7 key skills for presentations

Ever had to sit through a terrible PowerPoint presentation? Whilst the video below is funny, it highlights some of the dangers of presentations.

At some time or other every intranet manager has to do a presention. All those stakeholders and vested parties demand it. If like me, you’re one of life’s introverts, you dread these moments, even perhaps avoiding them. In fact, I wouldn’t be suprised if the number one reason some intranets do not have a senior stakeholder is due to the fear, and hence avoidance, of having to present to said stakeholder. Of course there is more than one way to present to stakeholders (I will try and cover the ‘power of a quick coffee’ in a later post).

To make matters worse, we sign up to seminars with intranet guru’s or watch Youtube or TED videos of great orators, and wonder why we can’t give great presentations just like them. There is a reason these people get paid to speak, they’re good at it. They’re professionals. Which means they work at it. They hone their craft. Us mere mortals might not be able to copy these guys, but we can learn from them.

Practice, practice, practice

I watch a lot of stand up comedy and I am always amazed at how spontaneous a well crafted routine can appear. The reality however is, this routine will have been fine tuned over weeks or months. Each spontaneous aside, edited to ensure balance and fit. Watch one comedians early routine and then watch the same routine later and you will notice the continued editing, refining and development of what, in the later routine appears an ad lib. So while it might sound counter intuitive, more practice will make the presentation appear more natural. It also means you are less nervous, more relaxed and that will translate into confident body language.

Make the presentation for your audience, not for yourself

Even Communication professionals make this mistake. It’s easy to start off on the wrong foot and ask the question, “What do I want to say?” but you need to ask the question, “What do my audience want from this?” Maybe they’re Finance people, interested in data and stats, maybe they’re creative types who want ideas and themes, not raw data. If you figure out what you audience want, then you can decide how to frame your topic for them. What story will work for them?

Tell ‘em what you told ‘em

I always remember the “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.” approach. This usually results in an effective presentation because you end up keeping things pretty simple.

The Rule of Three:

In writing and speech writing in particular, there is the rule of three. Using the Rule of Three allows you to express concepts more completely, emphasize your points, and increase the memorability of your message.

When presenting its useful to remember ‘Use one for power. Use two for comparison, contrast. Use three for completeness, wholeness, roundness.’

– Roy Peter Clark

Read more about The Rule of Three:


Tell a story:

Like my dad always used to say, a picture paints a thousand words and a story can help paint a picture. Most content of presentations is boring, heavy duty work stuff. If you have this kind of presentation, you may find yourself focusing on explaining the data and your audience might get lost. Keep your slides simple and make them all part of a story. All good stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.

Powerpoint is not the message

It’s easy to get excited when creating a presentation with lots of colors and crazy animated, but, if the video above shows us anything, it’s that these can really distract from the presentation itself. Powerpoint is not the message, people are here to listen to what you say, not judge your choice of fonts. Try jotting the story down on paper first, what do you want each slide to say. Only then should you move over to powerpoint and build the slides. Keep it simple and if you’re not a designer, use a template.

About Dan Leonard

Based in the Netherlands, I've been working on intranets and digital workplaces for over 12 years. Mainly in financial services for Learning & Development, HR and Corporate Communication functions. I am interested in the skills required by Intranet Managers and Digital Workplace Leaders now and in the future.


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