Power Pointless

Hands down, most presentations are boring
How often are you forced to sit through terrible presentations at conferences or in your own office? It happens to everyone. My feeling is that friends shouldn’t let friends make bad presentations. It is avoidable and can be easily remedied. I have developed a few simple steps that I like to use when speaking to an audience in various work related situations. Please consider these next time you are asked to present.

FIRST- and it is really the first thing you need to do. Determine if you should really be giving a presentation or just talking with your group. If your audience can fit around a conference table, maybe what you need to do is to sit at the table with them and talk. Standing up in front of the group and presenting can immediately create the impression of teacher and student. Whereas sitting around a table, with an outline in front of you, allows you to have a conversation. When your audience is relaxed and receptive, they are more apt to get hear your message. Can you imagine being at Thanksgiving dinner with family and standing up with PowerPoint to present an update to Mom and Dad? Sit down and tell your story. 

Does your audience look like this? 
SECOND- if the group is too large and you can’t fit at the table, is PowerPoint really the right format? It is such an overused and poorly understood software program that you might be best served to use something else to make your point. The key question to ask is what is THE message you want your audience to walk away with? And yes, if you speak for an hour, most people will remember one thing. Sorry, but that is the way we humans work. Don’t kid yourself and think that they can recall your 20 brilliant distinctive features about your plans. Think about the last presentation you sat through- you'll be lucky if you do remember one bit of information. 

Perhaps you can make your point through analogy using pictures. An example would be if you have a technology that is so advanced, perhaps a series of old technology/new technology images can help embed your main idea in the mind of your audience. (horse and buggy vs. a new BMW). I work for a company that makes synthetic, engineered corcs for the wine industry that use twenty-first century technology and science. I love to compare our competitor (natural bark cork) to the Gutenberg press from the fourteenth century. Both technologies work but ours represents the future. The images of the Gutenberg Press versus the iPad is a great image to illustrate my main point. Using photographs instead of words on a slide is a powerful and effective way to leave a strong impression and entertain your audience. When people are entertained they are paying attention. 

Gutenberg Press vs. iPad
A visually interesting way to make my point in a presentation
THIRD- if you decide that you are going to do a PowerPoint, remember the rule of 10/20/30 that I learned about from Guy Kawasaki, the former Apple marketing guy. See his video on this topic here)  Ten slides. Twenty minutes and thirty point font.  Why is this important? Because in 10 slides you can tell a clear story, in twenty minutes you can keep people’s attention and 30 point font allows everyone to read the words clearly. Don’t cram your slides with so many words, charts and graphs that your audience isn’t listening but reading. 
Let me say that again.

Don’t cram your slides with so many words, charts and graphs that your audience isn’t listening but reading.

Give mounds of data out- don't present it!
FOURTH- if you have to look at your slides to present your story, you aren’t prepared. The story should flow easily and should have an arc. That arc should have a beginning, a middle and an end. A simple story engages the listener and makes it clear to them what you want them to take away. You can always hand out 200 pages of research data on a jump drive or 50 pages of footnotes. DON’T PUT IT ON YOUR PRESENTATION. Death by data is second only to Death by PowerPoint. 

A side note on charts and graphs: more are not better. Less is more. One chart that illustrates your point is helpful. Several charts that nuances the information should be reserved for white papers, technical journals or even a handout. Keep it simple is a cliche for a reason. It is effective. 

Copyright Gregory
FIFTH- Know thy audience. How technical is the audience? How much background does everyone have on your company or the subject at hand? What is the expectation of the audience? What do they want from you? If you have 10 features about your product or company that you want them to remember, write them on a piece of paper or give them a sales brochure to remind them of these points. But when you speak in front of them, reinforce the benefit they derive from your product. Make sure they get what they need and not the other way around.  

If you can speak to a few audience members in advance of the presentation, find out what they are most interested in learning from you and your portion of the presentation. Learn what problem they are trying to solve with your product or service. Then figure out a compelling way to tell the story where your benefit becomes the hero helping to support their need. To repeat, the presentation shouldn't be about you. The presentation is about your what your audience needs. Tell a story that helps solve their problem. 

In sum, a presentation to an audience needs to be fun, clear and easy to digest. Think of it like a book report NOT the book.  Give them highlights and an overview and repeat at least three times the take away message. Be prepared but don’t be married to your plan if the audience asks questions that redirects you. A fluid and flexible presenter is more effective than someone who adheres to the script. Your goal isn't to make a presentation. Your goal is to communicate your key message to your audience. Telling a simple story is hard but worth the effort if you want to be an effective presenter. 

Boring limits understanding and communications
Most importantly, enjoy the opportunity and remember to smile. People learn and listen more from people who are relax, calm and enjoying themselves. 

Friends don't let friends give bad presentations. 

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