How to Give a Successful Presentation

Whew! The 2013 NFPW Conference has ended.

Normally, I would be quite sad about that and missing all my friends. This year, though, I agreed to give two presentations, and I was scrambling to be ready. Overall, I think they went well (although that’s up to the audience members to really say).

The most difficult part of a presentation – at least for me – isn’t actually giving the presentation, it’s getting it started. I give my fair share of presentations so I thought I’d share a few tips that I have learned along the way.

Define your purpose. What do you want your audience to get from the presentation? Once I’ve determined that, I write it down and keep it front and center as I am preparing. I also focus on how I can explain my points, and, if I’m able to, entertain them a bit. I’m not a comedian, but I find sharing personal anecdotes makes a presentation more human.

Prepare and then prepare some more. For both of my presentations at NFPW, I did hours of research. Not all of it went into the presentation but I wanted to be able to answer any audience questions. I took a day off from work to research and begin organizing my notes. It helped to have a day of uninterrupted time to pull my research and thoughts together.

Simplify. With my purpose clearly defined, I went out of my way to stay on point and to keep the presentation as direct and impactful as possible. I wasn’t trying to impress with fancy slideshows. I wanted to convey information.

Know your audience. With NFPW, I know the audience is going to ask lots of questions. Participants will range from novices to veterans. I always look forward to a veteran member sharing additional information with me – and my audience. Many times I prefer to speak without a PowerPoint presentation because I like to engage and interact with my audience. At NFPW, I chose to use PowerPoint, because I know members are attending lots of sessions and gaining lots of information. Having a few (not hundreds) of slides on which key points are listed, helps to focus an audience. And I never read from slides.

Practice. I do a few practice runs of a presentation to ensure that timing works. I also review the material again to confirm that I am staying true to my objective. If I have time, I ask someone to review it or let me run through it with them. Invariably, I find a few things to tweak.

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5 thoughts on “How to Give a Successful Presentation

  1. Pat Hassard says:

    I remember a presentation you made years ago for PRSA Richmond on using social media. It was excellent. I wish more PRSA presentations were as good as yours.

    Pat Hassard
    GateHouse Communications

  2. Gloria Watkins says:

    Cynthia, I know that your presentation went very well at the NFPW conference. Becca, a First Timer, couldn’t stop talking about how impressed she was with you and your workshop

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