While most employees are enjoying a holiday break, some conference rooms are buzzing with presentation designers, marketing professionals and executives who are preparing to take the stage at the giant International Consumer Electronics Show, CES 2018 in Las Vegas. As a communication advisor who has spent plenty of weekends in those conference rooms, I’ll reveal exactly how CEOs of the world’s largest tech companies are preparing to make a splash at the mammoth conference.
If you’re an entrepreneur, leader or business professional who wants to wow an audience, these five steps will help you prepare a winning presentation.
1. Start by story boarding.
Just as award-winning film directors don’t start the process by picking up a camera, dynamic presentations aren’t created by first opening PowerPoint. Great speakers storyboard–drawing, sketching or white boarding their ideas.
Before you design slides, consider the personal stories that you want to tell. For example, check out this keynote from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank at CES 2017. “Every great brand is like a great story,” he began. Plank kicked off the presentation with his personal story. He talked about his passion for athletics as a college football player. He vividly remembers practicing in the summer at the University of Maryland when he came up with the idea of making an alternative to the “sweat-soaked, drenched, cotton t-shirt.”
Slides complement the story, but the story comes first.
2. Design visually-appealing slides.
When Plank was telling his story, he didn’t use bullet points. He showed family photographs. Great presenters don’t use bullet points. It’s a well-established rule in the neuroscience literature that pictures are more easily recalled than text on a slide. Researchers have found that if your audience hears your idea, they will recall about 10 percent of the content. If they hear the information and see a picture, it’s likely they will retain 65 percent of the content. Tell stories and show pictures.
3. Build in wow moments.
Audiences won’t don’t remember the font choice on slide 14 or the chart on slide 28. They do remember wow moments, the one experience they’ll talking about long after the presentation is over. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich builds in wow moments in each of his CES keynotes. In Intel’s 2016 CES keynote when it introduced consumer drones, part of the stage was set up to look like a forest. It had a replica of an outdoor bicycle trail with fake trees. As a cyclist navigated the trail, a drone followed the rider and recorded the journey. Krzanich described it as “The first truly intelligent consumer drone” powered by Intel Real Sense technology. Watch for wow moments in Intel’s keynote at CES 2018.
4. Work the stage.
All too often, business speakers forget that audiences experience a presentation through words, body language and vocal inflections. It’s important to rehearse what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. A powerful presence includes: eye contact, hand gestures, and open posture. Having an “open posture simply means that you own the stage. Keep your arms wide open. Don’t cross your arms in front of your body or keep your hands in your pocket. Set your arms free. Walk the stage. People with open posture–or what researchers call “postural expansiveness” appear more confident.
5. Practice…a lot.
Great speakers make their presentations look effortless because they put a lot of effort in getting right. I always recommend using a video recording to capture your rehearsals. Watch the recording and others for feedback. Ask yourself the following questions: Are you making eye contact with different sections of the audience? Are your gestures open and confident? Are you reading from slides? If so, you need to put in more hours to internalize your key ideas.
Busy leaders don’t like the fifth step, but there is a very real difference between presenters who haven’t put in the time and those who have rehearsed the entire presentation over and over. The latter are less nervous, more confident and, as a result, more dynamic.
CES is a big stage for the biggest tech companies in the world. Your stage might be smaller, but no less meaningful for your career and your company. Put in the steps to make it great.