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From Yawn to Yay: Jumpstart Your Presentation!

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tips-better-presentingBy J. Thompson
Online Career Tips Contributor

Are you a great public speaker or do you just think you are? Or perhaps you’re not comfortable leading a presentation? Here a few tips to help you jumpstart an engaging presentation.

The Backstory

I started a new job at a software company and one afternoon the CEO popped in and said something to the effect of—I need you to prepare a presentation on X and I want to see it in one hour! The topic was highly technical, I was new and other leaders would be listening in. Rather than stress, I fired up PowerPoint and cobbled to together a presentation with lots of data.

The Panic

Pencil’s down. I looked back through the presentation and realized as the clocked ticked down to my ultimate professional demise that though my presentation had tons of information, it lacked a cohesive and digestible narrative. It was all over the place. I had data to support my argument, but it was obviously unclear what my argument was. Five minutes. Panic set in.

The Solution

Fortunately, a colleague sitting nearby gave me some sage advice by asking me these simple questions about my hastily prepared presentation:

  1. What’s the story?  
  2. What are your three succinct points that you have to convey?
  3. How does the data in the presentation link to the story?

Then it clicked. Tell a story!  In a matter of seconds, I went from swimming in a sea of confusion to a clear game plan. The presentation worked and it all started with an engaging intro that was told like a story. Much like most films are told in three acts, the audience’s imagination must be captured in the first few minutes by making the story relevant, relatable and riveting. Not sure what I mean by all this alliteration?

Check out this great slideshow on “5 killer ways to open up your next presentation.”

If these tips don’t help and you find your presentation sputtering, you can always cut to the Q&A early so people can make happy hour.

J. Thompson is the Vice President of the Content team at American Public University. He earned an M.F.A in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles and performed his undergraduate studies in English literature, political science and business management between the University of New Mexico and East Carolina University. His career insights draw upon experience as a communications vice president supporting learning management, applicant tracking, and talent and leadership development for Bank of America and other Fortune 500 firms.

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