how to create a great presentationLet me first say that learning how to create a great presentation and putting it all the work is definitely a process that you grow into and yes, it is a lot of work.  But one that is definitely worth it and very rewarding. Anybody can prepare a presentation but I am talking about the one that just inspires and moves people. The great presentation that is TED style, which makes it look like it is so natural and friendly but everybody knows the enormous amount of work that goes into preparing those presentations.  Creating a presentation can definitely be stressful and no we are all not borned with the natural talent of public speaking.  Like anything else, we need to work and hone our skills just like practicing an instrument or parenting or leadership. It takes practice.

The Seeds of a Great Presentation

I will be speaking at the National Laboratory Information Technology Summit 2015, NLIT 2015, in May. The summit is approaching rapidly and as I work through my presentation I thought wouldn’t that be a great way to share what I do to get ready for my presentations.  My presentation is about “teleworking” titled “Is Teleworking for Everyone?”. Let me first say that I am stoked about the opportunity that I get to share my knowledge, experience, lessons learned, ups and downs about this topic.  After all, I am a seasoned full time teleworker for about 2 years now!  Phew!  Can’t believe how time flyes.  But really when it comes to presentations it doesn’t matter how great your ideas are, it doesn’t matter how well you know your material, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have under your belt, what matters is that can you move people with your ideas, can you inspire and/or challenge people based on your experience and maybe take a different action next time.

Don’t get me wrong I think it is very important that you dig deeper and find that deep connection with your topic cause passion is contagious. If you can’t relate to your topic, if your topic doesn’t excite you, how would it excite and move others after all.

First Steps Through a Great Presentation

If you are like many people, preparing a presentation might start out with opening PowerPoint on Windows, Keynote on Mac, right?.  Well wrong!  You really should plan your story first.  Just like a movie director, you need to write the story line for your presentation. Forget the PowerPoint, forget the edits/typos, just like I write my blog posts, you worry about your message and story line first.  You will have plenty of time to design pretty slides once the story is complete but if your story is boring, it doesn’t matter how pretty your PowerPoint presentation is, your presentation will be boring, period.

Master the Story Line

It is nice to have data, facts, and analysis to challenge the listener, after all we all love to learn, but you also need to share your journey with your audience. That is why story telling is so important.  You might say, “Arzu, I have a very technical presentation how can I tell a story?”.  My answer to you is you didn’t dig hard enough cause there is always a story. People will remember the story so if you want your technical presentation to be remembered, you need to tell the story behind it. I sure am not talking about taking out all the skeletons from your closet but the emotional story that really matters with your message.  Besides we all love stories.  We all love stories where someone gets in trouble, hits rock bottom, and gets out of it again.  We never get sick of it!  The story actually may not even be yours.  There are three types of stories you can tell in your presentation.

  1. Your personal story, appropriate with your topic.
  2. Stories about other people who have learned a lesson and conquered a situation following your ideas.
  3. Stories involving big companies, brands, or products.  They could be success or failure stories.  Again related to your message.

The point is give the listener a character to cheer for!

Your Action Step

Direct your movie and pull out a pen and paper (ok, Evernote, Scrivener, or MSWord) and start writing the story line with caring less about the presentation.  If you were to tell your presentation to your friend, what would you tell her/him?  Write your script and don’t worry about the edits…  Once you are done, take a break for a few days, re-read your story, edit it and send your script to your trusted company for feedback.  But more on that in the next post, Part 2 of How to Prepare a Great Presentation, till then, take care!