways You Can Evaluate Your Own Presentation.

4. Mirror real-world

Studies conducted by psychologists brought to light that athletes tend to showcase their best performance in practice sessions that mirror real-world conditions. You can apply this concept to your presentation practice by presenting in front of a smaller group of people – friends, strangers, family members, or mentors. 

It is also crucial to have a rehearsal with all your technicals and visual aids. If you can access the venue of your presentation to do a mock presentation, do not miss the opportunity. Also, be ready to have a backup plan in case your technicals give up on you

5. Constructive Feedback

After you’ve presented in front of a smaller audience, most people will give you a compliment or two saying you did a good job. But that isn’t gonna do much for you. Instead, make an effort to ask them for specific feedback. 

For instance, ask them if your speech was too fast or too slow? Or If you used jargon or terms they didn’t understand? Then go over your content and tweak it wherever necessary.

Fred Pryor Organisation’s studies suggest that good preparation and rehearsal reduces nerves by 75% and also cuts down on the likelihood of making errors. 

Techniques of Delivery

Quality content is essential. Yes. But quality content paired with a poor delivery is the recipe for a presentation that your audience forgets about after exiting the doors.

Now that you are familiar with the ABCs of practice, let’s see how you can effectively deliver your presentation.

1. What about MY Presentation?

Does it matter what you’re wearing? Well, everyone has a different answer to that. But we believe that the first thing people notice about us is our appearance. So it wouldn’t do you any harm to work a little bit on it for your presentation. 

We prohibit you from wearing neon hues unless of course, you have pledged to be the human version of a highlighter pen. What colors should you wear during a presentation then? Read this article to know more. 

It is true that your introduction and its delivery will set the tone for the rest of your presentation. So if you’re looking for alternative ways to introduce yourself other than the usual “Good morning, I am Andy, and today I will be talking about…” Cut it, here is an article we wrote on How you can introduce yourself in a presentation

2. Handling Pre-presentation Nerves

A nervous presenter wiping his brow and holding a reference sheet as a mic is pointed at him.

Amy Cuddy, who is a Harvard Business School professor studying the way in which certain body poses affect power, suggests presenters spend the time before their presentation “striding around, extending their bodies and standing tall.” These are poses that help boost confidence and that’s an essential ingredient of great delivery.

Anderson reinforces that 

“Nerves are not a disaster. The audience expects you to be nervous”

Think of the audience as your ally, they want you to do your best and are rooting for you. Or maybe just think that they are happy for you because they aren’t the ones standing on the stage facing an audience and feeling nervous.

If you arrive early for your presentation, take your time to go around and greet the audience members and introduce yourself. This may help to make you feel more at ease.

3. Let your Body do the Talking

A female professional speaking into a mic with an open body language.

Do you shift weight from one leg to the other while giving a presentation? Or sway side to side? This is natural when you’re nervous, but it does seem distracting to the audience. So do you stand as still as a statue then? We’d suggest against that too. 

Instead, you can read this article on the dilemma of  To walk or stand still: How you should present on Stage.

If you want to deliver well, you have to work on improving your stage presence and your body language. You know what we’re gonna say next, don’t you – eye contact! But we wouldn’t say it over and over again if it wasn’t so important, right?

Keeping an Eye

It is actually one of the most crucial physical acts on stage. You can find four or five “friendly-looking” people in your audience and look at them as you speak. Consider them as friends you haven’t spoken to in years. But be sure to look them in the eye since eye contact is powerful enough to make your talk impactful.

Other things to keep in mind include speaking at a good pace, emphasizing your key points with the help of enunciation and pausing, and having open body language. Include your audience to avoid turning your presentation into a lecture. 

Handing out those handouts

You can also share your slides or give out presentation handouts after you present. This is a fantastic way to ensure and encourage engagement after the presentation is over. It also helps the audience recall your content later on. Here’s an article you should read to know everything about Presentation handouts.

Example of Presentation Techniques

An Analysis of Steve Jobs’ Presentation Technique

This is an image of a person holding a book with the cover showing a picture of Steve Jobs and the text "Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson".

Allow us to exaggerate a bit and say this – if giving a presentation was a religion, Steve Jobs would be the God. 

Don’t believe us? Watch this video and then go on and read the techniques we analyzed from it.

Steve truly mastered the recipe of an electrifying presentation.

No wonder people still take inspiration from his presentations. Hence, we have done our bit to share his effective presentation techniques with you, so that you can go ahead and captivate your audience the way Jobs did.

1. Crisp Headline

Steve Jobs made use of a technique that Carmine Gallo, communications coach, and speaker, has labeled as the “Twitter-friendly” headline – essentially, a crisp, one-sentence summary of an idea/product that captured the main message in the most enthralling manner. 

For example, he introduced the iPod by describing it as “a thousand songs in your pocket”, the MacBook Air as “the world’s thinnest notebook” and launched the iPhone with the words “Apple reinvents the phone”.

Regardless of the length of the topic, he used a crisp, clever headline and set the direction of his presentation.

2. Providing an Outline

Jobs often told his audience what he would be talking about in his presentation by telling them “Today I want to share with you four things”. 

Then he would go on to share them and easily transition into the other section by saying “..and this was the first thing I wanted to share with you this morning”. Doing this helped the listeners to follow the presentation well.

He also employed the use of the Rule of Three in his presentations, the most memorable one of which was his iPhone presentation. He began by saying, “Today we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first, a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.”

As the applause continued, he kept talking repeatedly about these “three” products and finally went on to say, “Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices, they are one device and we are calling it iPhone!”

3. Passion Paves the Way

If not his heart, Jobs certainly wore his enthusiasm on his black turtle-neck’s sleeve. He himself had so much passion for his topic that it reflected in his presentation and translated into his audience as well. 

While unveiling the iPhone, he smiled and said “it looks pretty doggone gorgeous”. He knew that unless you aren’t excited about an idea, your audience won’t be excited about it. 

Hence he chose his words well to express his passion for the product and thus succeeded in inspiring his audience. 

4. Hero Vs Villain

Similar to the Story and Facts technique that we covered before, Jobs used a comparative model for most of his talks. He talked of products that existed in the current world and then introduced the audience to ideal products that could exist

He did this while introducing the iPhone when he said, “Regular cell phones are not so smart and they are not so easy to use. Smartphones are a little smarter but are harder to use. They are really complicated…we want to make a leapfrog product, way smarter than any mobile device has ever been and super easy to use. This is what iPhone is.”

He also went on to expand on what the advantages of his products were and why the audience needed them. Steve Jobs also made an effort to make numbers and statistics meaningful.

Instead of saying that 25 billion songs have been downloaded from iTunes, he said that 15,000 songs are downloaded from iTunes every day. 

Now wasn’t that more effective?

5. Simple Visuals

Simple, to-the-point visuals defined his slides as he used about 19 words, distributed over about 12 slides. Now compare this with your average powerpoint that has at least 30 slides, if not more.

6. Practice, practice, practice

Jobs knew every single detail of his event beforehand – the visuals on his slide, the things to do in case of a technical glitch, every impromptu act. This didn’t come without hours of rehearsal on the stage many weeks prior to the event. 

In one incident of a glitch, he taught a lesson for presenters by laughing at the glitch, narrating a story in the meantime as his team resolved the issue, and then got back to present. Without the sign of a flustered cheek. Practice, ladies and gentlemen.

TO SUM UP

Now go on and utilize these techniques to make your presentations understandable, memorable, and influential.

And while you’re at it, remember what Lilly Walters said,

“The success of your presentation will be judged not by the knowledge you send but by what the listener receives.” 

Like Jobs would often say – just one more thing before you go….if you are wondering whether to drink or steer away from that tempting cup of coffee before your presentation, read this article we wrote about it!

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *