Advice on PowerPoint Presentations - Preparation

By: Cogent Design Group  09-12-2011

1. Decide on your objective

Firstly decide on what


want to achieve. For example, assuming this is in a business context, you might want to obtain new business enquiries. You need to ask for this during or at the end of your presentation. I recently made a presentation on branding and offered a one on one branding workshop to audience members – this had a good response and achieved my objective of making follow up meetings. You should ask the organiser for the audience's contact details and send them your presentation. Use your handout to encourage further dialogue and leave business cards.


2. Do your research
You need to know your audience's expectation, venue, size of audience, time available and equipment etc

Audience profile
  • Who are they and what are their backgrounds within the company
  • How many people will be attending
  • How much do they already know about the topic you will be speaking on
  • What are they expecting to take away from your presentation – ideas, information, insights?

Venue and equipment

  • Where is it
  • What equipment are they providing (make sure you bring your own lap top and your presentation backed up and tested on a memory stick).


  • When is it and do you have enough time to prepare?
  • How long will it take to travel to the venue and how are you getting there
  • What time is your slot
  • If there are other presenters, what is the order (it can be useful to volunteer to go first or last so that you can use the rest of your day profitably)


3. Remember - content is king
You cannot cover up a lack of high quality relevant content with visual style and enthusiasm – you must deliver valuable information. But don’t be tempted to overload your audience with superfluous data just to impress or hide the fact that you don’t really have a point to make.

Never assume that your audience understands the jargon that you and your colleagues take for granted.

4. Plan it out
Knowing the key points that you want your audience to take away, is a great place to start planning the structure of your presentation's content. Beginning with the key points of your message, determine what information or arguments will need to be made to deliver each of them effectively. Before you begin designing your slides and adding content, spend time at this planning stage to find the most effective order or sequence for your content to be presented in.

5. Create a logical structure 
Your audience need to know where you are going right from the start so tell them up front, but don’t be tempted to think that your agenda slide is necessarily a logical structure. It takes some hard thinking and testing to arrive at a presentation that truly hangs together from beginning to end.   

6. Keep it short and simple
Making your content simple and short sounds easy but is often the hardest job if you are to do it properly and not lose the meaning in the process. Ask yourself “what is the essence of my message?” and “what three things do I want my audience to take away from my presentation?"

Content can often be shortened and made easier to understand using pictures and diagrams instead of bullet points.

7. Put yourself in the audience's position 
It might feel disconcerting, but imagine that you are in the audience watching yourself present. Are you being interesting and relevant 100% of the time?  Why not? Take out everything which is extraneous and dull and observe and amend your presentation style.

8. Do the elevator test
Another useful method of testing the overall effectiveness of your content is to grab a colleague and deliver your message to them in under a minute. If they can understand your overall message in this time-frame then the key points of your full presentation should become clearer to you.

9. Tell a ( short interesting) story
The data and concepts in your presentation can often be effectively illustrated through real world examples or anecdotes. However the rules of clarity and brevity that apply to the rest of the presentation also apply here. In addition to this, while personal anecdotes can be more effective than a quoted source; beware of sounding boastful. Your lunches with the chief execs on their yacht are of no interest to your audience!

10. Build up your own confidence
A confident delivery is obviously more effective than being nervous and hesitant. If you are not a naturally confident person then being sure of your material and well rehearsed are your best allies.

Try to rehearse your presentation in front of a test audience (even your dog if you have to) and if possible use the hardware you will be using during your actual presentation.

11. These tips go up to eleven!
Even if the venue is providing equipment, you should always take your presentation on your own laptop and back it up onto a memory stick – test every slide in both versions. Leave your home or office in plenty of time and get there early. Then do another test on the actual equipment.    


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