How to build a winning presentation

By Todd Liles How to build a winning presentation

This past week I had the opportunity to speak at Comfortech.  Officially, I was invited as an extension of the Service Roundtable and the Service Nation Alliance.  Beyond the honor of speaking, there was a lot at stake.  Doing a great job would most likely mean a future invitation.  Bombing out could close more doors than just the next shot at Comfortech.

I have not received the written results from my presentation, but I know it was very well received.  This isn’t a pompous statement.  The audience gave me clear signals throughout the presentation that they were enjoying the topic.  In addition, Charlie Greer (Yes, the Tec Daddy) and David Heimer (Service Roundtable) were gracious enough to give me their praise.  These 2 men don’t throw around empty compliments.

The approach that I use in my presentation is easy, and it works.   I’m going to lay out my steps for you in this post.  The next time you have a presentation, I encourage you to use all or some of these ideas:

How to Build a Winning Presentation

Don’t commit unless you can really commit

This may seem like an odd first step, though in my opinion it is the most important.  Preparing yourself to speak in front of an audience requires a large investment of time and energy.  Before you say yes, here are some considerations to take into account:

  • Do I want to do this presentation?
  • Am I saying yes out of a sense of obligation?
  • Will I regret doing this presentation, or will I be glad I did it?
  • Do I have something of value to say?
  • Will this audience connect with me?
  • Will it be worth the time, energy, and investment?
  • What are my expectations?
  • What does this make possible for the future?
  • Can I fully commit to the project?

These are a few of the questions I ask myself prior to committing to a project.  I encourage you to do the same.  It is far better to take the time and weigh these questions out in your mind, than it is to commit and regret it later.

Be the expert, but don’t play the expert

You are an expert.  You may even be the premier expert in a given area of work.  My recommendation to you is the following:

Speak on your area of expertise!

When you stick with a subject matter that you are an expert in, you will wow the audience with authenticity.

Authenticity is a rare commodity in the world of public speaking.  You have seen the inauthentic speaker, and have been turned off by their presentation.  They speak of things they have no real expertise in.  Why do they do it? Perhaps it is peer pressure.  Perhaps they are trying to take “speaking to the audience” too far.

Stick to what you know.  For the record, I spoke on “The easy path to technician generated leads.”

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Establish a clear goal for yourself and the audience

Goals create incentives and natural finishing lines.  It’s a way of knowing your work was well received, and the effect had an impact.

Here were my personal goals for my Comfortech Presentation:

  1. Create clear value for the Service Roundtable and the Service Nation Alliance.  SRT and SNA have a lot riding on every speaker they endorse.  In a way, it is risky for them to put 3rd parties in front of their clients.  So, I set a clear goal to do a great job.  My desire is that their members will thank them for my work.  *We will see if that happens.
  2. Be asked to be more involved in SRT and SNA events.  My thought is that if I do #1 well, then #2 should happen.

Those were my personal goals for the presentation.  You will notice that I did not have any goals for selling classes, or attracting consulting work.  That was intentional.

Here were my audience goals for my Comfortech Presentation:

  1. Create an informative and enjoyable experience.  I spoke once before at a SRT event.  It was on the subject of “Fear.”  The reaction was very mixed.  I think my approach turned some folks off.  I did not want that to happen this time.   Intentionally, I created a different experience for the audience.  It was interactive, funny, and valuable.
  2. Give practical tips the audience could use on Monday.  The audience left with a plan, a pay structure, and a tracking system at the end of 45 minutes.

In all, these 4 simple goals keep me and the audience focused.

When you prepare you presentation, think about your goals.  Be sure there is a balance between what you want, and what the audience wants.

Know your audience

Audience demographics are distinctly important.  All messages are filtered through the life experiences of your audience.  Understanding your audiences’ perspective will help you connect with them.

Here’s a practical tip, never go into a room where you know no one.  If you are speaking to a new group, then take the time to talk to at least 5 people that you know will be in the room.  Find them, and make eye contact with them.  After you have gotten your smiles, and built your confidence, move to some new eyes.

Do more with less

It can be very tempting to create a slide for every point you want to make.  It is just as tempting to write down every idea you want to cover in a handout.  Be warned: that is a dangerous and boring way to do a presentation.

People don’t want to read your slides.  They want to listen to you.  The powerpoint and the handout is an enforcement tool, it is not the story.

By the way, I have made the mistake of a long winded powerpoint presentation.  I’ve done more bad ones than good ones.  Thankfully, those days are behind me.    Today, my power points and handouts are simple, clean, and enforce the topic.

Here are a few slides from the last presentation to serve as an example:


Tell stories

Can you guess the story from the preview below?

A young man finds himself in dangerous peril.  In order to become the hero he is destined to be, he must find the old master and learn from him.  Only then can he save the world from certain destruction!

Did you guess Star Wars? Harry Porter?  Rocky?

It’s all of these stories, and a thousand more.  The point isn’t which story is being described, but what stories can do to the audience, and for the audience.

Stories suck you into the presentation, and engage the listener.  If you really want to deliver a powerful presentation, then figure out what powerful stories you will tell the listener.

Choose your ending very carefully

This will be my final tip for you.  An ending is critical to your presentation.  A good ending will leave the audience delighted, and a bad one will ruin everything you did up to that point.

You have 2 decisions to make in order to deliver a tremendous ending:

  1. The end.  In other words, does the presentation stop today?  Can I move forward with the value you have given me, and reflect on the story as needed?
  2. To be continued . . . Is this the start (or middle) of an evolving saga, and do I need to stayed tuned?

Each ending will serve you well.  Choose your ending wisely, and don’t leave your audience guessing what they should do next.

to be continued . . . (join our blog to stay tuned in)

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