Rock Your Next Work Presentation By Following These 5 Rules

October 19, 2016

These five rules will make you present like a rockstar

Work presentations really matter. How well you present goes a long way to determining how your colleagues perceive you, and directly affects your ability to advance your career.

You know, no pressure or anything.

Don’t fret though, we are here to help. Using advice from experts in the LinkedIn Learning Library, we came up with five surefire rules that, if followed, will make you present like a rock star.

They are:

1. Figure out exactly what your audience wants from the presentation and then build everything around that.

Indiana University Senior Lecturer Tatiana Kolovou has simple advice for anyone giving a presentation – the presentation isn’t about you, it’s about the audience. The more closely your presentation matches what your audience wants, the more engaged they’ll be throughout it and the more successful the presentation will be.

So how do you figure out what your audience wants?

One option here is to simply ask them, according to Kolovou. For example, if you have to present to your boss, don’t be afraid to ask him or her exactly what they are looking for. Or, if it is your boss’s boss, ask your direct manager, as there’s a high probability they know what that person is looking for.

If you can’t ask the audience, do research, according to Kolovou. Try to understand what your audience would want to get out of your presentation – do they want a deep dive into specifics, or more of a cursory view of what you’re trying to accomplish? Is this presentation about how you’ve done something, or more about results?

Once you know what your audience wants, only then should you start building your presentation out, with everything geared toward your audience’s expectations.

2. When making your slides, stick to the 10-second rule.

Most business presentations today involve PowerPoint slides. And communications guru Todd Dewett has advice for anyone making a PowerPoint deck – stick to the 10-second rule.

What’s the 10-second rule? Simple – whatever you put on your slide, a person should be able to fully comprehend it in 10 seconds or less, according to Dewett. And it is a simple rule to adhere to, as all you have to do is look at your slides one-by-one for 10 seconds each, and see if you can fully comprehend each one.

That means using bullet points. That means, if you use graphics, make them simple to understand. That means putting one or two images on a slide, not seven.

One other piece of advice by Dewett: Just because PowerPoint can do something, doesn’t mean it should do something. In other words, fancy PowerPoint animations might seem cool, but they might be more distracting than anything. Most of the time, you’re better off with simplicity.

3. When presenting, speak slower and pause occasionally to project confidence.

When we are in a stressful or nerve-racking situation, such as giving a presentation, the natural tendency is for our bodies to speed up. That means we talk faster, which leads to a lot of “ums” and “uhs” as our mind tries to catch up with our mouths, and projects insecurity to the audience.

The solution is to consciously slow your talking down, according to Jeff Ansell, owner of the management consulting and communications training company Jeff Ansell & Associates. Specifically, slightly stretch the vowel sound of each word while you’re talking, and add pauses in-between your sentences, he said.

The net effect is a more concise, more confident presentation, which keeps people more engaged, according to Ansell. It also keeps your mind and your mouth in sync, and helps you avoid filler words and sounds that weaken your message – things like “um”, “uh”, “like”, “basically”, “kinda” and “something like that.”

4. Your body language can be your biggest ally – or your biggest detractor.

Just like talking quickly can derail your presentation, so can bad body language. Specifically, body language expert Carol Kinsey shared a few tips you can do that ensure you are projecting the right body language when presenting.

They include:

  • Use your hands when you speak, as it make you appear more engaging and confident to your audience. Holding your hands stiffly by your side or crossing them across your chest makes you appear cold and distant.
  • It’s okay to walk around the room as you present, but don’t walk during key points. When you are standing, stand with your weight evenly dispersed on both feet ­– swaying or crossing your legs when standing projects insecurity.
  • If you are feeling insecure, fake confidence. Seriously. Right before you are about to present, think about a time you were truly enthused and confident, and it should help you act more confident throughout the meeting.
5. Handle questions in one of these three ways.

If you are asked a question during a presentation, there are three possible outcomes: you know the answer, you think the question is off-base or you don’t know the answer.

Dewett has a solution for all three. They are:

  • If you know the answer: Obviously, answer it. But a key point to remember here – be succinct. If you are presenting about a topic, there’s a good chance you know a lot about it, but a single question isn’t an invitation to share all of that knowledge. Answer the question fully, but go no further.
  • If you think the question is off-base: If the question is going to bring the conversation somewhere you don’t want it to go or just doesn’t address the main point of the talk, don’t answer it. Instead, say “I’ll follow up with you after the meeting” or “that’s an interesting question, but I’m not sure that’s focused on the theme of the presentation.”
  • If you don’t know the answer: Obviously, not ideal. But rather than making something up and potentially looking really bad, just be honest. Tell the person you don’t know, but you’ll find out.

Got the five rules? Good. Now go rock your next presentation.

Information for the article above was sourced from courses in the LinkedIn Learning Library. If you'd like to tap into the wisdom of LinkedIn Learning's 9,000 courses, start your free trial today.