July is Freedom from Fear of Speaking Month and to celebrate, I’ve invited a team of speaking experts to share their best tips and tricks for improving your speaking skills and overcoming speaking anxiety.
Stunning Presentations Require Stunning Slides
By Guest Expert Trevor Perry
It’s an amazing and rewarding experience when you see a speaker who has everything together. A speaker who has a great message, appears confident, uses the available stage space, motivates and engages the audience. While it seems that some people have an innate talent for speaking, there are a lot of working parts that must come together for this experience to be as stellar as you may have experienced. There are a lot of skills, tools, and techniques required for you to become the best speaker you can be. Over 20 years, I have been engaged with helping many speakers in many facets of the speaking business, and from experience, it is possible to become a stellar speaker in your field with focus, attention, and often some help to learn skills beyond your topic.
I teach a session at technical conferences named “Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking”. In one hour, it is only possible to offer a compressed library of tips and tricks, and in that time, I use practical exercises, impractical thoughts, along with both common and unusual steps. Over many years, at the beginning of each of those sessions, I collect the fears of the audience. I know you are not alone and quite justified in your fears. Events like Speaker Palooza can guide you in overcoming those fears and becoming the best speaker you can be.
My favorite tip to overcome your fear of speaking is to be yourself. There is a lot of emphasis in the speaking industry on being genuine and authentic, and this is warranted. When a speaker is true to themselves, their beliefs, their morals, their ethics, and their message, they shine. No matter where you are on your journey, keep true to you.
One of my specialties is to help build stunning slide decks for speakers. It is most important that a slide deck be one of the tools for a presentation, rather than be the focus of the presentation. We’ve all heard about the overuse, misuse, and abuse of slides. We’ve heard about the reputation of “death by PowerPoint.” We’ve seen presentations with terrible slides and had a poor reaction.
In my experience, slides are one of the tools to be used for our presentations. The focus must be our message. The tools include the stage, the room, the slides, the remote clicker, the audience, our props, our delivery — the list is long. These tools all come together to support our message, not take away focus. Bad slides take away focus. Stunning slides facilitate the message.
Building slides requires some technical skill. The slide deck tool of choice has traditionally been PowerPoint and Keynote. In the last fast-moving decade, the choices have expanded — Google Slides, Prezi, slides.com, Canva, Haiku Deck, and many more. Whichever is your tool of choice, two items are important. First, ensure your selected tool is updated to the most current version. And, take some basic lessons related to that tool — online or an in-person class. There is so much functionality available, and understanding the capabilities of the tool is key to building stunning slides.
The process of creating an average slide deck usually includes the speaker working out of sequence. All stunning slide decks have this in common — the content is first, the design is second. By ensuring your presentation content represents the message and has been edited to focus on your message, you can only be successful with your presentation. The design must be second, so it is informed and guided by the content. Often, choosing a design first can water down the message and focus on just one slide, one image, or one design component. Your audience will remember that one thing to the detriment of your message.
In my session titled “Stunning Slides – Building Presentations to Make a Difference”, I cover these topics. For a shorter version of the presentation, you can download my ebook titled “Ten Tips for Stunning Slides.”
The first three tips are that stunning slides are:
Following here are the excerpts for those tips.
Tip 1: Clean.
Stunning slide decks have no clutter.
The content of the slides in your deck should contain only what is necessary to convey your message. Adding elements that are unnecessary is a common practice — often done out of habit or a belief that adding some “wow” factor is necessary.
Clutter is a means to distract from your message. The contents of each slide should be pertinent only to the message on that slide and relevant to the message delivery. A simple method to declutter is to take each part of your message and move them to separate slides.
For stunning slides, include only the elements that facilitate in delivering your message.
Tip 2: Concise.
Stunning slide decks include only what is necessary.
Audiences will read, or attempt to read, everything on your slides. From the moment your slide appears, the reading commences. The more content initially displayed, the longer the reading continues. For that period of time, the majority of the audience is single-tasking, and all the words you speak become background noise.
When including words on your slides, remember they are called bullet points. The tendency is to use sentence points (and read every word on the slide to the audience), which will require more attention from the audience away from your message. Bullet points contain the minimal amount of words you need, no filler words, few conjunctions, and minimal to zero punctuation.
For stunning slides…keep the content to the absolute minimum.
Tip 3: Consistent.
Stunning slide decks include familiar elements.
Most slide decks are built one slide at a time. Each slide is worked on, and when it is complete, the next slide is addressed. Rarely is attention paid to how the slides work with one another.
Try this next time you are building slides. Play the presentation, then click through the slides very fast. You will notice inconsistencies you may otherwise have missed. Titles and content will move position from one slide to the next. Fonts will change in pitch between the same elements on succeeding slides. You may also notice where your media includes varying types – photos, line drawings, clipart, etc. — which you can now focus on for the entire deck, rather than each slide independently.
For stunning slides…a consistent slide deck ensures your message is delivered without disruption.
As a speaker, if you follow some basic tips of building a slide deck, your presentation will be focused on your message, your stunning slides will facilitate your message, your audience will be engaged and they’ll leave inspired and ready for the call to action you’ve offered.
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About Trevor Perry
Trevor Perry — Storyteller, Instigator, Agitator. Trevor tells stories to translate difficult things into easy to grasp concepts –- from technology education and vision, to professional development topics, to motivational engaging keynote and endnote sessions. He is the author of Never Iron When You Are Naked — the best life/work balance book you can read one page at a time. He is the founder and Chief Extraordinary Officer at URXO — a movement to change the world by finding the extraordinary in people and guiding them to make a difference in their sphere of influence. Find more about Trevor at TrevorPerry.com