What Makes a Good Presentation Great?

Presentations Must Act as a Catalyst for Action

What is it that makes a presentation successful, and therefore effective? Is it relief, timeliness, great design, an amazing presenter?

In any scenario, a presentation must drive action.

In a sales environment, a great presentation needs to move you to the next stage in the sales cycle, and in many cases to a final decision. For internal communications, it must ensure consistent understanding across the board. When it comes to training presentations, you want to encourage embraced learning and a change in behavior.

Presentations are vitally important in all of these scenarios, as they are often the only the face-to-face influencing time that you will have with your target audience. If you get it wrong, you will need to struggle to recover your position.

Aim for Results, Not Just Keeping Your Audience Awake

Imagine that you have just delivered your big presentation, and your overwhelming emotion is one of relief. Does that translate to a tangible outcome? No, it simply means that you and the audience have both survived and come out the other side.

Avoiding “Death by PowerPoint” is not a barometer for success!

You had half an hour and you delivered your presentation in 25 minutes, so you have done a great job on hitting the time. This will stop you getting cut short, avoid objection and may well score you a few brownie points, but it has no effect on acceptance.

Could great design result in a more successful presentation? Design is very important, and can certainly make a favorable first impression, but alone is not enough—and can sometimes dominate.

Don’t try to be cooI at the expense of telling a good story. Often the result will be that people remember your presentation was cool. But did it achieve your goals?

If it is not simply survival, design, or the “coolness” factor, then it must all be down to the presenter, right? Great presenters are typically passionate, engaging and enjoyable to hear.

However, similar to great design, a great presenter can also dominate. If all that your audience remembers is that the presenter was passionate, engaging and enjoyable, the presentation probably hasn’t achieved very much.

Any presenter, regardless of ability, experience or confidence, needs the right message and structure to create a compelling story for their audience—on that day, and in that situation.

Many different elements add value and improve a presentation’s effectiveness, but they mean nothing without a memorable story.

So, How Do I Find My Story?

The right story is the one that acts as a catalyst for your audience to take action. For that to happen, your audience needs to see something in your story that resonates with them, and from which they can benefit.

Human beings are essentially selfish creatures, so we are often inspired by something that will work for us personally.

For example, in a sales environment, does your story clearly articulate how a particular action will help drive their market share, or be maintain quality while reducing costs? Does your staff leave the conference clearly understanding the value of the new corporate strategy and how it can increase their likelihood of hitting target? Will training delegates see the value of new skills that can make their working life easier, and broaden their capabilities?

For a presentation to be successful, you must know your audience and use that knowledge to drive you to the right story. Only after you’ve articulated your message is it worth working on support elements, such as design, presentation style, and keeping your cool.