Do you know the Rule of Three?
As a chartered accountant or finance professional you would often be called upon to make presentations of various types. In the first part of this article we covered broad areas you need to take care of to increase your presentation proficiency. Now let’s look at some more specific guidelines you can follow to make every presentation of yours truly presentable:
- Reinforce and Repeat: Your first slide should provide an overview of what you are going to present in the presentation. The last slide should summarise all that you have just presented. As the saying goes: “Say what you are going to say; say it; then say what you just said.”!
- Visible and Legible: What looks perfectly legible to you on your computer screen, may only be visible with binoculars for people in the back row. Use standard fonts and larger point sizes. Recommendation: At least 24 points for paragraph and bullet-list text and at least 28 points for titles. Lighter coloured text on dark backgrounds is preferable when the room you are in has lights dimmed or switched off, but the reverse works better when the presentation venue is relatively bright. Whatever you use, make sure that the contrast between text and background is considerable.
- Rule of Three: According to experts, people generally tend to best remember three things in a set. So, tailor your presentation accordingly to incorporate this “rule of three”. Try to reinforce and highlight only three main ideas that you want to drive home. You could discuss, for instance, three benefits of the new financial software product you are proposing to buy. Or, propose three actionable steps for cost cutting in the next quarter. Maybe, even try restricting the number of bullet points per slide to three. The idea is to impart information in digestible, memorable segments.
- Short Is Sweet: As mentioned in Part I, your slides are akin to cue cards. But do not read them out loud nor stuff them with reams of descriptive text. Doing so would only succeed in distracting the audience from the main attraction – you!
- Visual Aids: As a chartered accountant, graphs and charts are likely to form an important component of your presentations. But, be wary of overloading your slides with large amounts of financial data. Even when you are forced to do so, ensure that you highlight your interpretation and analysis of the data, rather than simply presenting drab, dull and dry figures. Newer versions of Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint offer some pretty nifty features for presenting data analytics effectively – these include Colour Scales, Heat Maps, Sparklines, Data Explorer and Geo Explorer. The SmartArt feature of PowerPoint provides some clever animations that can be used to make graphs come alive.
- All That Jazz: Microsoft PowerPoint and other modern presentation software packages offer you a host of slide transitions, animations and fancy graphics. The key is to use the right embellishment at the right time, and only if it adds value and provides the impact you are gunning for. Jazz it up a bit, but don’t go overboard. If any element is superfluous or a hindrance to full audience attention, just cut it out.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once joked that most people are so mortally terrified of speaking in public, that at a funeral, they would probably prefer to be the dead person rather than have to deliver the eulogy. You are not alone if you fall in this category, but only by conquering your fear of public speaking and presenting, will you ever be able to realise your true potential in your career as a chartered accountant, finance professional or whatever. Making good presentations increases your exposure to company bigwigs, demonstrates your leadership skills, and helps you gain in overall confidence. Start right now, and get to your destination by following the three golden rules: Practise, Practice, Practise!