So, you’ve got a presentation coming up. But it’s still a few weeks away, so you procrastinate and don’t get anything done until 2 days before your presentation. That’s a lot of wasted time, if you ask me. Time that could have gone into planning and preparing for your presentation. If you face a similar problem right now, then read on. Because I’m going to show you 15 tips to maximize productivity and get your presentation done ASAP. Let’s begin!
Part I: The Preparation Stage
Getting started is always the hardest. But once you start chipping away at the work in front of you, you may find yourself getting into a productive groove. Here are 6 practical tips to help you get the ball rolling.
Tip #1: Set and follow a schedule
When you think about it, 24 hours is really not enough for all the things we need to do in a single day. In addition to earning a living, you also need to set aside enough time for recreation and sleeping.
So, how do you ensure you actually have enough time to prepare for an upcoming presentation? The answer to this is something you probably already know, but have a hard time implementing: time management.
Setting a schedule is easy enough. It’s the following part that’s a bit hard for a lot of people to master. For this particular point in the article, however, I’ll only focus on how to set your schedule. Points 2-6 will actually help with the following part. Here are a couple of pointers you can implement right away:
- Make a realistic schedule
It’s so easy to underestimate the tasks you’ve set out to do. When you imagine yourself doing a particular task, it may seem like you can finish it within an hour. But when you finally get around to working on that task, you realize one hour is not going to cut it. In fact, you may even up needing the entire day to complete that task!
You know yourself best. You know your availability and how much time you can devote to a specific task. So, make a realistic schedule to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on yourself later on.
- Use the right scheduling tools
There are so many tools you can use to set a schedule. You can write it down the old fashioned way (with a pen and paper), or you can download an app on your mobile phone or your computer. Fortunately, most apps nowadays support multi-platform use. So, you can automatically sync up your phone calendar with your computer calendar.
Google Calendar is a good app to start with. It’s free and it’s highly accessible. You can add your schedule on the desktop app and it can send you notifications on your mobile phone. You can also add multiple calendars to your Google Calendar and assign a color to it.
For instance, you can assign the color blue to events in your ‘presentation calendar’. When you open Google Calendar, it will list all your events. When you see the color blue, it means you’ve got a presentation booked on that day.
Tip #2: Focus on what’s necessary
You can have a hundred small tasks scheduled for the day. But ask yourself this, is it really necessary for you to finish all those tasks right away? Or, perhaps it would be okay if you move the not-so-urgent ones to a later date. If you’ve got a presentation coming up in the next week, then you may want to think about clearing up your calendar and focusing on your presentation instead.
Let’s say you don’t know the presentation topic all that well. If this is the case, then you need to allot some or even plenty of time to doing research. After all, you don’t want to look like a fool in front of your audience, do you? People aren’t going to respect a presenter who didn’t even put in the time to research the topic. If you decide to wing your presentation, be prepared to kiss your credibility goodbye.
Here’s a tip: categorize your tasks into urgent and important. Tasks that fall into the urgent list needs to be done now or today, not tomorrow. On the other hand, important tasks are those that need to be completed, but doesn’t have to be done right away. This system will help you focus on what’s necessary. You can then spend the right amount of time on your presentation, while still ensuring your other tasks get done as well.
Tip #3: Put your phone away (or put it to silent mode)
Ugh. Phones. How productive would you be if you weren’t on your phone all the time? You may or may not have heard this word already, but nomophobia is a recently coined term which means ‘fear of being without a mobile device.’
According to Psychology Today, two-thirds of adults are nomophobic. If you belong to this group, then you may find it difficult to follow this productivity tip. But follow it you must!
There’s no getting around this – you need to put your phone down if you want to have a good presentation. If you use your phone for work, say, you’ve got important notes on it, then maybe it’s best to transfer your files over to your computer. Admit it – it’s so easy to get distracted on your phone.
You’re thinking, I’m just going to check my notes. And the next thing you know, you’re on Facebook or Reddit, mindlessly scrolling down the page. The 3 hours you’ve set aside for working on your presentation is drastically cut down into 1 or 2 hours. If this sounds familiar, then you really REALLY need to get away from your phone. At least while you’re working on your presentation.
Tip #4: Stop multi-tasking
One of the very best tips to maximize productivity is to stop multi-tasking. It’s nice to be able to multi-task, but not when you’re preparing for something big, like a presentation. To be truly effective, you need to focus 100% on the task in front of you. This is why it’s important to create a schedule like I discussed in point 1 and block all forms of distractions.
Multi-tasking is only going to distract you. You can’t give your all if your attention is split between researching for your presentation and answering client emails. Or, designing slides and group chatting with your friends on Skype.
It’s easy to think you’re accomplishing more when you multi-task, but the truth is that it only makes you slower and more inefficient. Efficiency takes a lot of discipline and self-control. If you haven’t acquired these traits yet, don’t use it as an excuse for your failure. You need to start somewhere. There’s no better time to practice being efficient than preparing for a big presentation!
Tip #5: Learn to say “no” to temptations and distractions
When you’ve scheduled a block of time for your presentations, you need to stick to it. Learning how to say “no” to temptation is key to successfully following your set schedule. Now, saying no sounds so cliché. But does it really work?
This article on the Journal of Consumer Research explored the difference between saying “I can’t” and “I don’t” when saying no to temptations. This may sound inconsequential, but did you know a simple change in terminology used actually has a significant impact on rejecting temptations? The study found that those who said “I don’t” were actually able to resist temptation better than those in the “I can’t” group.
When you say “I don’t,” you’re in total control of yourself. You know what you want and what you don’t want. However, when you say “I can’t,” you’re sending a message that you want to join in the fun, but you can’t because you need to do something. So, there’s a small part of you that is basically saying yes to the temptation when you say “I can’t.” The phrase “I don’t” is more definitive and allows you to stonewall any distractions that come your way.
In short, you sound more confident and determined when you say “I don’t” as opposed to “I can’t.” Keep this tip in mind and I guarantee you’ll feel a whole lot more efficient when you start working on your presentation.
Tip #6: Don’t forget to take a break
“Taking breaks are for weaklings,” said no one ever. Our brains are more powerful than any computer, but it still needs rest. No matter how focused and productive you are, you still need to take a breather from time to time.
If you’re having a tough time focusing on work, try stepping outside for a quick break. Take in your environment, listen to the sounds of nature or cars passing by. Give your brain something else to think about. Get inspiration from whatever or whoever’s nearby. Chances are, when you sit back down on your desk, you’ll have a wonderful burst of creativity and you’ll be able to re-focus on the task at hand.
Mental stress and exhaustion are going to hinder your productivity. Keep them at bay by taking short breaks every hour or so. Obviously, your mileage may vary from everyone else. And you may feel the need to take a break every 30 minutes or so, or every time you tick something off your to-do list.
The bottom line is take a break when you need to. There’s no point in taking a break when you’re in the ‘zone.’ Doing so is most likely going to be counterproductive. When you’re in that productive zone, milk it for all its worth. This is especially true if it takes quite some internal cajoling to get you into your zone. The moment you start feeling like your brain cells are dying one by one, then it’s time to stop putting your foot on the pedal. Go take a break instead.
Part II: Presentation Slide Design
In this section, I’m going to cover several tips to help you maximize productivity while designing your presentation slides.
Tip #7: Pick the right presentation software for you
Just because you read somewhere that PowerPoint is the best presentation app doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. To many, this may be the case. But if you’re just starting out in the presentation world, and you have no knowledge on how PowerPoint works, then it may be best to look at other alternatives. Also, if you’re not willing to shell out some cash for a Microsoft Office or Office 365 subscription, then there are other free alternatives available.
For instance, if you’re a Mac user, then Keynote is a great app to start with. It’s free and it’s comes pre-installed on modern Macs (PowerPoint isn’t free, FYI). On the other hand, if you’re invested deep within the Google ecosystem, then Google Slides may be more to your liking. Google Slides works on most major browsers, so you can pretty much take your work anywhere with you.
Now, the good thing is that most other presentation apps offer some level of compatibility with PowerPoint. That is, you can export your presentation slides into PowerPoint. So, if you need to present on a computer with only PowerPoint installed, you can do so. You just need to be aware of the limitations though. Some of the fonts, elements, animations, etc. aren’t going to convert over smoothly. Be sure to go through the exported file with a fine-toothed comb before the big day!
Tip #8: Know how much time you have for your presentation
This may sound silly, but there have been instances when a presenter didn’t know (or forgot) how much time they’re supposed to spend on their topic. They ultimately end up staying on stage far longer than necessary. Likewise, there have been cases when the presenter prepared for a quick 10-minute presentation. But it turned out he needed to give a 30-minute one instead.
These things could have been avoided if the presenter had only taken the time to know how long his presentation was supposed to last (and kept track of it, too). That said, here’s an article to help you time your presentation successfully.
If there’s someone else organizing the event, then you should ask them for more info about the presentation. This could include asking the following:
How long do you need to be on stage?
How many slides should you prepare for?
Is there a question and answer portion?
How many minutes should be spent answering questions from the audience?
All these details will help you increase your presentation productivity. It will also help you craft your slides based on the information given to you.
Tip #9: Create an outline
So, you’ve done your research on your topic. And now you’re wondering how you can somehow transform all that information onto your presentation slides. Do you just copy and paste whatever topics seem related into one slide? Or should you just wing it and go with whatever feels right to you? The answer is neither.
The right way to go about organizing the information you’ve gathered during your research is by creating an outline. This is certainly one of the best tips to maximize productivity during the presentation slide design process. An outline will help you organize your thoughts and help you achieve your presentation goals.
It’s never a good idea to start designing slides without an outline. You can undo days of hard work, simply because you decided at the end that the presentation doesn’t flow well enough. So, before you even open up PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides, or whatever your preferred presentation app is, create your outline first!
Your outline is like your presentation’s skeleton. It forms the backbone of your presentation. Think of the overall content and design as the flesh of your presentation.
That being said, here’s how you can organize your outline:
- List down your main points and arrange them into categories.
- Group similar ideas under the same category.
- Review and adjust as necessary
Knowing how to make a presentation outline is crucial to maximizing productivity for your presentation. So, make sure you don’t skip this step!
Tip #10: Pick a color theme from the get-go
Having a color theme in mind before you even open up your presentation app is a good idea. Colors convey meaning. And you want a color theme that will help support your message, not somehow distract from it.
Color theme is not something many presenters pay attention to. For many, plain black and white is good enough. And don’t get me wrong, simplicity is a wonderful thing. But if you want to have a memorable presentation, then you better put some effort into it. And having a good color theme in place is one of the best ways to let your audience know you care enough about the event.
Now, if you’re working off of a prescribed corporate color palette, then your choices may be limited. However, if you’re free to pick your colors, then you should spend some time getting to know what the primary and secondary colors mean. There’s a lot of things to cover about this particular topic. I highly recommend you read this article on how to pick the right colors for your next presentation.
Tip #11: Know your presentation app’s interface
This tip is a literal life-saver. Knowing your presentation app’s interface and menu system is imperative to your productivity. Now each app comes with its own learning curve.
For best results, it’s important to at least get to know the software beforehand. So, when the time comes for you to design your slides, you’d be at least familiar with it. And you won’t spend as much time trying to look for formatting options, or whatever design option you’re looking for.
Here’s a tip though: if you’re working on PowerPoint, Keynote or Google Slides, they actually have a nifty, but hidden menu system in place. When you click on a slide element, it will open up a previously-hidden tab or menu for that element.
Let’s say you’re using PowerPoint. When you click on a shape on your slide, you’ll notice a new tab will appear on the ribbon. This will be the Shape Format tab. When you navigate to this new tab, you get a ton of new options that weren’t visible before you clicked on the shape. Likewise, if you click on a chart, you’ll get the Chart Design and Chart Format tabs, which opens up a whole new world of formatting options for your chart element.
Don’t be afraid to explore your presentation app. If you make a mistake, you can always undo the changes and go back to an earlier version. If you need help with PowerPoint, we have a bunch of PowerPoint tutorials on this blog.
Tip #12: Use presentation templates
Templates are popular for a reason. They make presenter’s lives easy. And if you’re still on the fence about using one of these because you think they’re low quality, well, you got another think coming! Check out the 24Slides Template Hub. In there, you’ll see that our templates are professionally designed, and it all comes with a rock-bottom, $0 price tag!
With templates, you no longer need to worry about creating your slides from scratrch. Truth be told, templates are the ultimate productivity weapon. Imagine, you’d only need to download a template which fits your topic, replace the placeholder content with yours, maybe do other changes here and there, and then call it a day!
Creating slides from scratch can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the complexity of the topic. With templates, however, you can cut your designing time to more than half! That’s some huge time-savings down there!
Plus, you can even get the work done faster if you already know how to navigate your presentation app’s interface. And, of course, if you’ve already got an outline in place. With an outline, you’re just like filling in the blanks on your slides.
Tip #13: Customize your presentation app’s toolbar
All right, so now we’re on to number 13 on our list of tips to maximize productivity. I’ll divide this section into two: PowerPoint and Keynote. Unfortunately, Google Slides does not offer the same option (yet). So, if you use Google Slides, you can just skip this section and go straight to the last point in this article.
- PowerPoint users: Customize the Quick Access Toolbar
Just like the name says, your Quick Access Toolbar gives you quick access to your favorite tools or commands. Instead of clicking through various sub-menus looking for your favorite command, you can just customize the quick access toolbar.
Say, for example, you need to insert a lot of screen clippings on your slides. The normal way to do this is by going to Insert > Screenshots > Screen Clippings. It seems quite simple enough, right? But try doing this command over and over for the next 100 slides! As you can imagine, it can get quite tedious.
However, if you customize your Quick Access Toolbar, you can insert the screen clippings tool with just a single click. So, here’s how you customize the toolbar:
First, click on the small arrow in the PowerPoint toolbar, then click on More Commands.
The PowerPoint Options dialog box will appear on your screen. You can choose from Popular Commands or you can go through the different menu options. You can view All Commands, or you can browse through each tab in the ribbon.
In my case, I want the Screen Clippings option to appear in my toolbar. So, I selected Insert Tab on the dropdown (1) , clicked on Screen Clipping (2), clicked on Add (3), and finally, I clicked on OK (4).
As you can see below, the Screen Clipping button or icon has now been added to my Quick Access Toolbar. Now, whenever I want to insert screenshots to my PowerPoint slides, all I have to do is just click on that button instead of going to the Insert tab. What a time saver indeed!
- Keynote users: Customize your Keynote toolbar
For Keynote users, you can customize your toolbar too. But your options are limited and nowhere as comprehensive as PowerPoint’s. Go to View > Customize Toolbar. You’ll see this on your screen:
Drag your favorite commands to the toolbar and hit the blue Done button when you finish. Alternatively, if you want to go back to the original toolbar set, just drag the ‘default set’ into the toolbar.
Tip #14: Familiarize keyboard shortcuts
Our last presentation productivity tip is to familiarize keyboard shortcuts. Just by the name itself (shortcut), you know these are going to help you save time. Instead of using your trackpad or your mouse to navigate over to your favorite settings, you can just press a key (or combination of keys) on your keyboard.
Let’s take, for example, selecting multiple elements on a slide. Instead of manually clicking on every single element, you can just hit CTRL+A (or Command+A for Mac users). Using your mouse will require a certain level of precision. But if you use the keyboard shortcut, you can just easily select everything in, literally, a single second.
I’ve linked to the official help articles from PowerPoint, Keynote and Google Slides below. Go check these out so you can start memorizing your most frequently used commands:
Tip #15: Quality vs quantity
Seriously, who in here thinks quantity is going to trump quality? When it comes to presentation slides, it’s not a race to have the most number of slides. Rather, it’s what’s in the slides that matter.
If you can squeeze your presentation into 10 slides, then why would you bother preparing for 50? Now, the general rule of thumb is that each slide translates to about 1-2 minutes of talk time. This means that if you have a 20-minute presentation, then you can use anywhere between 10-20 slides.
Obviously, this is just a rule of thumb and is not meant to be an absolute rule. You can use up 5 slides for the entire 20-minute duration, and your audience will love you if everything on the slide is super valuable to them.
At the end of the day, it’s really all about giving value to your audience. People will always appreciate speakers who give them what they want, or answer their question, “What’s in it for me?” Set their expectations straight and then deliver. That’s the right way to succeed in presentations!
Did These 15 Tips To Maximize Productivity Help You Out?
Preparing for a presentation can be a nerve-wracking experience. Instead of panicking, however, you should try your best to be prepared well before your scheduled presentation. Maximizing your efficiency and productivity will help you get to the big day with as little hiccup as possible. Apply the tips you’ve learned in this article, and watch your confidence grow as your presentation draws near!