The Cure for the Common Presentation

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Although professionals devote countless hours to seeking out new opportunities and seeing their projects through to completion, they tend to spend less time preparing to present to clients and investors. But make no mistake: Presentations are the best moment to impress that important client, and anyone giving one needs to look and sound their absolute best. Never miss this perfect opportunity to tell your story and convey your brand.

The best presentations involve so much careful research, thought and rehearsal that the presenter becomes the physical embodiment of the brand. For that reason alone, the task of putting the presentation together can't be left to the last minute, or for other people to tackle; whether you're a venture capitalist, lawyer, financial-services specialist or some other professional, you need to handle this with care.

For those who hate to give speeches, never fear: Your content is likelier to resonate with the target audience if you rely more on iconic images and phrases, rather than long soliloquies that might put people to sleep. Think about the ultimate takeaway from your presentation, and how you can convey it with as few (but effective) elements as possible.

If there's any downside to the "fewer words" strategy, it's that the presenter must fully understand the material, and spend much time and energy streamlining its major themes to their essence.

Fortunately, the toolkit for conveying those themes is quite varied. Whatever the situation, presenters can rely on some combination of the following tips to effectively tell their story. Here's a brief walkthrough:

Branded Templates: It is important that any presentations given by your company are consistent in look and tone, in order to reinforce the strength of your brand. In the quest to differentiate your message from that of your competition, you can rely on a well-designed presentation template, one that highlights the core visual assets that will help your audience better understand who you are and what you represent.

Investing in a template can save time and resources, in addition to ensuring a uniform level of quality. The template can include a variety of assets, including headers, section openers, template charts and graphs and icons. Companies may also consider adding a photo library. A professional designer who understands your company and its values can generate a successful template.

Personas: Presenters often have a difficult time describing brands or products in purely abstract terms. A better way to seize the audience's attention is to create Personas, or fictional characters that represent the different user types who engage with those brands or products. Those characters prove useful in framing the goals, desires, and even the limitations faced by the users.

Scenarios: Scenarios are narratives that describe how a user engages with a product or service, usually told from the user's perspective.

Storyboards: Visuals can sell a presentation in a very powerful way, capturing the essence of a brand or product and why it will ultimately prove engaging to users. Storyboards are also a great way to show social, environmental, and technical factors -- for example, showing a product in situ on a store shelf.

PowerPoint isn't the only way to create effective slides although it is by far the most popular among PC users. Some presenters find Keynote (Apple's presentation software), Prezi (which includes some neat tricks, including the ability to visualize the relationships between objects), Powtoon (great for animation), and other platforms more to their liking. For those in need of illustrative artwork, Haiku Deck and Shutterstock offer millions of stock images.

By focusing on key themes and images, and making your narrative as streamlined and powerful as possible, you'll create something that sticks in the audience's mind long after you leave the room. Take the time to craft and practice your material. As the old Chinese proverb goes: "Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand."

Janet Odgis is the President and Creative Director of Odgis + Co, an award-winning certified woman-owned design firm based in New York City. For 30 years she has worked with some of the world's most prestigious corporations reinventing ways to define and express their brands.