D E S I G N your words.

Posted on October 8, 2012 by


In the modern world so much information is available at our fingertips with a simple Google search. However, we are becoming more and more accustomed to instant gratification, which means we want our information faster, simpler, now. Thus, the interactive and engaging presentation is becoming a vital tool to teach and share information. But how do we make an exceptional presentation? How can we get our point across in fewer words? How do we talk about the Renaissance like we are telling a story? Read on to learn some helpful tips.

First, know that people want their information fed to them. Gone are the days where our Powerpoints are filled to the breaking point with text that no one reads. Garr Reynolds says in his book Presentation Zen that images are key to creating an attractive presentation. See, a good presenter does not rely on his Powerpoint to be his notecards. He has a few key words or points on the slide, but the majority is taken up by a picture. But what kind of pictures do we use? The answer: relevant ones that our audience can attach memories to. This is because our audience wants things simple, they want images. Thus, while we are supplying the audio, we give them something to look at and remember.

But the pictures in our presentations mean nothing without our words. Reynolds emphasizes this point by saying that we should tell a story to help draw the attention of our audience. Everyone loves a good story! Therefore we present like storytellers, because in the end, our audience does not want to work, they want to listen and enjoy. But think about this, how does a story sound? Well, certainly not with a bunch of “ums” and “uhs.” We should know our story by heart, so practice, practice, practice. In addition, besides the obvious “have energy”  and “make eye contact,” there are many ways to subliminally engage our audiences. Nancy Duarte gave a TED talk earlier this year on precisely that. In the video she talks about how she analyzed the most influential speeches of all time (think “I Have a Dream”) to find what made those talks so special. What Duarte gives us is a simple formula (skip to 6:20 on the video for a captivating presentation).

She says to begin by telling the audience “What is”. What is going on right now? How are things in the present? Basically, inform the audience of the problems. Then you go on to tell “What could be”. This is how your idea is going to make the “What is” better. Now you have to switch between the “What is” and “What could be” to keep the attention of your audience and convince them that your “What could be,” is what they want. Finish on a high point and “describe your world as a new bliss” after your idea is adopted. This will help prove to the audience that your idea is going to make the world a better place.

Duarte gives many wonderful tips in a compelling presentation that gives us tools to being great presenters. If you watch the video, also notice how she uses her own techniques. I did, and from then on I was convinced that her way to presenting was the right way.

So I leave you with this thought: To make a presentation great, you need to be in charge. Engage your audience, make them want to listen. Sell your idea. Design your words.

Works Cited:

1. Duarte, Nancy. “Nancy Duarte: The secret structure of great talks.” TED, Feb.
2012. Web. 8 Oct. 2012.
2. Reynolds, Garr. Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and
Delivery. California: New Riders, 2012. Print.

Image Citations:

1. Bad example of a powerpoint slide: http://cdn3.computerworlduk.com/cmsdata/slideshow/3236618/img_081810-bad-powerpoint-10_thumb555.jpg
2. Design Header: http://rockstartemplate.com/headerdesign/design_header.jpg
3. Tips and Tricks to Rule the World: http://blog.duarte.com/2009/08/slideshare-contest-worlds-best-presentation-09/
4. Good example of a powerpoint slide: http://blog.intelligent.ly/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Slide19-300×225.jpg
5. Nancy Duarte on TED: http://matchstic.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/nancyduarteTED.jpg

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