Sunday, February 1, 2015

Don’t Be That Presenter!

Boring Presentation

I’ve done hundreds of presentations during the course of my career and sat through many more. Some of mine have been well received and others, to be kind, have been less than successful. Below are a few tips to keep in mind so that you are not that presenter:

  • Look for ways to involve the audience. One of the most effective presenters I worked with would ask the audience at the beginning of any presentation what their objectives for the meeting were (what they expected or hoped to get out of the meeting) and then list these on a white board. This is a great way to get the audience involved from the onset. An attendee that participates in the meeting by raising questions and/or providing comments is much more likely to walk away with a positive view of the meeting.
  • Ask open ended questions such as; what is important to you, how does this impact you and what are your biggest problems. Don't pick on audience members let them volunteer.
  • By sure that you answer the following 3 questions for audience members:
    1) Why is this information important me?
    2) How will I benefit from using it?
    3) How can I get started?
  • Don’t be afraid to adjust your presentation in real time. It is OK to turn off the projector and go the white board if the audience wants to focus on a particular item. The primary of objective of any presentation is not to show each slide of the PPT. It is to convey a message. For example, the company I represent is great and we can help you; the product I am selling will solve a key problem for you ... . Then motivate participants to take an action. If you ignore the audience and talk over questions what message are you sending?
  • Be sure you are talking at a level that is compatible with the audience (technical, end users, management …) and that your content matches their expectations.
  • As you prepare for a meeting reflect on man/hours you will be consuming (duration of meeting X number of attendees). For a 90 minute meeting with 30 people you are consuming 45 hrs. This is a good way to remind you to focus on ensuring that your presentation adds value.
  • Humor can help a presentation and relax a stiff audience. Be careful not to use humor or make comments that disparage a group or class of individuals. You will likely offend someone and do more harm than good.
  • Smile and be enthusiastic and positive. People are drawn to those who are happy and positive.

I regularly review PowerPoint presentations prior to their delivery to clients or prospects. Let me share with you some of the items I check:

  • Consistent use of fonts. I regularly see different fonts and font sizes used throughout presentations (in headers, footers, bullet points and diagrams). Often this is a result of a new presentation being created by assimilating content from existing ones.
  • Long slide headers or titles. The header should be simple and communicate what the primary objective of a given slide is. It does not need to be a complete sentence.
  • Distorted images. Images which have been scaled disproportionately either horizontally or vertically. I often see images that are 75% in one direction and 175% in another. Additionally, scaling an image more then 125% creates a noticeable reduction in image quality.
  • Too many bullets: Usually 5 or 6 should be the max. Often a picture, chart, or graph communicates much more than text.
  • Complex diagrams with lots of minuscule text. Simple easily understood diagrams communicate a message more quickly and effectively than complex ones.
  • When text is placed in colored areas using shadows makes it much more readable.
  • Long sentences. Bullet points should be exactly that bullet points – short and to the point. Extended explanations and stories should be part of the oral presentation. Otherwise you are just reading your presentation which quickly bores an audience (refer to Guy Kawasaki video below).
  • Crowded slides
  • Redundant slides or slides that detract from the key message. When you are creating a presentation keep in mind the primary message(s) you wish to communicate and to whom you will be speaking. Eliminate slides which do not support the primary message or which do not speak to your audience (e.g. overly technical material to high level managers or business users).
  • Adding comments in speaker notes will help other people effectively utilize your presentation and thereby leverage the time and effort that was put into creating it.

Links to other resources:

Guy Kawasaki explains his 10 20 30 rule of presentations.

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