Creating Presentations

When asked to give a presentation, consider using the four P’s of presentation steps to help you with your creation. The four P’s are: Plan, Prepare, Practice, and Perform. This article will address steps one and two, which are about planning and preparing the presentation.

1. During Plan, you will consider your audience and why you are giving the presentation along with what generally appeals to them and why they may want to know about your subject. You will determine with the person requesting the presentation how much time you will have and what type of visual aids may be relevant and usable at the location of final presentation. You can find some hints in the Briefing section of the book “R.A!R.A! A Meeting Wizards’ Approach” that aids in development of planning questions to ask during this step such as:

  • When do I need to be there? Date of presentation with start/end times and location.
  • Who will be there? Description of primary audience and names of decision makers.
  • What will appeal to this audience and why do they want to know about this subject? Reason(s) presentation is necessary or relevant to this audience.
  • What types of supporting documents and audio/visuals are preferred by audience? Items such as projection or handouts that is preferred by or available with this audience.
  • How much of presentation time should be allowed for questions and answers at the end? Most presentations are followed by Q&A from audience to speaker and knowing the desired timeframe allows better time allotment of prepared speaking points.

2. Prepare your presentation by thinking about both the beginning and ending, and then add the detail in the middle that supports your strong start and end. Now that you know what to say and are aware of your visual aid limitation, think about how you can make the presentation memorable by developing any visuals that may accompany the presentation making sure their flow matches the presentation. When developing visuals, remember you don’t want people fumbling with handouts or noting spelling errors when they could be listening. When preparing, consider what the Presentation Plan form in the book “R.A!R.A! A Meeting Wizards’ Approach” suggests as possible outline questions for a briefing presentation:

  • Why are we here? Reasons presentation is necessary or desirable at this time.
  • What have we done? History, work, or statistics related to purpose or presentation.
  • What do we plan to do? Possible future outcomes or actions as result of presentation or decision to be made based on presentation.
  • What have we learned? Summary of presentation or recommendations.
  • What have we to share? Stories, statistics, charts, or other data to prove points.
  • What do we need? Resources to facilitate presentation and discussion or to accomplish actions.

With the Plan and Prepare steps, you have learned to ask questions to help you develop speaking points and visuals aids. To understand the Practice and Perform steps, see article on “Delivering Presentations”.

Creating a Professional Microsoft PowerPoint Presentation

There are a number of differences between a college Microsoft PowerPoint presentation and a presentation created for your work. A lot of these tips might seem like common sense, but it is the finer points of a presentation that your audience will pick up on, and which will define how much they take from it and if they take it seriously.

The following is a checklist containing the more common points to look for when creating a presentation for your work. It is a good idea to print something like this out and go over it before you turn your presentation in for any kind of review.

  • Use a Template – If you can, you should use the standard template that your company, project, etc. uses for PowerPoint presentations when creating your own presentation. This is what your audience will most likely be expecting, and if not (for instance in the case of a new client) this is what you want them to expect from here on out.
  • Consistent Font Style – You should use a consistent font style throughout your presentation. Places where exceptions to this rule could occur are:

    • Cover Slide – The first slide in your presentation will usually have fonts, etc. that are not found in the rest of your presentation. This is fine, as it can be standard slide for your company’s presentations, or just the standard for your project. It also can be the attention grabber for the presentation, so you will actually want it to stand out.
    • Headers/Footers – The header and/or footer for each slide is usually part of the template that you and your company use for PowerPoint presentations, so it is most likely not going to be in the same font as the body of your slides.

    Other than the above two examples, you should use a consistent font style across sections of your slides. For example, your body text on each slide should share the same font, as well as any headers or footers that exist outside of your template.

  • Refrain from using Clip Art – While it may seem ingenious at the time to make a slide with a big “Idea” light bulb on it, it won’t win you any points with your audience. Clip Art is very generic and really adds nothing to the presentation, it just clutters it up. On the other hand, if you want to use actual pictures of your subject matter, that’s fine.
  • Use Bulleted Thoughts – One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when putting a presentation together is putting too much information on the slide. This usually occurs when paragraphs are used instead of concise and bulleted thoughts. The point of each slide is not to be a Word document; it is just supposed to have points that you can talk to while doing your presentation. Too much information per slide will quickly cause your audience to lose interest and you can pretty much give up hope of them walking away having learned anything. Be concise, and strive to only bring across your main points to each slide.
  • Get Peer Reviewed – This is probably the most important piece of advice to remember. Before you turn your work in, you should always get it peer reviewed as well as reading it through yourself. It’s easy to get lost in your project when you’ve been “in the weeds” for a long time, so it’s always a good idea to take a step back and have somebody else take a look at it. It’s also a good idea to put it away for a little bit and then go through the presentation again yourself to get a fresh perspective on it.
  • The above tips are a good start to a checklist that you can use before you turn in any of your presentations. You should add to it with information specific to your job. This will save everybody review and revision time and make your first draft that much better.