Giving an important presentation in a business environment can be nerve-wracking. But you think you’re ready: you’ve followed great advice on preparing for a presentation, and you know your subject cold. You’ve made great eye contact, project your voice, speak clearly and a little more slowly than you might in normal conversations, and so on. You’re all set, right?
Well, maybe not. There are little details that can dramatically change the way your audience understands and perceives your presentation, and you neglect these things at your own risk. So if you’ve mastered your subject and are ready for your public speaking moment, you should spend your remaining prep time by investing in the details and fine-tuning that perfect presentation. Here are a few things to consider.
Perfecting visual aids: fonts, photos, and more
There’s a good chance that you’re using visual aids in your presentation, and if you’re not, perhaps you should. Studies show that visual aids can make a huge difference in learning environments, so your presentation is more likely to be a success if you use them.
But making a great visual aid is about more than putting the vital information on a few PowerPoint slides. Your information should be well organized and easy to take in, of course, but there are also small details that can help communicate more subtle things. Your style of font, for instance, can create an immediate first impression, and if you use an unprofessional font like the infamous Comic Sans, your audience might be less likely to take you seriously. Little things like fonts can affect our perception of information, and even our moods.
If you use low-quality images and pixelated photos, you’ll look like you didn’t put much time into your presentation, and your audience will adjust its trust levels accordingly. It may not be fair, but presentations are about more than just what is presented. You need to tweak subtle things in order to get the right reactions from your audience. While people may not mean to do so, they’re always evaluating and judging in subtle and even subconscious ways.
Handouts and folders: investing in quality
If your presentation includes a report, a handout, or a whole folder of materials, that’s great — the supplementary information will no doubt help you make your message clear. But here, again, there is a chance for your audience to make a subconscious judgment about the quality of your information. So how can you make sure that they take you as seriously as possible?
Take the time to design your materials carefully. Add covers to packets and reports, and place them in quality binders and folders. Consider investing in custom presentation folders, which can be printed or embossed with your name, your company’s name, and/or logos and images.
Making the right impression
Should all of these things matter? Maybe. It’s probably fair to ask people to put time and effort into important business reports and pitches to clients, after all. But whether or not such things should matter is a philosophical question that, ultimately, doesn’t really matter itself.
What matters is the reality, and the reality is that little details like the ones we talked about here really do matter. They matter for your presentation. They matter if you’re going to make the sale or start the collaboration, and they matter to your career within your company and your industry. So invest in those details! Your presentation is about more than just what you present and how you speak — it’s about the little visual and tactile clues to quality, too.