Delivering an effective presentation is about more than how you speak and act onstage; it’s about what you say. All the charisma and confidence in the world can’t make up for a presentation full of content that flies right over the audience’s head.
In certain industries, it’s a constant challenge to break down dense, complex information for an audience with varying degrees of familiarity. While you might have years of expertise under your belt, it could be mostly new for those watching. So how can you convey complex information as part of an accessible, interesting presentation for everyone in the audience?
Here are four tips to keep in mind:
Watch Out for Jargon
While you might speak fluent “industry jargon,” including too much will make your presentation sound like an unfamiliar language to those who don’t. Avoid technical language where you can, and keep it in your presentation only if it’s necessary to prove a point.
If you do include any buzzwords or specialty terms, make sure to follow them up with an explicit definition so your audience can get a grasp on the subject. It’s your job to guide your audience through what they need to know so they can benefit from the main takeaways of your presentation.
Presentations have the power to bring to life what would otherwise just be words on a page or screen. After all, social storytelling has been a hallmark of humanity for thousands of years! So what makes your presentation different than simply handing each audience member a pamphlet and telling them to brush up on their facts? Or simply projecting your research on the overhead display and letting them draw their own conclusions?
Well, to start, you can provide context by creating a story around the rote data and technical lingo. Instead of kicking off your presentation with a laundry list of statistics and procedures, try framing it as part of a larger story. This will pique everyone’s interest and help them feel connected to the larger narrative.
Research shows that a multimedia approach is more effective than a purely written/verbal one. Using color, size and shape helps the audience figure out relationships and quickly pull the most important information. Which would you rather look at: a slide full of bulleted text — or a graph, chart, map or diagram that explains the same thing in fewer words?
There’s a reason that we often say “you have to see it to believe it.” Tapping into humans’ penchant for visualization is a smart way to instantly make the content of your presentation pop and stick, no matter how complex it is.
Check Audience Retention
You’re passionate about your topic, which is great. But you also risk charging full steam ahead without stopping to make sure the audience is actually aboard the train. How can you make sure your audience is on the same page without totally derailing your presentation with clunky interruptions?
Hosting a truly interactive presentation means that you can ask the audience questions and collect their answers in real time. Polling software embedded in your PowerPoint allows you to check that your audience understood your last point before forging ahead. All they need is an Internet-connected device to chime in. If a large portion of the audience misses a question, you can adjust your sails on the fly and fill in the gaps before you continue.
Your presentation is only as effective as it is understandable. Just as it’s important to develop your speaking habits and stage presence, it’s also crucial to work on how you convey complex information. Infographics, storytelling and interactive presentation tools will help clarify, while jargon will only serve to convolute the point.