Your presentation introduction is important

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The introduction can be so important as it sets the tone of the whole presentation. Watching and listening to other speakers will help you identify the openers that work in any given presentation environment. It is of course not possible to provide one that works for all but here are a few suggestions for the clauses that you might use

“Good morning, my name is Richard Jemmett.  My contention is that government support for industries in the UK is counter productive….” (The audience will know that you are stating opinions and thoughts not just data and information)

“Place yourself in a small room in Baker Street in 1923, a letter pops through the door, you open it, you read it…….” (The audience will be taken away from the room in which you are presenting into an imaginary room and hopefully be engaged in the story and subject)

“Today I want to present to you for consideration three ideas. First, educational levels in the UK……” (The audience will count with you and know that the presentation is simple and manageable)

“I have five slides, four questions and three answers…” The audience will know that you want to get to the point – and some may notice that you have more questions than answers.

Setting Out Your Presentation Slides for the Best Results

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I like to us e a few rules for my slides that I hope makes them more attractive and readable by the audience.

  1. The slide should have some level of symmetry or balance. For example if you have some bullets on the left maybe an image or diagram on the right to ‘balance’ the slide. Imagine a pivot in the middle of the slide and the words or images have weight – now will it fall to the right or left?
  2. Choose your colours wisely. Ask your self whether the colours go together and what the colour combination means. Do your colours look like the colours used in any brand that you know – this may be good or bad. It’s also good to keep some consistency across the slide pack. Using a different set of colours on each slide suggests that the slides have come from different origins. I am not a great lover of coloured fonts – but they can soften the impact of the writing. For example dark grey can look better than black. Dark blue is also effective and quite easy to read. Please avoid writing in red or green. Those of us who are colour blind just can’t read it. Even red on white is very difficult at a distance. This by the way is true if you are using a flip chart – put down the red pen and pick up the black or blue.
  3. Most people read slides from left to right. It is often best to place bullets on the left and supporting images on the right. When using a diagram and bullets you may like to swap this over. As the diagram/graph may be self explanatory and the bullets just pulling our some key points that if read first would not make sense.
  4. Best to leave off full stops at the end of bullets – it just looks messy and distracts the eye.
  5. Remember that you may be asked to print your slides so anything other than a white background uses lots of ink. The old style of yellow type on a blue background is indeed quite easy to read on a screen but now looks very dated and a good quality printed version is hard to create.
  6. Add automatic page numbering via the master – very helpful if you muddle up the printed slides as you are preparing for the big day. If you are presenting using a handout it is also much easier to ask your colleagues to turn to page seven, than to look for the page with the big graph and four bullets.
  7. To keep things simple it is often best to split the slide into three zones.  These three zones will also help you in presenting the slide which we will come on to later. You don’t have to stick to this layout but it is a good place to start and seems to work quite well.
    • Top, where the strap line goes. The sentence that captures what the slide is all about.
    • The main part of the slide split into two or three areas vertical or horizontal areas for words and images
    • The bottom of the slide – often not used for bullets  or diagrams but containing page numbers, copyright, logos, etc. The bottom of the slide can also contain the lead in to the next slide. For, some this is a sort of end of slide strap line  and for others a small prompt or just a virtual zone that you need use to create the link to the next slide.

Don’t worry about the title

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Describing your presentation with a title helps convey the content to your audience, set the tone of what is to come and also provides a reference, should, for example, you want to create a series of presentations. However, often I see people worrying (or even agonising) about the title of their presentation long before the basic concept and structure is created. It is usually far better to start putting together your structure and topics first and think about a title towards the end or once you have started to practice.

However, it is not always the fault of the author. When a conference programme or even an informal meeting programme is assembled the title of your presentation is sometimes added for you. Don’t worry it is almost traditional for presenters to veer away from the title from the first slide. Worrying about this may well hamper the creation and delivery of your presentation. One trick is to add the title or an explanation of the content of your presentation after the main title. You have probably seen it done before?

Here are a few examples I have made up to give you and idea of what I mean.

Developments in the UK gas industry – Why we need to develop biomethane as an alternative to imported gas before 2020

Lessons learnt from implementing the new IT system – How we can use our new project management and change skills to transform our customer journey.