How to deliver a powerful presentation

The ability to deliver a powerful presentation is a critical skill that all employees need today, not just leaders and managers. It seems to me that PowerPoint has become the ubiquitous communication tool of the corporate world. Hours and hours are spent in trying to create the ‘perfect deck’ (which I believe is impossible). Changes and tweaks are made until well past the ‘last minute’. Reams of paper are wasted printing copies for everyone in the room.

As a professional speaker.  I am continually learning my craft. How to weave humor into my talks. How to engage an audience, whether it’s 10 people or 700 IT, leaders. It’s an ongoing journey, one that I love, and critical to my business success. I invest time and effort into every presentation and audience, and as a result, I am sought out to speak at corporate and industry events.

As a result of the hundreds of speeches, I have delivered I am often asked to work with leaders who are looking to improve their own platform skills. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been in the audience for a number of presentations and conference events, which is a double-edged sword. I ALWAYS learn something, from the content the presenter is delivering, and often from the strengths and mistakes in their delivery.

In the presentations I attended some of the presenters excelled, others made easily avoidable mistakes that negatively impacted the quality of their presentation. What I have learned (and am still learning as I hone my skills) is that public speaking is a skill like any other. Pay attention, listen to feedback and PRACTICE and you can avoid ruining your next powerful presentation.

If you are uncertain what to do (or what NOT to do) here are 5 ways to ensure you deliver a powerful presentation:

  1. Steady Eddy: One-of-the-presenters-I-listened-to-last-week-delivered-their-presentation-at-a-consistent-and-steady-speed-Unfortunately-without-pausing-to-allow-their-points-to-land-it-became-a-uniform-torrent-of-information-that-became-increasingly-hard-to-follow-and-as-time-went-on-the-speed-of-delivery-increased-like-a-train-leavingthestationuntilitblurredintoonelongmonotone.Powerful Presenters Should: remember that when it comes to public speaking, inhaling is OK. You. are. allowed. to. breathe. Please pause, count to three as you move between slides, key points, or when you ask a question. That way your audience has time to hear what you have said, process it and decide to respond.
  2. Too Quiet: One event was in a lovely large room. Plenty of light, plenty of space, unfortunately not plenty of sounds. Most of the speakers used their ‘inside voice’ and made no attempt to project their words. In one case a speaker stood up and uttered the immortal words

    “It’s OK I speak loud enough. I don’t need a microphone.”

    Powerful Presenters Should:  Remember that while YOU might not think you need a microphone, your AUDIENCE does. Make it easier for us to hear you so we don’t have to strain if a microphone is available USE IT.
    If you are in the unfortunate situation of not having a microphone then remember that as the size of the group and room increases you have to increase your volume, use your ‘presenting and projecting voice’. Consider standing in the middle of your audience (unorthodox to some) rather than the traditional ‘front of the room’. It will help.

  3. Reading the script or worse, your slides.I don’t care how good your hairstyle, I don’t want to see the back of your head, and if you are a quiet speaker (who isn’t using a microphone) when you turn to face your slides to read them we definitely can’t hear you.
    If we can read the words then we don’t need you. Your slides should be a support mechanism. The same goes with your script, by the time you stand up to present, you shouldn’t need to read it.Powerful Presenters Should:  Practice and learn your presentation! While I never speak without having my script nearby, it’s there just in case my mind goes blank (and it does on occasion). I practice and make sure I KNOW my presentation before I stand up in front of my audience. If you are reading it you may as well email it to me since I learned to read in primary school too.
  4. Boring Slides.It would appear that ‘Death by PowerPoint’ is a real issue. Just because you can fit 15 bullet points onto a slide and it automatically adjusts to micro-font doesn’t mean you SHOULD! Stop it!
    Your clue that your slides need work is when you say something like

    “You probably can’t read this, let me talk you through it.”

    Nor should you go with the 5-bullets/5-word approach throughout – that too is boring.

    Powerful Presenters Should:
      Find a happy medium between words and images that also help communicate your message. If you aren’t sure how then call me! Remember – Use visuals judiciously, not viciously. PowerPoint is not your friend.

  5. Winging It.The idea that presenters can ‘wing it’ and everything will be OK seems to be particularly endemic when leaders present to their colleagues. I would suggest that we should practice EVEN MORE when presenting to people we know, and in any case, we should all be practising every time we present to a new audience.

    Powerful Presenters Should:
      Practice. OUT. LOUD! Practice doesn’t mean thinking about what you are going to say, it means standing up and saying it. Trust me, what you think and what you hear can be two very different things! Better still, involve a friend to be your trial audience and give you feedback, you won’t regret it.

Don’t inflict death by powerpoint on your colleagues. Apply these 5 steps and I promise the quality of your communications will go up. And if you would like some additional coaching and advice then call me! In the meantime, I’d love to know what you would add to this list to ensure others deliver a powerful presentation. Share your comments below.

photo credit: Morag Barrett

Morag Barrett is a sought-out leadership & executive development consultant, professional speaker, and author of Cultivate. The Power of Winning Relationships. Her second book, The Future-Proof Workplace, co-authored with Dr. Linda Sharkey was named Best Business Book of 2017 by Soundview Executive Book Summaries.

As the founder and CEO of SkyeTeam she partners with and speaks for a diverse range of clients, including Google, NTT Security, Charter Communications, The Society for Information Management and Ultimate Software among others. She has contributed to, and and has been featured in Business Insider, Inc and Forbes among others.

Morag was recently selected from more than 16,000 to join the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches Group. 100 Coaches are highly accomplished and compassionate people, each one committed to using their talents to make good people and organizations better. Together, the 100 Coaches create a unique spectrum of talent including the world’s leading executive coaches, consultants, speakers, authors, iconic leaders, entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders.

Morag holds a master’s degree in Human Resource Management from De Montfort University, UK and received the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) designation. She’s a recognized business coach for the Corporate Coach University and is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in the UK.

When not at work, Morag can be found sailing with her three sons, playing the bassoon for the Broomfield Symphony Orchestra, or ballroom dancing.