10 Tips to Improve a Presentation

1. Drop the bullet points

Bullet points add extra noise and clutter to the slide, which means the presenter and audience spend more time staring at the slide than having meaningful interactions. Instead, put a single sentence at the top of the slide that summarizes the main point of your slide, and support the sentence with visuals. 

2. Use real pictures - not clip art

You can find free stock photography on website like www.pexels.com and www.123rf.com. You can find flat icons at www.thenounproject.com.

Make sure to look for a Creative Commons license. Check to see what the image requires for credit/attribution.

3. Consider your audience

A presentation is about helping an audience adopt your idea or remember your information. Why is your audience there? How much will they know about your topic before your presentation? How is your topic relevant to them?

4. Break your presentation into 3 to 4 main sections

If you're tempted to cheat and add more, don't. Any more sections will exceed your audience's working memory capacity. Having three to four main sections will also keep you focused.

5. Practice

This means mindful, purposeful, dedicated practice. We're not going for memorization or perfection. We're going for a feeling of confidence that you can handle anything that will go wrong the day of the presentation. "What could go wrong?" you may ask. Don't.

6. Begin preparing for your presentation away from the computer

Creation starts with a pencil and paper, not on a computer. Start brainstorming topics or talking points for your presentation with a notepad, or better yet, sticky notes. One idea per sticky note.

7. Tell them a story

This doesn't mean you should break out the fairytales, but it does mean you need to use the elements from the story that have mesmerized humans through the ages. Whenever possible, use true stories in your presentation, descriptive language when appropriate, and be authentic. 

8. Hook 'em early

People usually start a presentation with their name and affiliation, but is this the most important information? Try "flipping" the intro by hooking your audience with a few sentences as to why the presentation is relevant to them. Then introduce yourself and your organization. Watch how your audience leans forward to hear more.

9. Write a sentence for every one of your main points or slides

Even if you end up deleting the sentences from the slides, or using blank slides, the act of writing these sentences and transitioning between them will help you prepare for your presentation.

10. The genius doesn't always show up, but you need to

In her inspiring TED talk, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about the genius as an entity that emerges at mysterious times to bless the creative process. Giving a presentation is a creative process; one which the genius sometimes inspires and sometimes doesn't. If we've put in the proper time and effort, whether the genius shows up becomes somewhat less critical. We've done our job.