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How Do I Create a Great Presentation?

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How Do I Create a Great Presentation?

How Do I Create a Great Presentation?

A post from our Presentation Skills blog

      Written by John B

First impression counts

Have you ever seen a presentation, or a speech, that you have never forgotten? I have seen literally hundreds, if not thousands, of "talks" in my life. Many were in a religious environment as I was growing up, but others have been professionally oriented, either sales demonstrations, new product demonstrations etc. And in those hundreds or thousands, there are maybe a handful that stand out, and twenty or more years later, I can still remember what was being spoken about. How did the speaker manage to make such an impression?


I remember one minister at a church that I went to while on holiday, where the minister compared being a good person to building a quality hamburger. He compared each ingredient to a personality trait, and he had the ingredients with him as he spoke. He had lots of mince, and masses of rolls and tomatoes etc., and as he was talking he was cutting the ingredients and showing the audience. He separated the mince into patties and piled them on a plate. After the service, the entire congregation had a BBQ and had burgers. I bet almost everybody there that day can still remember his points! And that was in 1998.

How to get people to remember you

Just like that minister, let me build a hamburger for you to remember how to grab an audience's attention, and make them remember you and what you said.

Just like the roll in a hamburger, you need something that will hold everything together. Have you given your presentation a structure? The structure of your presentation usually covers a number of things, but you will generally have an introduction, the content of your talk, and then a summary. Do you actually know what the aim of your presentation is? If you do not, you are going to struggle to put the correct content together, and then summarise it well.

The meat patty itself is the content of your talk. Is it tasty? Have you chosen interesting content? The first time I ever spoke in public was as a 12 year old. We had a school public speaking competition, and you could choose your own subject. I already loved sport, and as my topic chose "The Changing Shape of the Formula 1 Car." I think I was the only person interested. Even my friends did not want to listen, let alone everybody else in the school. So choose your content well. And if you are going to talk about the features of anything, just like in sales, explain what the benefit of those features are. Is the patty good quality meat, or is it full of fat? Have you put things in that you can leave out, that is not adding to the presentation? Good quality, tasty meat is what makes a good burger, and likewise a good presentation. Have you done proper research so that your content is up to date, correct, and interesting, and most importantly, relevant?

Just like cooking your patty, timing is everything. People cook for personal preference, but overcooking your meat will ruin it for anybody. Similarly, you need to make sure you do not overstay your welcome. This might cause people to remember you, but in a bad way. You do not want to be the person that gets escorted from the stage as you are cutting into somebody else's talk time. Time it right, and people will feel that it was just right, not too long, but not too short either.

Let's include the lettuce, tomatoes and pickles etc. into one thing, and call it the garnishing. The garnishing is the symbols that you choose to use. The best way to make your talk resonate with an audience is to use symbols that people relate to.

In his famous I Have a Dream speech, Martin Luther King Jr. uses the symbol of a bounced cheque to illustrate a point. Almost everybody there could probably understand that simple symbol, and it rang true with them. They felt defrauded by a society that claimed itself as the land of the free, just the way that you would feel if you were given a cheque that bounced. So try to use symbols that people not only relate to, but will remember.

Most people will want something else on their burger, whether it is cheese, or some kind of sauce. This is just to make the burger extra juicy. These are the little things that you can add for flavour. Is there a good way to use some humour? Are there useful props that you can use, or something that little bit special?

Use Humour in Your Speech

In the early 1990s, the band Genesis released a song called I Can't Dance. It was a hit all over the world, and had a really catchy video. I saw one person use the song, at the height of its popularity, at the beginning of each of a series of talks. Each week he brought more people up onto the stage, dressed like the band members, and with sunglasses on like in the video. 21 years later, I can still tell you what was said in that 6 talk series. And it was that song, and dance, in an environment that people were not expecting it, that made it so memorable. Can you think of anything tasty to add to make people remember you and your talk?

Putting all your ingredients of the burger together is your summary. Some things work well together, and others do not. Having a very sour pickle might clash with your sauce. So you need to consider the overall taste of the burger, not just the individual ingredients. Have you put it all together well, in a neat and concise summary? If you have, that will leave people with a final thought on just what you said, and what you want to leave them with.

Follow these steps and create great presentations

So, in summary, the best way to build and deliver a great presentation that people will both remember you and your content, is to use a frame that will keep you structured, have great content that is interesting and relevant, use symbols that people can both understand and relate to, and then try come up with some hook that is unique, and because it is dynamic will help people to remember everything.

And finally, just as a good waiter or host asks how people would like their hamburger, ask for feedback. Do a trial run with people that you know to get feedback on how it can be improved, or if you do not know how to do any of the things discussed here, contact somebody for some presentation training on how to do so.

Should you wish to do some further reading on great speeches and what makes them, look at William Safire's book, "Lend me Your Ears".

What do you think? Let us know what you think in the comments below.


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