How to Make an Impactful Presentation

The old adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” matters more than ever. Here are some tips on creating a noteworthy presentation.

We’ve partnered with CARE International to offer tips on how to create a stand-out presentation.

Just a few years ago, presentations were more often than not done in the same room. In addition to a slide deck, people could also use body language, read the room, and pivot based on audience needs. 

Flash forward to now: Many people are primarily logging in from home offices. A presentation deck may be passed around to stakeholders who aren’t at a live presentation. 

These changes in the nature of work mean that it’s critical to create a presentation that flows clearly for everyone—whether someone is listening to it in person, on screen, or reading it on their own time.

Beyond the challenges of working remotely, women may feel as though their presentations are under additional scrutiny. This Women’s History Month, we want to take some time to help everyone—and women in particular—overcome obstacles and create more impactful presentations that showcase their work.

So, how can anyone create a slide deck that’s impactful? And, are there specific tips to help women give incredible presentations?

Following these guidelines just might make a big difference.

Illustration of Muslim women in various business posesImage via Amanita Silvicora.

Understand Your Intent

Before you even begin writing your slide copy, think about what you want your presentation to do. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the one thing you want your audience to remember?
  • How do you want people to feel at the end? 
  • Is there a specific action you want them to take after you’re done? 

Write down these buzzwords in a document. They won’t be part of your presentation, but they can help you create an information roadmap. These initial ideas will be helpful guideposts to return to as you further craft your presentation. They may even help undertake one of the hardest tasks of all: getting started.

Decide on the Look and Feel

After arming yourself with the overall mission of your presentation, you’ll be able to begin initial design research. At this stage, we suggest all people putting together a presentation: 

Incorporating these ideas into a mood board or inspiration folder can make it easier to narrow down selections to match the information you want to present. 

Studies have found that pictures in presentations influence people more than words. When people are shown emotionally charged images, they might change their behavior, even if they’re not aware of it. Meanwhile, emotionally charged words do not have the same effect. 

All this is to say that, while sometimes people wait until the last minute to add images to their slide deck, it’s better for the speaker to work on a presentation’s look and feel early.

You’ll later create a stronger message as you add specific information to your slides.

Illustration of various business iconsCreating mood boards help with inspiration AND organization. Image via miniwide.

Edit Within an Outline

Once you have your big picture in mind, and you have a working mood board of images and graphics, it’s time to dive into the meat of the presentation. 

Start an outline with all the content you want to cover. The biggest lift is likely going to be editing down your points. Guy Kawasaki,a marketing specialist and author of over fifteen books on marketing and creativity, suggests what he outlines in a blog post as a 10/20/30 Rule:

  • Create 10 slides. 
  • Plan for a 20-minute talk.
  • Include a font that’s 30 points or larger. 

These guidelines mean that crafting your presentation relies on good editing. Having plenty of time earmarked for quality content editing ensures that you give only the most salient points the attention they deserve. 

Illustration of a businesswoman standing in front of her presentation with confidenceImage via miniwide.

Work with the 5/5/5 Rule in Mind

Another popular presentation guideline to incorporate into your plans is the 5/5/5 Rule. This means that slides should include: 

  • No more than 5 words per line of text. 
  • No more than 5 lines of text per slide. 
  • Text-heavy slides should be capped at 5 per entire presentation. 

This rule also helps presenters carefully consider each slide’s contents individually. It will even reflect well on your audience, and show that you’re considering their needs to follow along.

Summarize Data When Possible

A data-heavy presentation can be challenging to unpack. It can be tempting to make data look as “official” as possible by placing every relevant table within the presentation. Instead, summarize your key findings, with a hyperlink toward your full data set. 

If you’re including graphs and statistics, make sure that any relevant data can’t be misinterpreted by the way you present it. Lean on helpful resources, such as the American Psychological Association, which offers insights into how to effectively present graphs.

Practice to Build Confidence

Talking through your presentation will help you feel confident in your material. In fact, some experts recommend rehearsing as many as ten times in order to build this confidence. 

You should write a few notes—if you’d like—to keep you on track. Studies have shown that writing speaker notes by hand helps presenters remember things more easily, as opposed to when typing them out.

Illustration of a woman practicing her presentation in front of a friendImage via Mary Long.

It’s also helpful to run an AV test of your slide deck. If possible, do a quick run-through on any equipment you may use during the presentation.

If presenting remotely: 

  • Log on early. 
  • Sign out of any applications that may interrupt you mid-presentation. 
  • Make sure you’re working from an area with minimal interruptions, strong WiFi, and good lighting. 

After all, now that you’ve created and practiced your perfect presentation, avoiding all technical difficulties will be the cherry on top of your success.

Illustration of a confident businesswoman giving a presentation in front of an impressed audienceImage via GoodStudio.

Cover image via miniwide x2.