Most presentations serve a single purpose when it comes to information. In other words, your goal is to provide sales data, persuade listeners to take a specific action, inform listeners of a particular problem, or present your latest research. However, some of these may include a great deal of data. How do you know what to include and what to leave out?
The answer to that question depends on what kind of presentation you’re developing. If you’ve been asked to provide a lot of data, then you need to provide it. That doesn’t mean you have to put it all on a PowerPoint screen and go through it item by item. That’s a surefire way to put your listeners to sleep. Instead if you can, provide handouts with all the data, and then capture the most important points in a PowerPoint slide and go over those. How you arrived at those figures can be presented in the handouts. If handouts aren’t feasible, then present the data on the PowerPoint slide, but again, only go over the most important points. Give the audience a few minutes to look at the data, if necessary, before discussing the important figures.
If your presentation doesn’t require you to present data, then you have more flexibility in your presentation. You may still want to mention research or statistics if it supports your points or grabs listeners’ attention, but it won’t be the main points of your presentation. The general rule of thumb is that in any given presentation, no matter the length, audiences aren’t likely to remember more than three main points or pieces of information. So try to keep your overall message clear, and then support it with no more than three points. If your presentation is persuasive, you’ll want to offer at least three points. If it isn’t, then only make the points that are most important to your overall message. For example, if your presentation is on efforts being made to improve literacy in the United States, then choose one or two examples of these efforts and focus primarily on them.
Just remember that too much information can overload your listeners, and they won’t be able to remember your overall message. Not enough information can make your presentation weak. So develop one that focuses on a central message and supports it with two to three powerful examples or pieces of information.
How to Incorporate Humor into Your Presentation
Many people are afraid to include humor when writing their presentation. The fear is, of course, that you tell a joke and nobody laughs. How embarrassing is that, right? Well, the good news is that you don’t have to be a comic genius to include some humor in your presentation. And you should know that using humor in your presentation can provide a few big benefits. For one thing, it “breaks the ice.” The audience is more relaxed and open to listening to you. In fact, they are now more confident you’re not going to bore them.
So how do you go about doing it in a way you’re comfortable with? Here are a few tips that can help.
- Make sure humor is appropriate for the subject matter and/or audience. Although there’s usually a tactful way to insert humor into just about any topic, there are still some exceptions. For example, if you’re presenting a speech about improving teen driving safety for an audience in which a student has been killed in a car accident, it’s probably best to skip the humor.
- Is the joke funny to you? If you find a story that fits your presentation but you don’t think it’s all that funny, it’s likely your audience won’t either.
- Don’t try to come up with your own joke or story. Find an appropriate quote, cartoon, or story through research. Just make sure that you cite the source or author.
- Practice the joke with other people who are similar to your audience members. If they laugh, you’ve got a winner. If they don’t, try it again with a different delivery. If after trying it out two or three times no one ever laughs, move on.
- Make sure the joke or story fits in with your topic or point. Throwing something into your presentation that has no bearing on your topic will seem totally out of place and too contrived.
- Keep it clean! No matter who your audience is or what the presentation is about, it is NEVER appropriate to tell off-color or offensive jokes in a formal presentation.
Injecting humor in a speech is usually a good idea. But the bottom line is you need to be comfortable. If you’ve tried these ideas and still aren’t comfortable with using humor, then don’t feel like you have to. A speech can be effective without it.