Over the past few weeks, I’ve been giving a lot of presentations to a wide range of groups. Often, I watch other people give presentations and try to pick up tips from what other people do well, and where I can brush the rough edges off my own style.  Here are a couple of my favorite tips on making your presentations more compelling:

1. Your slides are illustrations of your talk and visual cue cards.  If you have slides, use them as eye candy or prompts for you to tell your next story or get to your next point.  If you are presenting to anyone over the age of 8, you can probably assume your audience can read, so reading your slides to them is pointless.

2.  People can only process one piece of language based information at a time.  This means people can’t listen to you and read your handouts/slides at the same time.  yet another reason to keeping your slides as visual as possible, with as few words as possible.

3. Be Real and Be Human.  I’ve seen Senator Chris Coons present twice in recent weeks, and I’m always impressed by how he speaks directly to his audience, from his heart, delivering relevant information to the audience.  Telling stories, but also asking the audience for ways to connect what he does in Washington to their lives is a hallmark that makes his presentations meaningful and memorable.

4.  Be Open for Connection.  Part of what Senator Coons also does so well, is to make sure people know how to contact him with the stories that will help him bring a real face to legislation before the Senate.  Don’t forget to let your audience know how to take your initial relationship to the next level, whether it’s for business purposes, or even starting low level social touches.  You never know when these connections might lead to a relationship, business or otherwise, that might be to both of your advantages.

5.  Keep the intro info about yourself short and relevant.  I’ve been in a couple of presentations where the first ten minutes are an introduction of the speaker.  It gets boring.  Keep the “140 characters or less” Twitter limit in mind, and get to the point, make the connection to the audience, and that’s all you have to do.  Anything more is self-indulgent and often name dropping.  Remember your audience has already gotten up out of bed, come to the event and sat down in a room to see you- they have already opted in.  You don’t have to convince them to listen to you.  This isn’t a job interview.

6. Tell a good story.   There should be a narrative to your presentation, hopefully made up of smaller points, with their own stories attached.  By the end of your presentation, people should know something new, be enlightened, be energized, or somehow have something worth while to take away from the time spent with you.  Make sure you have a story to tell that answers the “Why should you care” question, and you make sure you emphasize that point at the end- because that’s what people will remember.

7.  Deliver an Attention Grabber every 10- 12 minutes, minimum.  This may seem like really specific advice, and one of those “rules” that seems cheap and easy.  However, if you read Brain Rules and Made to Stick, you learn that humans have a limited attention span, and without a little jolt, of surprise, of meaningful fact, a joke, or something that resets attention, people will start mentally wander off, and you will lose them.   Use your audience’s attention to your advantage.

8.  Less is more.   Don’t cram too much into your presentation.  Sometimes, it’s tempting to tell everyone everything you know, cram in tons of slides, and try to look smart.  It’s easier for your audience, and easier for you to cover a few things in depth than too many things in a shallow, less sticky, manner.  Write your presentation points on a sheet of paper, and try cutting it down by half.  This editorial process forces you to choose well, and make sure you don;t overwhelm your audience.

Bonus tip 9: Use handouts to help remind people of your major points, with links and references as appropriate.  This extends your presentation beyond the time spent together.   Not only can you put your contact information on these take-homes (making them a good business card) but you can put in all the information you might have otherwise tried to cram into your presentation in the document.  Giving people something to do afterward, to remind them of what they learned, or giving them the next steps to take is always appreciated.  Plus, you can also post these documents on your website as a PDF download, helping to drive folks to check you out online while letting you know how many people wanted to engage further.

Let me know what you think of these tips, and share your favorites!