Those who give presentations at conferences, as part of a sales demo, in a marketing push for a new product, or even during a TED talk know how to wow an audience. They excel at turning a boring presentation into something people will talk about in the hallway and even on the ride back to the office. Recently, the folks at FlowVella –an app for making presentations on computer, phone, and tablet–sent me tips from some of their customers on how to make sure your presentation is a winner.
1. Tell a story.
“Instead of boring your audience to tears, develop a genuine connection with your audience. How? Throughout your presentation, tell stories that add meaning and depth to your message. Telling personal stories will make you more likable, trustworthy, and interesting. In addition, facts and stats typically stimulate only two areas of the human brain, but stories can activate up to seven, and trigger emotional responses within listeners. Presentations that are engaging both mentally and emotionally are more memorable and influential, thus more successful.”
—Leslie Belknap, marketing director at Ethos3
2. Vary the template.
“If it looks stock, it probably is. Altering an existing template doesn’t take a tremendous amount of time. It also indicates that the presenter knows how to represent the idea and narrative visually. Don’t be afraid to change colors, add logos, and alter the elements for a totally unique look with just a few minutes of work. Font selection is very important. The font is not just a typeface. It represents the idea through the actual look of the word. It should align with the tone of the core idea/narrative. Furthermore, font selection is most critical for readability. Adding a bursting star doesn’t mean you are increasing the impact of a point or a component of a slide/frame. Instead, add punch with mixed media. Bringing an idea or point to life through text, images, photography, video, etc. is much more memorable than cheap movements. Your software should allow for insertion of PDFs and video.”–Ryan Mack, president of Carrot Creative. a VICE Company
3. Use a storyboard.
“The most traditional (and foolish) way to create a presentation is to open up a blank PowerPoint document and try to make magic happen. This can result in mistakes in flow, logic, and overall cohesion, as you try to write and design each concept in real time. Steal a writer’s tip and create a text-only framework for the entire thing before you launch into the full draft. It’s just like the outline you used to create for fifth-grade book reports, where all of your sub points support your main points, and the intro and outro tie everything together. Aim for a single summary of your core idea, supported by three smaller sub points that will prove your summary. And of course, don’t start to design your work without making sure that the outline is airtight. The result? No more strange tangents, lost points, and unnecessary slides.”
—Sunday Avery, content writer at Ethos3
4. Think about introverts and extroverts in the audience.
“One of the best pieces of advice came to me from a mentor years ago. He told me all audiences are generally comprised of a 50/50 balance of introverts and extroverts. I have tested his theory on audiences since then and can attest to it’s validity. The grand lesson: never lean your presentation in one direction. For instance, if your presentation is dominated by workshops and activities, your extroverts are going to love you and your introverts are going to despise you. On the opposite end of that spectrum, if you lecture the entire time, your introverts will feel comfortable and your extroverts will get bored. Presenters must make the extra effort to balance their message and activities. Like most things in life, moderation is key.”
–Scott Schwertly, CEO of Ethos3
5. Keep it to three points.
“The human brain works like this: One, two, three. I forget. No one is going to remember your tenth point, yet most presenters today feel it is necessary to showcase everything they know about a specific topic. The sad reality is that we live in a world with short attention span. Presenters either win hearts by being succinct or they neglect this responsibility and get forgotten forever. Therefore, the stage or front of the room is not the appropriate place to exhibit your depth of knowledge via 17 different takeaways. No one is going to remember them, or you.”
–Scott Schwertly, CEO of Ethos3
6. Whatever you are selling, you are still selling ideas.
“It doesn’t matter what widget or service you’re offering. These days, people are not buying either–they are buying ideas. Nobody is buying an Apple Watch. They are buying the ideas of new fitness or faster communication or prestige and early adopter status, or some blend thereof. A presentation is no longer about closing anything but rather about germinating an idea that resonates with the audience. The idea then drives a passion to acquire the product or service. That’s a much stronger way to sell. But how do you create a presentation that plants the idea you are communicating into the mind of the viewer? And how do you stay on track when working with ideas? First, you have to ask who the audience is. Before I start a presentation, I make slide No. 1 and list all I know about the audience on it. Tech savvy or consumer end user? Decision makers or influencers? Buying for self or for the firm? Likes short and sweet or likes story and emotion? After that, I put topics in logical order on each of the following slides and build the images and the story to fit all the info I placed on Slide No. 1. That slide will keep telling me how to position my points to create ideas the audience can relate to and that will fan the fires of desire for my solutions.”
—Jonathan Todd, managing director at 808 Marketing
7. Balance the theater and the scholar.
“George Lois said selling is the ultimate mix of scholarship and theatre, expertise and style. This could not be more appropriate to consider when designing presentations because at their core, presentations are a sales pitch–we communicate an idea to another individual or group of individuals in an attempt to make them agree, or ideally, fall in love with the idea. So, always be sure you are demonstrating scholarship with style. If you are all style, then you’re a poser. Potentially a hack. If you are all scholarship, then you’re boring. or worst off, forgettable. The balance is incredibly important.”
—Ryan Mack, president of Carrot Creative, a VICE Company
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.