Join Petrula Vrontikis for an in-depth discussion in this video Presentation styles and storytelling, part of Running a Design Business: Presentation Skills.
Different presentation styles connect with audiences in different ways. Reading from a script decreases your credibility because you lose eye contact. It makes you appear as if you don't know your material. It often creates a stoic, academic tone that appears old fashioned. An exception to this is if you're quoting someone. In that case, it's respectful to read their words for accuracy. An ad lib presentation is probably the best image builder, but you must know your material cold.
It's easy to lose the sequence and speak too long on one thing or another. Unless you're a really good presenter, this style can get you into trouble. My recommendation is to use an outline format. It can be on a piece of paper, on note cards or created by the sequence of slides in your digital presentation. You don't have to read or memorize words, it keeps your presentation as conversational as possible. It also is an anchor for practicing and rehearsing.
There's a common saying regarding presentations. Tell em what you will tell em. Tell em. Then tell em what you told them. Even though this is true, it's a framework, not a method. Great presentations will include story arcs, arguments, analysis, and points of view. Not just facts. Your opening should be something that makes an emotional connection with an audience. It can be a story, a compelling question, a shocking statistic.
Be poetic. Engaging stories, analogies, and humor will encourage your audience to connect with you and your ideas, on more than just an intellectual level. Make sure to set some context for us to understand the situation. This can include the persons, place, time, or circumstances. What was the problem that was presented to you? Then, take us on a creative journey. Describe how you were inspired by the research. What or who you were influenced by when you created what you created.
What were the challenges you encountered along the way, and how was this solution a surprise or a revelation? Does it create more questions or a shift in thinking? Make sure we know why your solution is important. And why we should care. It should be absolutely clear what the takeaway is from your journey. In the resource files, I've provided an outline of a typical story. You can use it for reference in putting together future presentations. It really works.
There are some typical challenges that designers face when structuring presentations. Try to stick to three of the most important points. It's better to engage the audience than to tell them everything you know. The work won't just speak for itself. I find that designers use this as an excuse when they have difficulty articulating what they do. You must give your work the support it deserves. Often, others have to take your work and present it again to someone else.
Make sure you give them enough information so that they can inspire others. A designer can lose the sequence of their presentation in a collision of dyslexia and nervousness. You must employ what's called sequential causality. Simply put, one thing leads to another thing, leads to another thing. I recommend letting your visuals be a cheat sheet for your sequence. If you practice with them repeatedly, you'll get the order right. Understanding some of the common challenges designers face and having a framework for crafting your presentation, will help you know the best way to tell the story.
- Presenting one-on-one, to a team, or to a larger audience
- Choosing a presentation format
- Introducing your design and providing context
- Persuading your audience
- Developing visual aids
- Creating a great first impression
- Understanding verbal and nonverbal cues
- Getting approval
- Facilitating a Q&A session