Have you ever forgotten what you were supposed to say, and just thinking about public speaking makes you want to run away as far as possible? Have you ever prayed that an even where you were scheduled to speak got canceled?
If so, you’re surely not the only one to ever feel this way. There is even a medical diagnosis for the fear of public appearances, glossophobia, a type of social phobia or social anxiety disorder.
The National Institute of Mental Health found that fear of public speaking affects as much as 73% of the American population (only fear of death, spiders and heights is more common). So how can you overcome this fear? Imagine talking to a pack of spiders on Mount Everest… Just kidding.
Things you don’t want in your business presentation
Let’s start with some good news: most mistakes and problems with presentations can be avoided. The only condition is that you need to prepare in advance. Let’s start by looking through the most common reasons for failure:
1. Lack of preparation
The ideal business presentation has a lot in common with a swan. On the surface, it glides smoothly on the water but below the surface, its legs are working hard to push it along. Looking calm and composed on the outside means doing your homework ahead of time:
- Plan your slides, be careful with your research, check everything twice.
- As you prepare a business presentation, practice with your deliveryand description of the slides.
- See if everything works (and remember that if you are using PowerPoint, you should save your work in the PowerPoint presentation format, without extensions for years, like PowerPoint presentation 97-2003 etc. After opening the document on another computer, you will reduce the risk of formatting problems).
- Practice your speech and record your performance on a camera if you have the equipment at hand (even a smartphone camera will do). Playing the recording and seeing yourself “in action” really makes a difference; you will be able to see your own mistakes in non-verbal communication, voice emission etc.).
- While analyzing the recording, check the timing. There’s nothing worse than finishing a speech well before the allotted time is up. It’s also a problem to go way over time. Don’t guess how much time you need and be sure to check it earlier. It doesn’t hurt to have a few more examples or subject to talk about if you finish ahead of time and identify the parts you can skip if you’re running late. Pro tip: budget about 3 minutes of speech time per slide.
- Show the presentation to a group of friends or your team at work. If any information is missing or some part of it is not fully understood, they will ask you to explain. And it’s better to answer questions now than to explain them to the real audience later.
2. Not knowing your audience. At all
It may turn out that you do not know your target group completely. Not knowing who you’re talking to can lead to many difficulties, from setting the wrong goal for the meeting to the use of a jargon that is incomprehensible to anyone but an industry insider.
What can you do to avoid this kind of situation? Ask the organizer for more information about the group you will be talking to. If you have a chance, prepare a survey that will check the level of knowledge of your audience. Determine how many people will come, what they expect, which industry they work in (this will allow you to better select the examples and explanations).
3. Bad presentation design
Even the greatest verbal message, full of anecdotes and facts, can be completely damaged by a distracting design. Your audience can unintentionally focus on too many graphic elements, read blocks of text on the slides or be blinded by bright colors.
Become a slide ninja
When making a visual presentation, what matters most is consistency. This refers not only to the colors you choose but also font types, the style of images used, icons and all other graphic elements.
There are two things to consider here, style and size. Try to make your presentation as easy to read as possible. If you’re going to present your slides at a big conference taking place in a large forum full of people, go for a bigger font so that everyone will see the text clearly.
You can choose more than one font type for a presentation, but keep it to two or three types, no more. Try to match them with your main message. Some fonts, just like people, have their personalities and just don’t fit when talking about professional issues (e.g. COMIC SANS).
You need to choose colors for fonts, backgrounds and other elements. Then, you need to think about some additional issues like tint, shade, tone, value and chrome (also called saturation).
All of these color effects will affect your template. If you’re a beginner, let’s start your business presentation journey with some monochromatic choices – this will make your work a lot easier, consistent, and you’ll avoid the problem of overloading the presentation with too much color. Here’s an example of blue hue color scale:
Don’t put too much text on your slides! It’s tempting to put something in every bit of blank space but just…don’t.
Keeping it simple helps to get the point of each slide across quickly and efficiently. Save the long stories for another time and keep your message short. It’s also a good idea to use bullet points and to enrich the text with graphic elements. When it comes to creating your text, discover the value of the idea of “less is more”.
Let’s use this example:
Graphic & co.
Think about what kind of graphics you are looking for. They should reflect the idea presented on the slide in good quality and resolution. Also, make sure that you do not use copyrighted images.
Another way to introduce graphics with text for a business presentation is to create so-called infographics. You can make them with free professional tools. Here are a few good options:
- Piktochart – you’ll find a large selection of ready-made templates, intuitive handling, the ability to upload data from MS Excel; in the free version, the program applies a watermark to the bottom of your work
- Infogr.am – There are only 6 ready-made templates, but a huge selection of chart types; in the free version, however, we cannot save work in a separate file, but only share a document on Facebook and other social media
- Easel.ly – Just like on Piktochart, you can choose from a large number of ready-made solutions or create your own template from scratch. You can also save the finished work in a file but unfortunately, this tool does not have an option to create charts
Charts and tables
Another option is to replace the numerical data contained in your text with a graph or table. However, it should be remembered that all such elements should be consistent with the whole presentation, both in terms of fonts and colors. If you decide to make a graph, make sure that it is readable, well-labeled and sourced with footnotes.
Here’s an example of well-prepared pie charts:
The presentation is all about you and your speech.
Slides do not replace you, they support you. After all, however, you should do everything to make them visually consistent and engaging. If you don’t know what to do, follow the golden rule: Less is More.
Practice makes perfect so do everything you can to make your business presentation something that people are waiting for and are excited about.