How to show your presentation

It's hard to get started.

He frantically pushes papers back and forth, upwards, down again, and then back to the front. He nervously reaches into his bag and pull out a marker. He's now underlining again, marking, adding points. Peter knows his profession. The snag? He has a hard time getting other people to realise how good he is at his job.

How do you start a presentation? How do you motivate your listeners?

We know that there are really good presentation materials that make it easy to illustrate your topic. But we also know that these work aids won't turn you into the best presenter of all time. This is why we also want you to be able to obtain everything you need for a successful presentation from us: linguistic aids to style and practical examples are just as important for this as the products obtained from our shop.

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Worst Case.

Or how Peter could have done it better.

Peter still doesn't seem to have any answers to our initial questions. Somehow, he shows us how not do hold a presentation: he starts with an excessively long quote without relevance to the actual topic. He uses largely technical terms that not every audience member understands. He reads a long text directly from the PowerPoint slide.

And he doesn't even notice that the audience is falling asleep. 

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Best Case.

How to start your presentation.

1. Introduction.

If you really want to start by announcing what your presentation is actually about, then divide it into three straightforward points: problem, idea, solution.

"Our merchandise management system is outdated. We have therefore identified the best alternatives and compared them. One system emerged as a clear winner, and today I will show you why."

2. Surprise.

If you surprise your audience, you will quickly gain the attention of all listeners.

  • Start a dialogue with your audience, ask questions or encourage them to contribute something to the topic. "How well do you get by with your merchandise management system? Is there anything that you would want to improve?" A whiteboard or flip chart are good ways of noting ideas made by those participating, particularly if you wish to address these points later on in your presentation and demonstrate that you had the same thoughts.
  • Stimulate the fantasy: "Imagine you lived in the 22nd century. What do you think we would order and sell in the future?" The audience now has the opportunity to participate actively in the topic and to make their own thoughts about it before you present your solutions.
  • Shock the audience with a "worst-case scenario": "If we don't switch systems now, then in five years' time at the latest, our turnover will have halved." By this point, everyone should be aware that your topic is controversial and important.
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3. Promise.

You should keep your promises. If you can, then a promise is a good thing: "After this presentation, you'll want to start working with our new system!" If you can't, then don't promise anything.

4. Introductory statement.

Start with a core message. For example, this is how Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone in 2007: "Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone." This type of introductory statement has the character of a headline that gives meaning to the entire presentation.

Pimp your speech.

Means to fulfil a purpose.

Peter really isn't a natural born speaker. Along with shop talk and a lot of umming and aahing, he muddles up adjectives and nouns, and talks in convoluted sentences. If he would only adopt a few stylistic devices, his audience wouldn't be as bored.

You don't need to be a top moderator either to work with the following rules:

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1. Brief and concise.

Try not to use more than 150 characters for sentences introducing a topic! The shorter and more concise they are, the easier they are for you and your audience to remember them. Short sentences are quickly noted on paper or a whiteboard. "Our company needs to remain competitive. This is why you need to get to know the merchandise management system of the future today!”"

2. Problem and solution.

Competing companies, poor economic situations or technical problems. Those are the stones you need to move? Then make it vivid. Demonstrate which negative consequences occur due to "opponents" and turn your solution into the "hero" of the story.
For Willy Brandt, for example, the Berlin Wall was already his enemy before the end of the GDR was certain: "Berlin will live and the wall will fall. By the way, dear friends, a piece of this terrible edifice should be left standing as a historical monstrosity." And as we know today: stones really were moved in this case.

3. Advantages and facts.

Of course, technical details and process specifications are important, but it is more important to know what benefits the audience will have. If you start by clarifying what your audience has to gain, then they will also want to know how it works. These advantages should be left standing in writing in the room, by noting them on a flip chart or a pin board.

4. 1, 2 and 3.

Instructions that are divided into three parts are easier to follow. You will usually keep the attention of your audience through to the third part.
Steve Jobs once introduced the iPhone will the rule of three: "Today we're introducing three revolutionary products." In fact, it was only one product with three functions, but no-one forgot what these functions were: listening to music, making mobile calls, surfing the internet. The smartphone was born.

5. Sales and dreams.

Sell your dreams! Then you won't be selling the new merchandise management system, but rather the promise of more straightforward ordering processes, more sales turnover, or a larger acquisition of data.

6. Text and image.

Don't repeat yourself. Give preference to using suitable images that are easy to remember. When it comes to key words, focal points and advantages, you can also use presentation boards. If you make frequent presentations, then get yourself a presentation case to ensure you always have all the materials you need at hand.

7. Figures and comparisons.

The audience won't always be able to decipher big figures straight away. The larger the figure, the more important it is to find analogies or comparisons that make the data relevant for the listeners.
Heinz Smital from Greenpeace made the following comparison in a speech opposing the use of nuclear energy: He raised a glass, three quarters filled with water, and said that this amount of Caesium-137 is already sufficient to contaminate half the total land area in Germany.

8. Straightforward and direct.

Technical jargon, long words and too many adjectives should be avoided. A clear, straightforward and direct language is more effective.

9. Emotion and passion.

Do you have images, videos, anecdotes that illustrate your topic and invite emotional responses? Pleasure, enthusiasm or passion? Then use them for a point that covers important information. This is then associated with a moment that won't be forgotten.

One more thing.

What comes next?

Practice makes perfect, as Peter thinks to himself. A failed presentation like the one described is something he never wants to experience again. And so he uses a stylistic means that he finds best, and starts putting together the information for his next presentation. He practises speaking in front of a mirror, practises in front of his family and, finally, tries it out in again in front of a few colleagues. This helps him develop his own style and he starts to have fun making presentations. And in doing so, Peter is the embodiment of Steve Jobs' suggestion: "Stay hungry, stay foolish!".