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think visibility speaker tips and advice

ThinkVisibility: Speaker Tips & Advice

Yesterday, I attended my sixth ThinkVisibility conference.

This year’s conference was particularly significant for two reasons: it was the first time I’d attended ThinkVisibility in a non-SEO specific role and it was also the first time I had attended the conference representing The Presentation Designer.

There were some really great speakers this year and, while I may not have been taking copious amounts of SEO notes this time around, I took the opportunity to analyse the way people presented and how they used their slides to help communicate their ideas to the audience.

I’ve decided to share with you some simple but effective presentation tips to help future conference speakers.

Tip 1: Try not to Turn Your Back to the Audience

Slides can sometimes be a hindrance to a speaker, especially if they’re using them as notes or even a script.

I noticed a few speakers were overly reliant on their slides, so much so that they ended up turning their back on the audience on the odd occasion.

Although we’re taught not to turn our back on an audience throughout school and higher education, there’s a very good reason for this. For one, you end up breaking eye contact with the room and, in turn, this prevents you from engaging with your audience more effectively.

If presenting to a smaller room of people without the aid of a microphone – though most speakers came through loud and clear thanks to the lavalier (lapel) microphones – you would also notice that the speaker’s voice became harder to hear each time they turned their back to look at the slides on the projector screen.

It’s important to remember to use slides as a visual aid to back up the points you are making and not to use them as a script or a crux. The presenter notes in Keynote and PowerPoint™ are designed to prevent you from doing this. If you have lots of technical information, use handouts – there is nothing wrong with using handouts if needs must.

presenter notes

Tip 2: Keep Your Bullet Points to Three Main Points

Those who know me well will tell you that I absolutely despise bullet points; they are a deceptively evil creation which apparently make our lives easier in summarising a particular point or topic.

The problem is that presenters have become far too reliant on bullet points. Instead of a few key points, slides often end up littered with bullet point after bullet point, disguising what is essentially a big chunk of text that you have to read.

It may surprise you that people didn’t actually come to your presentation to read things; they came to listen and most importantly watch you speak.

If you are going to use bullet points, please try to keep it to three points only.

Still think bullet points are okay? Here are some scientific facts to help change your mind.

Studies by Paul Martin Lester at the California State University have shown that people remember 10% of what they hear and 20% of what they read, but about 80% remember what they see and do. Remember this for your next presentation.

Tip 3: Get out in front of the audience

Pak Hou Cheung

One of the best presentation aids you can invest in is a presentation clicker or control.

Most Apple MacBook’s come with a remote which, when paired with Keynote or PowerPoint for Mac, can be used to change the slides forward and back.

If you are using a Windows machine, I recommend that you invest in a highly rated clicker from Amazon. Kensington is usually a solid bet.

One speaker who engaged with the audience particularly well was Pak Hou Cheng.

I noticed that Pak decided to take up a more central position in front of the projector screen. I believe this helped him to deliver a more natural presentation style. His enthusiasm for the subject came across well.

Standing in front of the speaker stand were your laptop rests will help you engage with your audience better and people can focus on you as a presenter more quickly.

Tip 4: Design for the Back Row

Slide Paul Madden

This slide stood out well.

If you’ve ever sat at the back of the room, you might have noticed that it’s hard to see some of the information on the presentation slides.

Any information hidden below the front row of people’s heads is practically impossible to see without standing up or shifting to a better angle.

Normally, when I design presentation slides for speaking clients this is the number one thing I consider. Not everyone will be lucky enough to have a front-row seat vantage point.

Similar to thinking about placing content above the fold in web design, I recommend putting key points higher up the slides near the top right or top left of the screen. This way even the people in the very back row can see it.

Make sure you use clear typography that is easy to read also. Using a typeface with a 72 point or above should make the text readable at longer distances.

Tip 5: Think Billboards

think billboards

When putting your presentation together, reflect on the advertising billboards you see on your travels.

Can you remember any that stood out? Did you notice anything about them in particular?

  • Visual
  • Big use of typography
  • Usually a simple statement or point
  • Colorful & bright

The best slides are often powerful and visual statements. People see the slide and instantly get the point you are trying to make.

If you had an advertising billboard full of bullet points, how well do you think it would do?

Tip 6: Prepare Well and Prepare Early

sticky notes freelancing lessons

Early preparation prevents poor performance.  Don’t leave your slides until the last minute – you’ll only end up running out of time and having a Death by PowerPoint classic on your hands.

I find it especially useful to start off with a pen and paper.

First, create a brainstorm of all the points, topics, and ideas you want to get across this will help you to construct your presentation more coherently and ensure that you deliver a content-rich presentation, hitting all the key points you wish to share with your audience.

Don’t be afraid to draw out ideas of what you want the slides to look like before you start creating them. I usually use Post-it notes for doing this.

If you can find a blank wall, arrange the Post-it notes in the order you think the presentation should go. Shuffle them around until it’s perfect and then start creating your slides. You can also use the slide sorter view in PowerPoint or Keynote to arrange your slides in order and check the flow of the presentation is right.

Slide sorter view

I hope you found these tips useful. And remember, if you want to avoid the stress, and hassle of creating your very own bespoke presentation deck, The Presentation Designer’s services are just one click away!

Good luck out there!

Also, while you’re here you might want to check out the following write-ups about ThinkVisiblity:

Think Visibility 9 March 2013 – Conference Round Up by Anna Lewis

Old Dogs and New Tricks – by Iain Harper

Think Visibility 9 Review (March 2013) – 5 Years Of Getting More From Your Website! – by Simon Barker of Zath

Photo Credit of Pak by Stephen LilleyMore Photos of ThinkVisibility 9 by Stephen.

Illiya Vjestica About the author

Illiya is Creative Director at The Presentation Designer and has designed presentations for many of the world's most well know brands including Sony, Ralph Lauren & PayPal. He's passionate about improving the world one presentation slide at a time.