Professional presentations are those that win bids, land jobs, impress executives, and ultimately increase the bottom line for many employees and companies. Individuals have to take steps to make the entire presentation professional, which means dressing for the occasion as well as preparing well in advance. To make a presentation stand out from the crowd, business professionals of all levels can follow these steps for fantastic visuals and an engaging delivery.

Carefully Compose Your Slides

Slides should not just look great and deliver relevant data, each one should tell a miniature story — or part of a story — and they must all flow together to create a cohesive narrative. That means:

• Putting slides in a logical order that matches the story you want to tell
• Ensuring each slide addresses a single point
• Adding a variety of media to slides including text, images, and charts
• Arranging slides, so the same types of media and layout are not repeated back-to-back.

Be Consistent Across the Presentation

Sudden changes in color schemes, fonts, and presentation style can jar the audience and distract them from the information at hand. Choose a theme and stick with it. Professionals working on behalf of an organization, or presenting within a business, may want to find out if the department has a template for use. Some companies require all presentations to follow branded templates for the sake of consistency.

Use Contrast Correctly

Contrast — placing light elements on dark backgrounds and vice versa — is essential to legible presentations. What shows up well on a computer screen does not always translate to a larger, projected image. Place dark blues, blacks, purples, browns, and reds on lighter white, cream, yellow, or blue backgrounds for excellent results.

Keep Your Audience in Mind

A presentation does not have to cover every detail related to the topic. Instead, it should touch on data that’s relevant to the audience. When presenting to a large, diverse group of staff members, it is a good idea to briefly explain department-centric concepts, for example, and highlight the most important elements of the topic. Presentations to financial executives, in contrast, might delve deeply into money matters.

Perfect slides do not automatically mean a stellar presentation. Practice delivering the message on the slides several times before the actual meeting. It is important to be able to explain concepts without reading directly from slides, and presenters should always be able to answer ad hoc questions.

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