Introduction\n\nCommunication is a VITAL ingredient for ongoing success that goes with a pinch of leadership, the sprinkle of hard work, a dash of persistence and finally the all important sprig of teamwork that binds everything together. It enables us to all move in complimentary directions, educates, allows us to understand our strengths and weaknesses whilst also permitting us to grow and evolve via constructive feedback. When effective, communication allows us to create healthy environments that can truly get the best out of ourselves and those around us, much to the benefit of all parties concerned.\n\nToday I'm going to focus on presentations, as it is a topic very near and dear to my heart. As someone who has given countless presentations over the years, as well as witnessed many more presented to me, I've seen my fair share of content delivered in many different ways to varying degrees of success. I've had the opportunity to enter presentation competitions where I've both won and finished second, and have had the absolute pleasure of watching presentations and styles that have knocked my socks off! I've also seen too many narrated slideshows with FAR TOO MANY SLIDES 😫. I wanted to take the time to discuss presentation elements and help contribute towards a world of only good presentations (wishful thinking I know)!\n\nFirst Principles\n\nBefore embarking on writing your presentation, it's key to take a step back and think about what the purpose of a presentation. A presentation is an exchange of ideas, where parties who are knowledgeable about a topic present this topic in the form of information to others who are there to learn. This could be quite simply achieved by standing up at the front of a room, talk for a few minutes before taking questions and then finally sitting down. That's it, there are no other requirements and anything extra is either a helpful addition or an unwanted distraction. It really is no more complex than that 😀.\n\nMan holding a microphone presenting in front of a room full of people\n\nI feel that it is important to think about purpose, because nowadays the concept of a presentation is intertwined with slideshow slides which show information normally up on a screen of some sort. Whilst slides can be used as one of the aforementioned "helpful additions", your presentation SHOULDN'T rely on them as this makes you susceptible to total breakdown should they become unavailable. The easiest way to determine reliance is to think honestly about whether or not you could present if your slides disappear. If your answer is no, then you have a problem. Is your topic so unimportant, so uninspiring, so utterly rubbish that a simple computer glitch or lost USB stick renders it unspeakable? Slides should only be there to help your message, not drive everything. You are supposed to be the one in control!\n\nInstead, it's important to think about the message you are trying to give and find the best ways to get that across to your audience. Slides can be valuable, but they aren't the only game in town. In fact, with all the presentations that I've seen, the best ones DIDN'T rely on slides and used them sparingly for important points. Conversely, the ABSOLUTE WORST presentations that I've seen have been driven by click-clicking through hundreds of slides, where the never ending onslaught of information pushes you closer to madness with every new slide ahaha 🤣! You can write on something visible as you go along (just make sure you don't block it), you can even use interactive demonstrations to get your point across. All this whilst also using slides to show the important points. The conflation of presentations with slideshows is more damage than good!\n\nKeeping Things Interesting Throughout\n\nIn any presentation of information to others, it is VITAL that you manage your audience's expectations at the beginning before you get to your content. Your observers have given up other opportunities and are there to listen to you and only you, so it's important that they know what is coming so that they can prepare themselves for what is coming. This includes stating who you are, outlining your topic, why you are an authority to comment and most importantly, why listening to you will be of benefit to THEM. Don't treat it as YOUR show where YOU get to talk for an allotted time before everyone leaves, it is an important moment where YOU will be imparting beneficial knowledge to THEM so make it count!\n\nAudience listening intently to a presentation\n\nWhen getting your message across, make sure that you respect the time of every member of the audience. Let them know how long you will likely be talking for and if using slides, give them the slide count so that they don't have to suffer through seemingly endless clicks. When discussing your topics, be as succinct as you possibly can, trimming any unnecessary subjects and removing any tangential fluff. They aren't necessary, and unfortunately serve to dilute your topic. Think of it this way, the longer your presentation is, the more words you use and the more slides to click through... the greater the risk of boring your audience to tears and having them switch off and not listen to you. You don't want this, as you'll just be wasting everyone's time, including your own. What's the point of talking if no one is actually listening? If you find it difficult to keep things concise, script some or all of your presentation and be sure to write and rewrite sections to be as succinct as possible.\n\nYou have an audience of people who have willingly given up their time to listen to you speak about your topic, so it's definitely wise to not treat them like total idiots when you are presenting! My golden rule of treating your audience with respect is to not JUST READ SLIDES to them. If you are taking the time to prepare a slideshow, you are already acknowledging that THEY CAN READ, so it's insulting to add nothing else but a distracting narration! It's actually really difficult for people to follow, and because you are reading aloud, you'll likely be looking at the same screen as them and thus be facing the wrong direction for large periods of time. Instead, have information up visually and provide insights for your audience to follow. Send the slides out ahead of time so that people can familiarize themselves with the content before your allotted time (if they want to) so that they only have to listen to your insights on the day. As an aside, if you are worried that people won't attend should you send the slides out ahead of time, then you are admitting to yourself that you will only be reading your content during your presentation and aren't offering anything more. Have confidence in yourself, and ensure your message is a strong one.\n\nStyle and Substance\n\nBe passionate! Get across to people why you care! When presenting, always try to show your concepts to your audience rather then just telling them. Where possible, try to use demonstrations and encourage participation to keep people engaged in your subjects throughout the runtime of your presentation. This will leave a much more lasting impression than if you just stand at the front and talk at people as you are taking the time to get across your point of view. Also, if you are showing information on slides, try to minimise the number of slides that you use as constant clicking makes it difficult to build up your points and can be quite distracting. Instead try to take longer per slide, build up your arguments and most importantly get a good cadence. If you find yourself uttering the words "we have a lot of slides to get through today", then you definitely won't be giving the most riveting presentation!\n\nMan giving an engaging presentation in a blazer!\n\nIf you are using slides to illustrate your points, don't fill your slides with large paragraphs of text otherwise you will have to shrink the size making it very difficult to read, especially for people at the back of your room. Also, don't use images with fine details as your audience won't be able to make them out even if you print them out and distribute them. Whats the point of having content in your presentation that no one will ever read?! Before showing your slides off, always take the time proofread any text on slides, and check text and image for consistency. Silly mistakes can serve to undermine your message so take the time to keep them to the bare minimum or (preferably) non-existent.\n\nRemember that you don't have to use all the time afforded to you for your presentation, which is useful to know when you are trying to keep things succinct. You NEVER want to "fill time" otherwise you will be rambling and run the very real risk of boring your audience thus diluting the importance your message. Instead, give a concise presentation and then leave plenty of time for questions to allow your audience to understand your points further and plug any gaps. For example, if you are given 20 minutes, aim to use up to 15 minutes to talk and the remaining 5 minutes to answer questions. Your audience will thank you for it, and you won't be scrambling around at the end to get your last points out!\n\nPresentation Core Elements\n\nWhen giving a presentation, there are important elements that you need to include to help guide your audience along the journey you are taking together (slides or no slides). These established norms let you clearly outline your topic, set the structure and pace of your presentation, as well as help your observers to follow along. There is more to it than just presenting pure topic content and then abruptly stopping ahaha! I have attached a template that explains the core elements required for presentations, which includes the following slides.\n\nTitle: Important headline information which includes the topic, who you are and what the presentation is about. This preferably should be set against something visually appealing to draw your observers in as likely they've seen many boring presentations before. You want to stand out!\n\nIntroduction: The story you are going to tell and why it matters.\n\nOutline: How you are going to tell your story so your audience knows what to expect from your content.\n\nContent(s): Tell your story!\n\nDemonstration(s): This is optional (not necessary suitable for every presentation) but important to mention as anything visually interactive and engaging will carry the most weight and help to strengthen what you are saying.\n\nConclusion: Wrap up your story, and tell the audience what you want them to take away from the occasion.\n\nQuestions and Answers: Where your audience gets to clarify and learn more about your topic on their terms. This is definitely the most important part of your presentation, so make it count!\n\nPlease note that just because the template is in slideshow format, you don't have to use slides! Be creative, and aim to really WOW your audience!\n\nSimon Ramzi presenting at the IET Present Around the World Competition\n\nFeedback\n\nFollowing your presentation, get feedback from your audience so that you can tweak your approach and your content to make it the best it can possibly be. In a world where "best" is constantly evolving concept, I'm a huge fan of continuous improvement, especially through constructive feedback and I have even written an article about this. I recommend that you check it out!\n\nThe Importance of Giving Feedback Constructively\n\nEngaging and Educational\n\nPresentations can be an excellent way of getting important concepts across and inspiring people to go away and learn more about a topic. Like with anything in life, there is a sliding scale when it comes to quality, and it's important that we do all that we can to keep our audience engaged throughout. We need to deliver our content clearly and succinctly, as well as ensure that we respect the time and intelligence of our audience when presenting to ensure that our message is effectively delivered to them. With enough practice and experience, we can all deliver to a high standard and hopefully become presenters that audiences WANT to see!\n\nTake care and all the best, Si.