3 easy rules for smart and effective presentations

Do you know this kind of presentations:

Where you really cannot read anything because it’s so much text and way too small?

Where you fall asleep or lose concentration because it’s so boring or wired?

Where you feel like the presenter is reading a book out loud?

Again and again, I see this kind of presentations. I have to, unfortunately. But, there are easy ways to avoid this for your presentation.

To give you some hints and tips how to do your first presentation, I will show you the 3 simple rules that I apply. And so far nobody fell asleep. 🙂

Rule 1 – Rule of 6

I call it the Rule Of 6. On the internet, you can also find it as 6×6. It basically says to:

  • Have not more than 6 bullet points per slide
  • Have not more than 6 words per sentence

If you follow this rule your slides will look much cleaner. The reader gets quick a better overview of the core messages.

Rule 2 – Create a story

This is the second important rule that I always follow in my presentations. When I review other presentations this one of my main remarks: no story line.

The listener shall be able to follow your story step by step. It means you need an introduction, the main part and a summary and/or call-to-action. Like for a story in a newspaper or book. On this page, tip nr. 7, you find further tips.

The introduction can be a question, like in this blog post. It can be a short story that you tell. Or it can be a statement that you make.

Very helpful are graphics and pictures. I have only a few slides with text-only. I usually try to put every text into some boxes to group it. It’s just better to read.

I recently read an article about ideas how to start (German). It relates to blog article writing, but you can apply the principle to presentations easily.

The main part should contain your main message. Obviously. The summary summarizes the main statements and may ask the audience to act. An action could be to give a GO or NOGO decision for a project or you can offer them a Questions&Answers (Q&A) session.

When I create a presentation about a project or project milestone I usually use this structure:

  • Front Page (nice picture, my name, department name, topic, subtitle, date of the presentation)
  • Table of content
  • Objective of the meeting/presentation
  • Project Goal in one sentence
  • Project Objectives
  • Scope (what’s in, what’s our)
  • Benefits if we go the project
  • Work Breakdown Structure (WBS describes the work packages of the project, show only the first and second level)
  • Roadmap or rough schedule
  • Organizational Breakdown Structure (OBS, which roles are involved and who has the roles)
  • Dependencies to other departments, companies, projects etc. – Everything that might have an impact on your planning and delivery
  • Budget (what do you plan to spend roughly)
  • Risks & Issues (what can put the success of your project at risk)
  • Next Steps (the 3-6 most important next steps)
  • GO / NOGO call-to-action slide, to ask the audience if to continue the project or not

Rule 3 – Know your content

Know what you present. Don’t read the slide. It does not look very competent. Use your presentation as a guide and help if you forget something.

It gives your audience the feeling that you know what you are talking about and that you are an expert in what you tell them.

Want some more?

Here is a bonus.

Don’t animate (too much). Personally, I only use fast fade-ins. If you show all content of one slide at the beginning people tend to read through it instead of listening what you say. Show only the sentence or part of the illustration / graphic that you speak about at the same time. Step by step you fade in all content of a slide.

Test your presentation. If it is for a beamer presentation you need for example other font sizes compared to a presentation that is just distributed by mail.

KISS. Keep it simple, stupid. Or: Keep it short and simple. Slides create the necessity to cut detail. It helps you to focus on the real core information. Use this constraint to create lean slides.

Use pictures, icons, graphics etc. It eases the reading allot.

Create your own collection of good slide templates. Personally, I have a .pptx file where I collect interesting, good-looking slides. I use this portfolio when I need some ideas how to structure or visualize content.

Some interesting links on the topic:

Presentation-Zen

Skillsyouneed.com – Presentation tips

Affenblog.de – Blogpost beginnen

Americanexpress.com – 6 rules for a beautifuly powerpoint

Summary

The rules above are rules that I follow. And my presentations never missed the target. Sometimes they cannot be applied 100%. But they give you a good orientation when it comes to your first presentation.

If you remember these rules your presentations will be a success:

Rule 1 – Rule of 6

Rule 2 – Create a story

Rule 3 – Know your content

What about you? What are your main tips or experiences to create good presentations? If you need some examples from my presentations let me know down in the comments or get in touch with me.

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