It is time for change in science: Personality and personal charisma are important key skills for scientists of the future. In times of ChatGPT and artificial intelligence, we need personalities who share their unique passion. Let personality shine through presentations! Read more
Here are five timely tips that are often overlooked. Yet these can make all the difference between a just average speech and a top-notch presentation.
Do you spend too much time preparing your presentation because otherwise, you would have to postpone the more important work? Never mind, the best presentations are those delivered spontaneously. This way you will appear authentic – for sure! No one will notice in case you skip important items anyway. If this is not your cup of tea, then of course you can also learn your speech by heart. You will never forget what you actually wanted to say.
Great visuals capture attention. But the full impact often comes in revealing something surprising about it. At the same time, many people mistake PowerPoint as a script to read content during their presentation. In this blog we will highlight some of the major mistakes using PowerPoint, at the same time demonstrating the real power of how to get to the point with your presentation.
Intelligent content needs an emotional implementation. Communicate rational facts emotionally, since data leads to judgements, not decisions. When logic meets emotion, messages are not only heard but also understood.
If using PowerPoint or any other presentation software, you should work with photos and images: Emotional and colorful visuals are more likely to be noticed than plain text. Large letters attract attention and cause a faster, longer, and more emotionally loaded audience reaction compared to small fonts.
What do you reveal in your first Slide?
Compare the two following slides and decide which one raises audience attention. The first slide is too colorful and not consistent in terms of style and font. Do we really need to include each single institution and sponsor? While this might be requested by your organizations, it is of no extra value from a pure presentation perspective. The second slide reduces information to a minimum, mentioning both speech title and speaker combined with an impactful image.
The latter is to be discussed: You may prefer a more factual approach in a business context or while defending your PhD thesis. On the other hand, the illustrated slide creates a more emotional effect and might be appropriate for informal event or a Science Slam. Another aspect to consider is title length: Especially research titles are too detailed. I suggest using a short, catchy title. If appropriate, combine it with a more precise subtitle including key expressions.
Clean up your Slides: Maps are Storytellers
The next slide is cluttered with unnecessary information. We do not need to share exact locations of research sites in a presentation. Map descriptions are of no extra value either. Even the title “Research Area” is redundant since we can mention it verbally. In the example at hand, I suggest enlarging the map to the full slide while removing table and figure descriptions without substitution. Depending on the target audience, we do not even need to share the research area as being a part of Spain. It might be appropriate at an international congress or while presenting outside Europe, but it is redundant in Western Europe and definitely in Spain.
Tables out, Visuals in!
Some presentations highlight detailed results in complex tables. Those who see the following table for the first time will need some time to read in and see all the details.
As a presenter you are however challenged to ensure that your audience can quickly grasp your content. Tables might be fine for your PhD thesis and publications, while a visual presentation should translate complex information in a stepwise approach. For the following visual slide, you may want to start with the image and location before highlighting the main results (here: a graph of CaCO3 contents in soil). After explaining those results, you can also include a brief conclusion as on the top of this slide.
Images not Text on Slides: Less is more
The following two slides have been discussed in a former blog contribution already: https://redelandschaften.de/en/present-with-pechakucha/
What stands out on the first of these slides are at least four aspects, highlighting some common mistakes regarding presentation slides:
- It is heavily overloaded with eight images. Instead, I recommend single images completely covering single slides. It is self-evident that microscope images should be as large as possible (at the highest possible resolution).
- Images do not reflect the natural order as shown by the model on the right. The audience first must elaborate on the spatial relationship of the images. If these are placed in spatial relation to each other, the vertical sequence e11 – e10 – e8 – e2 is the best choice. Presenting four single slides, each with a picture in the appropriate order, would avoid any possibility of confusion.
- The slide is text heavy. I suggest reducing words to a minimum. The audience will focus on your spoken words, so you can remove them from presentation slides. Leave them on handout slides instead. Arrows or markers in the photo may explain and underline important characteristics. In any case, the written words are hard to read with font size 12. Technical literature recommends a size of 18-24 pt, and 28-36 pt for the title.
- The speaker may display presentation title on the first slide only. Repetitive information at the bottom of the screen does not provide any useful information but rather overloads the slide.
A better approach is to highlight a few selected images on separate slides, with little or no text while highlighting differences and/or time development. You may combine expressive and emotionally charged images with short metaphors or a conclusion, as on the following slide with a single image. Here you can even start a quiz by asking your audience whether they can recognize details (here: marine fauna, highlighted within yellow circles). This way you encourage them to think and participate at the same time. Like on the former slide you can even summarize a short conclusion. It corresponds to a one-sentence pitch for this section of your presentation, like the one we work on in my Science Pitch trainings. https://redelandschaften.de/en/training/#sciencepitch
Summarize your Conclusions
I have seen hundreds of presentations where conclusion and summary are presented using a detailed text slide. I have done this myself for many years. But there are better alternatives: a visual summary like the one on the right, or a black slide, as we will see in a moment. You can move written summaries to the handout instead.
How to finish your Talk effectively
How do most people finish their presentation? They love to share “thank you slides”, or even an extensive list of literature resources. While the latter might be part of your handout, I suggest removing this slide without substitution. It is of no extra value for your audience. A black slide is a much better alternative, since your audience will shift its focus away from slides turning towards you. Now that you have gained full attention, you can deliver your last words: Your key message, a call to action or an inspirational and possibly a short “Thank you!”.
I have summarized this blog in a video applying the popular PechaKucha format: https://youtu.be/i8EZ7gEeoLM The video highlights some dos and don’ts on visuals, including best-practice examples. If you want to ultimately transform from “Death by PowerPoint” to a real “Success with PowerPoint”, this video is for you.
In addition, I can recommend two popular videos highlighting dos and don’ts regarding visual presentations. The first is presented by David McCandless and his TED Talk “The Beauty of Data Visualization”. He also plays with words and therefore succeeds with one of my personal favorite TED Talks: https://www.ted.com/talks/david_mccandless_the_beauty_of_data_visualization?referrer=playlist-how_to_make_a_great_presentation
The second video is from 2010 already, with Don McMillan presenting “Life after Death by PowerPoint”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbSPPFYxx3o
What are your experiences regarding “Death and Survival by PowerPoint”? Let me know in your comment!
People attending my training and coaching sessions mostly want to learn the essentials of good speeches or reach the next presentation level. Their questions are frequently quite similar. Some people have picked up ideas from literature or the Internet that are not always well thought out or simply not true. Let‘s discuss some of these myths in this blog post.
How many Bullet Points per PowerPoint slide?
I observe two contradictory developments regarding PowerPoint presentations: On the one hand, the vast majority of people delivering speeches browse through a number of bullet points. Here, PowerPoint clearly serves as a cheat sheet. Anyone who spends even a little time on rhetoric and presentations will quickly learn that a high-quality talk requires a different approach. On the other hand, many young people are aware of the importance of reduced information on slides. Read more
Do you lose your audience once you speak up? Or do you carry them along so they keep a high attention level throughout your presentation? A catchy structure is one of the important aspects you should consider. A strong introduction, an interesting main part and a meaningful conclusion are equally important. Guide your audience by transitions such as emphasized pauses and changing your position on stage. Also add interactions using polls, quizzes, and short discussions. Sometimes surprising twists and turns help.
Too many people are satisfied with mediocrity. Some people work on themselves becoming better than average. Only a few people take the chance to achieve outstanding and excellent results. This is why I repeatedly see speeches in which the potential for excellence is ignored or disregarded. This is where I will address ten of the […]
What is important for successful speeches is available both in the vast literature and in this blog. But do you know how to adapt your speech in front of a virtual online audience? Since the next live events are not yet foreseeable in times of COVID-19 or Corona, online presentations will make up an important part of the future. The ongoing digitalization will further reinforce this development. The following blog series will therefore deal with the most important aspects of online presentations: Which nuances are particularly important so that you can inspire and take your online audience?
While many of the basics for good, high-quality presentations still apply in large parts, there are some key differences between live and online presentations if you want to get your message across online.
With a single speech today, I can reach millions of people. An enormous potential for those who have something to say, who can present authentically and with a certain competence.
Chris Anderson, curator of the TED Talks, names the number of over 1 000 speakers who have already succeeded in doing so by 2016. The 25 most popular TED Talks alone generate a reach of 16 to 56 million clicks each. On YouTube, TED and TEDx Talks now have 30 million subscribers with 4.4 billion clicks.
Do you present your project in English for an international audience? Do you adapt your presentations to people with different cultural backgrounds? Are you ready to take the next step delivering even more professional speeches? Here are some highlights on how you will succeed with your presentation.
Connect with your audience
The German way of thinking is said to be very precise. In short, their highly functional language can be traced back to numerous wars and subsequent reconstruction efforts. UN interpreter and author Susanne Kilian attributes this to Germany’s central geographic location in Europe. In fact, many German presenters introduce technical concepts full of details while also including numerous technical terms.
11.10. Inhouse / Live: English Phrases in Presentations
16.+23.+30.10. Inhouse / Online: Storytelling
18.10. Live + 25.10. Online: Excellent International Presentations in Science
24.10. Live + 31.10. Online: Succeed with your Science and Research Presentation
06. + 13.11. Live: Präsentation und Selbstdarstellung
15. + 16.11. Online: Science Pitch
23. + 29.11.: Excellent International Presentations