10 Golden Principles for an Effective Presentation

It’s pretty clear that you cannot survive in the corporate universe if you don’t know how to make a powerful presentation. After developing more than 10,000 presentations for large corporations, I realized that there are a few principles that work for every presenter who wants to convey an idea. I’ve distilled them down to 10 “Golden Principles” to use as a checklist for planning your next meeting.

Discover the Universal Value That Moves Your Audience

Before you write a story for your presentation, find what values are at stake. There are universal values that work for everyone, because deep inside we’re all the same.

We all wonder about the nature of life and what the future holds. We argue about politics and religion. We want to be accepted. If you find the universal value that moves your audience, you can discover the negatives that cause them stress and anxiety. With this information, you have “gold” in your hands to build your presentation.

Know the Many Facets of Your Audience

After discovering what makes your audience look like others, it’s time to understand what makes them unique. Who are they? Loyal or disloyal? Loving or cruel? Generous or selfish? Willful or weak?

You need to discover the true character that lives behind the masks. And this truth can only be expressed by observing how people act under pressure. The greater the pressure, the truer and deeper the reveal of character.

The key to understanding an audience is finding the truth about their desires. By finding out what your audience wants to achieve, you can create a story about a protagonist with the same goal in mind.

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They Don’t Want to Hear About You

Robert McKee, in his book “Story,” states that “When talented people write badly it’s generally for one of two reasons: Either they’re blinded by an idea they feel compelled to prove or they’re driven by an emotion they must express. When talented people write well, it is generally for this reason: They’re moved by a desire to touch the audience.”

That means your audience doesn’t want to know about qualities you may think are important. They want to improve their own qualities and to know how you are going to be an ally in transforming their lives and making them stronger protagonists.

Find a Protagonist and the Worst That Can Happen

“Get your protagonist up a tree. Throw rocks at him. Then get him down.” — Syd Field.

When creating a presentation, you need to understand that the audience expects more than a list of topics with a rhetorical narrative. They expect you to surprise them. They expect you to tell a story. All stories are about someone who gets in trouble. So go deep into the conflicts the audience may confront. Then a resolution or a conclusion can come naturally.

Tell the Truth

“The average person lies three times for every 10 minutes of conversation.” – a scene in the television series “Lie to Me”

The corporate world has a disease that Robert McKee calls “Negaphobia.” It’s the fear of anything that is negative and the potential consequences. Too often, everything needs to be positive, with a smile on the face and not talking about “problems” or “weakness.” If you want to earn trust from your audience, share the problems, struggles and weaknesses that are part of life.

Typically, presentations avoid problems and emphasize the good. This is the best way to lose your credibility. Everything that sugarcoats your point, leave that at home. The audience trusts in honesty and not in perfection anymore.

Use the Three-Act Structure

So you’re not a playwright? Don’t worry. The Three-Act Structure is not something that requires a genius to create. It’s an observation on how human beings naturally tell stories (good stories!).

Try to make every presentation a three-part narrative:

  • Act 1 sets up your story
  • Act 2 contains the obstacles your main character(s) has to resolve and the relationship stories that must be developed
  • Act 3 ties everything up

Make Sure Your Visuals Are Relevant

PowerPoint is not your enemy. You cannot put the responsibility for a bad presentation onto software that was originally created to help you build “power” into your “point.”

To do this, you need to have the story in your mind and use the slides like scenes from a movie. Each one has a purpose. Visuals help stimulate emotion. Visual language makes the message easier to understand. So make your visual choices carefully and ensure that they support the story you are telling

Every Slide Counts

Slides are not “documents.” Slides are not “reports.” They are part of a whole, your presentation. Each slide should deliver one message, then a group of slides together delivers a bigger message called a “sequence.“ A group of sequences could be considered as an act. A group of three acts (considering the classical structure) delivers the whole story of your presentation.

If a slide is not contributing to the main message of the story as a whole, just cut it!

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Prepare Yourself and Be Relaxed

Every professional needs time to study and practice. If you trust too much in your potential, you can get into big trouble. “I don’t need to train or rehearse. I can improvise if something unplanned arises.” With this attitude, your presentation will be the rehearsal, and you will not unleash your true potential as a presenter.

Every actor spends hours training in his role before the “action” call. Every sports professional spends more time training than playing real games. Steve Jobs spent around eight hours preparing himself for his keynote speeches.

When you do this, you can be sure that at the moment your audience looks at you with high expectations, you will be relaxed. And most importantly, you will have fun!

Make Time Fly

Finally, life is good when you don’t want an experience to end. The same goes for a good presentation. Make it a moment to be remembered for a long time. Leave your legacy. Let your audience spend that moment with you and forget about time. And leave your audience desiring more from you!

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