Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Create the Presentation You Would Want to Attend

Times are a changin’. Today, even a young child has the capacity to create a full-fledged PowerPoint. But despite the increase of technology and overall usage, there still remains a pervasive lack of understanding on presenting effectively. Forget remembering to breathe and talk slowly. Here are some not-so-obvious recommendations.

Get creative. Everyone has sat through too many unimaginative, dull presentations. That’s because a lot of information is not worth presenting. But often times, that’s not up to you to decide. Therefore, think beyond sharing numbers, concepts or messaging. Storytelling is the best way to teach. Illustrating your points through narrative offers a sense of increased engagement, comprehension, and remembrance. As with all good stories, creating a full-fledged narrative carries a beginning, middle and end: where we were, where we are and where we need to go. As Chris Brogan mentions, “consider a main character with a problem that needs solving. Maybe [they] have too many spreadsheets and not enough links, and people are starting to give her information in ways that her spreadsheets are overflowing their banks.” Clearly it’s a little silly, especially with dry information such as quarterly finance reports or sales projections. The point is, people appreciate your willingness for creativity. As Brogan sums up, “The presumption is that there’s something inherent in your presence that people can’t get from just browsing the brochure or reading online.”

How you use slides is all wrong. Obviously your slide deck is there to supplement your message, not do your presenting for you, therefore, keep your content simple.To best optimize your customers time and attention, consider the 10/20/30 rule created by entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki: no more than ten slides, total presentation time under twenty minutes and keep your font size always at 30 points or larger. Keeping your overall presentation uncluttered seems intuitive but most people struggle to boil down great content to the concise themes your recipients need and can digest. People generally can handle three to four major thoughts or topics at once. Don’t overwhelm.
Secondly, know your slides so that the focus is on you and your slides move seamlessly through your well-rehearsed content. As John Greathouse from Forbes points out, “The effectiveness of TedTalk speakers has a great deal to do with structure. Notice how the speakers time the builds of their slides to accentuate their key points and craft a story that engages their audience.”

Engage. If there is a formal rule that exists which states presentations should only be a talking head, I’m not aware of it. Depending on the context of your presentation and if the circumstances allow, leveraging additional voices and thoughts from your audience can allow for wonderful collaboration and refreshing dialogue. Best of all, it removes a lot of the inherent stress of being the center of the presentation. Keep in mind this can also be done wrong, however. Your inability to control a lively, vocal crowd can quickly derail messaging and your overall effectiveness. Unfortunately all to common is also the pervasive cold call questioning, typically resulting in an uncomfortable lag filled with crickets. If you tentatively plan to ask specific questions, preparing your audience prior to doing so will not only provide you a better answer but appreciation from your viewers. 

Extra nuggets of thought: 1) Remember to smile. Even when you’re a ball of emotions as a presenter, happiness naturally puts people at ease. 2) Be customer-centric. Every text, image, and word you use should be considered thoughtfully. Famous presenter Steve Jobs was brilliant at this aspect.

Bradley Allred - MS Candidate in Integrated Marketing at Northwestern University - Specializing in brand management & digital marketing. Follow him on Twitter @bradleyallred



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