Make Good Presentations

With the rapid advancements in communication technology, more and more decision-making is taking place through PowerPoint Presentations. It is increasingly complementing the submission of summaries and the files to the senior, particularly political bosses for soliciting the decisions. A civil servant is invariably asked to give PowerPoint Presentation in front of a select committee or the cabinet to explain and justify what he has written in the summary. It has no doubt eased the job of a civil servant but at the same time has created a lot of difficulties for those who are not skillful in public speaking.
Submission of a summary or an elaborate noting on the file provides a civil servant a veil of secrecy as well as ample time for the decision makers to take a decision on the basis of arguments he had submitted to plead his case. However decision making through PowerPoint Presentation robs him of these two cushions. Now he has to convince the political bosses and get a favorable decision within short time span in front of an audience which invariably is skeptical about the motives of the bureaucracy. It demands a thorough command of PowerPoint Presentation, without which no civil servant can make his mark in future.
With that importance in view, here are some suggestions that can make your presentation smooth and memorable, help boost your confidence, capture attention of your audience up to your last point and during Q&A and  help you receive positive feedback from them.
Features of Presentation
There are certain features of a PowerPoint Presentation which need to be kept in view while making it

  1. Captive audience: Whether invited or coming on their own, the audience in front of you will remain seated for next hour or so. Make listening to you a memorable experience for them in terms of quality of content and its delivery, not a test for their patience.
  2. Time constraint: The average adult has a 20-minute attention span, so, if you want to keep your audience engaged, stick to the point!
  3. Technological dependence: You are delivering a speech which heavily relies on proper function of the certain equipment as such complete mastery of the equipment used for PowerPoint Presentation is absolutely essential. it can fail you
  4. Interactive: Although there is lot of technology being used for a PowerPoint Presentation, in the end it is one human being interacting with other human beings and not machines. That touch of personal interaction is the essence of a good power Pont presentation.
  5. Structural rigidities: PowerPoint Presentation has  a  certain format .You do not have the option of emotional outburst of a speaker or the liberty of a rock star performer .Follow those rules

Steps Involved

  1. Planning and research: The primary purpose of any presentation is to share information with others, so it’s important to have mastery over the subject. Be prepared with the right content by examining the previous papers/files, reading books, searching the internet and verifying the sources of information. Do some research on your audience also and tailor your research according to their intellectual capabilities and professional background. Try to put yourself in their shoes to get a clearer idea about their needs and motivations and their level of knowledge. This will help you to make a connection with each person in your audience so that they are attentive to what you say.
  1. Structuring the ideas: Once you have carried out enough research on the topic, make out a rough structure of what you are going to say in the presentation. Can you summarize all your discussion in one single sentence of six lines which the audience should take to their home as the lesson learnt?
  1. Design and layout: How you will show it on the screen-how many slides and in what order? The colour scheme? The type of fonts and their size? How to use info graphics, animation, and diagrams tables etc. Remember the “Golden Rule of 6”
    1. Minimum slides in a presentation are            6*1= 6
    2. Ideal slides in a presentation are                  6*2=12
    3. Maximum  slides in a presentation are           6*3=18
    4. Ideal number of lines in one slide is              6*1=6
    5. Ideal number of words in one line is             6*1=6
    6. Maximum time (mins) for presentation is      6*6=36
  1. Speech writing/notes: One should not take a chance of making a presentation without first preparing  a written script .Of course once prepared, you can jot down the main points on small pieces of paper when finally making the presentation
  1. Delivery and fear control: After the above comes the most important question of delivery-even if  you are a gifted speaker or have experience of delivering  countless speeches ,do  practice it at least two or three times how to deliver the speech.  If you’re talking to more than 100 people, you need to use a microphone and test the microphone before you start.
  1. Questions and answers: Lastly the questions answer session is the toughest one because you never know who may pose a question which you have not researched or do not have sufficient knowledge. However the more research you have done, the easier it will be to handle it with confidence.

Parts of Presentation
There are 6 parts of any presentation
1. Introduction
2. Background
3. Current position
4. Options
5. Recommendations
6. Conclusions
Start your presentation by seeking the permission of the chair and explain the purpose of making presentation. Also explain major issues you will be discussing and the moot point on which decision is required. Tell your audience what to expect and let them know what you will cover first, whether you’ll be taking questions during the presentation or at the end and so on. Providing these signposts at the start of the presentation will give your audience a clear idea of what to expect, so that they can concentrate on your presentation. Be brief but focused. Thank the chair for permission and participants for their patience
Explain the background of the case and the previous history of the case if it is a follow-up meetng.some of the participants may not have read the summary submitted by you or may be they are new comers. Inform the participants about the progress made and the constraints/difficulties faced while implementing the decisions made during the last meeting.. Do not blame others for your own shortcomings
If other departments are involved, give their viewpoints also or let them express their views. Be brief but do not skip essential details
Current Position
Here the main case is to be explained. Discuss all the facts, figures and findings. Avoid use of jargon; explain if necessary. Apprise participants about the issues involved. Impress upon them the the urgency and why  decision is to be taken one way or other
Present all the options available. Discuss pros and cons of each option/proposal. Normally following options are available in any situation

  1. Let the status quo be maintained
  2. We should revert to original position
  3. New path be taken with tilt toward
  • status quo
  • old position
  • totally new road

Do not give your recommendation at this point; just list down the options.
Recommend the option you prefer the most and give cogent reasons for your preference. Mention the likely negative fallouts. Explain why you prefer as compared to other options. Be passionate but not emotional
Every presentation must end with a conclusion consisting of a few sentences- what you have covered and what is the decision point. An ideal presentation should end with a six/seven line recommendation. Thank the chair/ participants for their patience and nvite them for questions
Six Things to Do

  1. Stick to your main point throughout: Story telling is now a buzz word and is quite fashionable with those who write on management topics. Telling stories can be powerful tools for inspiring and engaging others but my advice is not to resort to such tactics. You are there to make a point not to tell a story. They invariably distract the attention of the audience. Always stick to the main point of your presentation and do not start telling cock and bull stories.
  1. Always maintain eye contact with audience :A presentation  in which the speaker spends all of his time looking at his notes or the screen is a complete failure from the start to the end. Always maintain eye contact with maximum number of your audience as it establishes a personal connection and keeps people engaged. If your audience is small enough, try to make eye contact with each individual at least once but do not start staring at one person. If the audience is too large for this, try looking at people’s foreheads.
  1. Speak clearly and vary the tone/pitch of your voice: Frankly public speaking is a difficult task and needs lot of practice. Anyone can become nervous and start rushing through a presentation with the result that the audience could miss the most important points. If you do begin to feel nervous, take a moment to collect yourself, breathe deeply and start speaking each word slowly but clearly. . (One secret technique: when in doubt shout! Speak loudly.) If you’re talking to more than 100 people, you need to use a microphone and test the microphone before you start
  1. Be careful about spelling, grammar, acronyms: One of the most annoying things in a presentation is carelessness in making grammatical mistakes as it shows lack of respect for the audience besides reflecting poorly on your caliber. Always ask someone to critically read the full presentation to find all the mistakes. Similarly be careful in the use of acronym if it is not a very well known one i.e. UNO, USA etc. Write the full term and its acronym in brackets when using for the first time. Afterwards you can use this acronym without parenthesis.
  1. Use simple slide style .Simple, concise and consistent slides make a good presentation while slides with garish colors, unnecessary animation, or fonts that are too small to read can spoil it. When choosing colors, play safe. . A dark background with white text works best in dark rooms, while a white background with dark text is easier to see in a well lit room. White font on dark blue background is the best bet. Do not use an image unless it is contributing something. Always make use of similar stylistic elements throughout for consistency.
  2. Embed Your Font-Remember to embed the fonts in your presentation. Embedding will ensure that the font you used will display on a different computer system even if that font has not been installed on it. Otherwise it will substitute a different font, often with embarrassing results making your presentation appear unprofessional

Six Things Not to Do

  1. Using animation: Worst thing you can do with a presentation is to add animation to impress the people. These are favorite of the geeks and do not go well in a presentation prepared for a serious audience. I have never seen a flying monkey or a dancing logo in a presentation substituting a good argument.
  1. Using capital words where not necessary:Use of capital words where not necessary is not only distracting but amounts to shouting .Use normal style of writing in your slides
  1. Taking more time than allotted: How much interesting the topic may be or how charming your personality is, never overstep the time allocated for your exposition. It is all the more necessary to be very careful in this respect if there are speakers who have to deliver their speeches after you. Prepare short and concise presentations and try to limit yourself to a few main points. The average adult has a 20-minute attention span, so, if you want to keep your audience engaged, stick to the point!
  1. Cracking jokes/making remarks: If you have a subtle sense of humor, do show it during the presentation as it keeps the proceedings lively. But do not try to be overtly humorous if God has not been kind to you in this respect. Cracking indecent, political or personal remarks are strictly out of question.
  1. Using slides as visual aid- One of the most common mistakes presenters normally make s to write out everything they would like to say on the slides. Never treat your PowerPoint slideshow as the visual edition of your talk. Large sections of text are extremely difficult to read with the result that the audience will often lose interest in the speech. The PowerPoint slides exist to complement your talk, not duplicate it. Always use bullets which will serve as a guide to refer to you as well as to the audience who will be able to just scan the principal points and take notes while you speak. Practice your speech a few times and jot down any supporting details that complement each of your most important points
  1. Fidgeting, playing with objects: It does not add to your presentation; rather provides opportunities to the audience to make fun of you afterwards.

Last Point
Always be prepared for any eventuality/technical hitch because technology can fail you. Remember Murphy’s Law “If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong “. To avoid this, make sure you’re using reliable equipment. Test your equipment setup as early as possible and re-test it before the actual presentation. For a really important presentation in a distant city, it’s safe to consider bringing a technician with you.If equipment/ tools failed you, you should be creative. Improvise. Use anything handy to present your ideas. Initiate a group activity or discussion. Do not grumble. Seek a positive response
PowerPoint presentation is an effective way of communicating and helpful tool of decision making for which proper application of critical thinking, strategic planning, project management and problem solving techniques are needed.It takes practice and effort to deliver a good presentation and  avoid the  common pitfalls. These include not preparing properly, inappropriate content, and faulty delivery. Remember, public speaking is a performance where eye contact, body language, and gestures complement your message to keep your audience engaged.

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