man You have seen this many a time, a presentation that goes horribly amiss because of an undesirable technical snag. Or maybe have you fell in a deep sleep during one of those 151 slide-long presentations detailing and explaining the ins and outs of ABC gizmo market? And what about those word-filled screens that are so small you can’t even get close to knowing what they are about! So, what is there to do ?

To present in front of an audience is a skill. A skill to acquire more than often as it is not a given for most. Such a competence goes beyond the art of talking. It starts with a well planned story and a well organized event —because presenting in front of an audience be it small or large is an event. Hence this humble post about presentation skills 101.

My Own 5 S Model

If you allow me, here is my presentation planning model: the 5S’s. Use it and you will give yourself a better chance of blowing people away with a banging presentation, one that will more probably give you what you expect from it.

  • Style. Determine from the outset what will be the most appropriate format and tone for your presentation, i.e. formal or informal, friendly or “tightly” professional, etc. All styles are not necessarily good for all contexts. Make a thoughtful choice.
  • Subject. Have a clear mind and a precise idea of the story you want to tell. Word of caution : to do this well requires effort!
  • Structure. Your presentation is a story to your audience. Tell a story that people will remember. Tell it with a beginning, a middle and an end. Find ways to repeat your key points.
  • Simplicity. The average audience will only retain two or three ideas from your presentation. Know which ones you want them to remember and help them remember them: repeat your key points often! (Noticed that I just repeated this one?)
  • Save it! [Note: the French version is Savoir. I couldn’t find a more direct translation in English that started with an S. Please give me a point for the effort. ;-)]. Define yourself an objective; know your audience (level of knowledge and interest in the matter) and the context of your presentation including all environmental aspects of it (room, layout, time of day, equipment), and know your stuff. Then, save all to memory!

If I could figure out a way to name a 6th word starting with S, I’d warn you about technology as well. Always anticipate the worst and be ready for it. Murphy is never very far.

Container and content
So, to conclude not only do you have to formulate your message well, but you have to consider as well all aspects of its delivery : from the physical environment of the room, to the supporting visuals on screen, time of day, who precedes you and who follows, paper handouts, etc. Many things to think about indeed. Many things to plan carefully to give yourself a better chance to deliver a stellar presentation and get your message across.

To present is to communicate. To communicate effectively is a skill that few people master. However, short of mastering that skill, one can aim to be better than average. Presentation skills 201 coming…
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NOTA : Gotta to see this sketch if you haven’t seen it yet: “Life After Death by PowerPoint” from humorist Don McMillan.

See also :
The 10/20/30 Rules of PowerPoint Presentations, par Guy Kawasaki, and
Presentation Zen, par Garr Reynolds