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Nail Your Next Presentation in 5 Steps

Nail your next presentation with these helpful 5 steps

Your presentation is just weeks away. Don’t panic: This is the perfect time to take care of a few tasks that will set you up for success. These five steps will prime your mind, body and deck for the big day.

STEP 1: Create a killer deck.

During a presentation, you’re not the only one on stage; your deck is equally in the spotlight. To make sure it shines, ask yourself these key questions:

Does my presentation tell a story?

Whether it’s a sales call or a TED talk, telling a story with your presentation is pretty much the best way to keep your audience engaged from start to finish. This could mean opening with a personal anecdote, structuring your content to follow a narrative flow, or using a high-concept story woven through all the slides to wow them. Think about your audience and how they respond to information and find the story that suits their needs.

Does my color palette feel fresh? 

Just using your brand colors isn’t always enough to make a presentation pop. Sometimes you need to turn to your secondary palette, or even go off-palette to bring in colors that suit the moment and make things feel fresh and modern.

Does my design feel varied? 

If you are using the same layout on every slide, you are missing out on opportunities to keep your audience’s attention throughout your presentation. Visual pacing is the technique of spreading out the look and feel of your slides to keep visual variety and interest strong throughout your presentation.

An example of using visual pacing to break up the layout and flow of slides

Am I giving my audience the right visual cues on every page? 

Don’t leave it to your audience to figure out what each slide is saying. Each slide should have a clear hierarchy that emphasizes the key points, and also use techniques like contrast, color, and spacing to guide their eye from main message to supporting details. By structuring your slides to make it easy for the audience to follow

These might seem like insignificant details, but they’re important for making your presentation pop. For more on the basic principles that can help you create an engaging presentation, check out our Presentation Design 101 post.

STEP 2: Play with body language.

What will you do with your hands during your presentation? Rest them on your hips? Clasp them in front of you? Let them hang by your side? If you’re not sure, get on your feet and play around with different gestures and postures while reciting your presentation. Try to make your movements natural (architect Vishaan Chakrabarti is a pro at this); otherwise, your audience will feel uneasy. Tip: Big, dramatic gestures work well in large settings like auditoriums, while subtler gestures work better in settings like conference rooms.

STEP 3: Get in front of people.

Practicing in front of people seems like an obvious thing to do, but a lot of people skip this step. Don’t. Hearing your script out loud will flag issues that you might not otherwise notice. Presenting in front of others will also invariably lead to valuable feedback. If possible, try to perform your dry runs in a setting that’s similar to the one where you’ll actually present.

STEP 4: Hit the right tempo.

Mark Twain once said, “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Translation: Your presentation needs dramatic pauses. To find them, work on striking an even tempo while you’re practicing out loud; your ear will pick up on the spots where a pause would be worthwhile. If you tend to talk too fast, use your deck to pace yourself. Limiting one main idea to every page will force you to slow down.

STEP 5: Strike a power pose.

In 2012, social psychologist Amy Cuddy made headlines when she shared research indicating that holding a powerful stance can make a person feel more powerful. (Her study was initially challenged by some academics, but Cuddy published additional research to support her findings.) In short, if you hold a high-power pose — one with expansive posture — for at least two minutes, you will feel more powerful and perform better than if you didn’t hold the pose.

Then, it’s showtime. You’re ready. Go get ’em.

Update (02/24): we’ve revised this article to add some new drops on prepping for a big presentation

Looking for more information about presentations and beyond? Check out our resources for expert advice and tested strategies.

About the author

Kyle Kartz is the Creative Director of Storytelling at VerdanaBold. He is an expert copywriter and strategist, with experience driving major campaigns for global brands in multiple industries. He is passionate about communications, the outdoors, and cooking.



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