How to Create An Engaging Presentation

For me, the hardest part of making a new presentation is getting up the energy to start writing it. That’s why, rather than begin with writing the text, it’s easier for me to first tackle writing the headline. This also tends to result in a more powerful and more cohesive presentation.

Let’s say the topic is “How to start a business.” Okay, so I start with that as a thought, a placeholder. It’s too boring to keep as a headline, so I might next change it to “Everyone can start a business!” Then to add a little more life to it, I might come up with a subhead that would pull people in, just the way a tabloid newspaper headline might. So I might add as a subhead, ”Even if you are broke, a school dropout, and never worked a day in your life!” Now, not only do I potentially have the audience’s interest, I’ve also gotten myself more interested in writing about it, too.

Make a Promise to The Audience That You’re Going to Deliver Interesting Information

Additional subheads with additional hooks can get the audience to continue to pay attention. For example, I might add: “I’ll show you 17 powerful secrets that will help insure success for anyone starting a business!”

By taking a boring headline and making into a very interesting headline, I am going a long way in keeping my audience engaged in the presentation, which is extremely important. If they are engaged, they are much more likely to not only listen to the talk – the whole talk – but to also seriously consider the suggestions I am making as well. They are also more likely to recommend my presentation to others.

Another approach is to start with one major headline and theme for your presentation, but then break it into a number of discrete sub-themes. Then, within each sub-theme, you can include even more compelling headlines as you begin to develop it and outline your points.

Once you have your major headline and theme and your sub-headlines and sub-themes, you’ll need to come up with points to support them. Just jot down some quick bullet points. You can fill in the text later.

Remember you don’t need to have parallel construction in your presentation; in fact it’s better to vary it. Maybe you demonstrate the point of one sub-headline with a story, with another you give half a dozen factual support points, and for another you base your presentation around a diagram.

Once you have a bullet point outline done, start writing the text. You could start from the top, or you could just jump to whatever section seems easiest to write at the moment. In fact, that’s probably what I’d do. If I felt my ideas were flowing especially well I might dive right into the most difficult parts.

I tend to keep my first drafts rough, just to keep the rhythm of my writing going. Then I go back and “clean the mess,” rewriting once, twice, maybe three times.

If you can have fun putting the presentation together, it is going to sound more like fun to the people listening to it.

Keep your presentation segments in bite-sized pieces. The great thing about presentations versus simply reading something is that the presentation can be much more compelling to people. Your audience is more likely to be swayed by a live presentation and more likely to act on your ideas and/or suggest them to others.

But the downside is limiting yourself from presenting too much information in a live presentation. Even if you have a lot to say, don’t force it. Allow yourself time to present your information slowly and with emotion, even if it is a dry topic. And be sure to allow yourself time to summarize what you are saying.

As you wrap up the draft of your presentation itself, ask yourself this question: If the audience can only remember a very small portion of what you are presenting, what do you want them to remember most? Make sure you hit these key points again and again. Consider explicitly identifying “takeaways” – a very few, very short highlights of key points – in your presentation.

What about the “PowerPoint”, you might be asking? OK, I’ll say it again: I hate PowerPoint. A few visuals are good, but a lot of visuals are bad, much worse than no visuals at all, in my humble opinion. I’d prefer to see you use some kind of non-PowerPoint presentation for a change – the more unique your presentation is, the more it will be remembered.

People not used to making presentations can get nervous doing so. To overcome this nervousness, first make sure you know the material cold. Second, get used to making presentations. Make mock presentations. Make them in your mirror. Tape yourself. Get a couple friends to listen to your presentation. Then try to make a couple presentations to audiences that are not as important as the much more important audience for which you are preparing.

Everyone is a little nervous making presentations, but your audience will forgive a little nervousness. But when you get so nervous that your throat becomes dry and it’s hard to talk – yikes. So make sure you have a glass of water there, and don’t hesitate to stop and drink it during a presentation and even pour yourself another glass if you need more.

Try to get the audience to hold their questions until the end. An unplanned stop for questions can derail the pace of the presentation. But of course, you are already derailed if you are overcome with nervousness. Have you totally forgot what to say next? Why not stall for time and ask, “Any questions at all?”

If you’ve never done it before, making a presentation can seem daunting. But there’s really nothing to it. If you’ve ever had a long and interesting phone conversation with a friend, you have the ability to make a great presentation. After a little practice and a couple of actual presentations, you’ll feel like an old hat at it.

Takeaways You Can Use

  • Keep them wanting more.
  • Visuals can be helpful, but don’t overload your audience.
  • It can seem daunting, but we all have it in us to give a great presentation.

About Bob Adams

Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, the go-to learning platform for starting and running a business.