May 15th, 2008 Systems posted by dmerritts View Comments

Presentations that Suck Less

Presentations mostly suck. People are bad at presenting. And, most people don’t spend time on the visual message. I think any audience is highly influenced by the visual message; often more so than the spoken message. People zone out. People seem to zone out less visually. Or, more importantly, people who zone out from listening, reorientate themselves visually. If your visual message is bad, then the audience re-engagement will be poor.

Spend time on Visual Stories :: Creating visual stories is difficult. Thinking of to visualize a spoken argument or concept take time. Often time that we don’t have. But, creating visual representation of your stories helps you better connect with your audience. If you only have bullet points, then you’ve likely lost a very important visual connection. This leads to confusion. And, worse, misunderstanding of your message. Visualizing a product’s competitive advantage can be difficult. How can you articulate the competitive moat that insulates you from competitors?

Re-Order the Presentation :: Spend time thinking about how you want your audience to receive the message. Make sure it resonates well in your mind or a friend’s mind first. I often find myself too close to the presentation to objectively view how people will hear the final delivery. This is where colleagues or friends come in to help you order based on no or limited knowledge. The further I get into a project the more I presuppose. And, as a result the audience is still lost at the concept phase and I’m onto the implementation. Knowing your audience’s level of understanding allows you to set-up the right story line from the beginning.

Group Presentations :: People make shitty slides. This is especially true when you think about presentations that are assembled by groups. Here you can see the inconsistency and thoughtlessness that underscores the final presentation. First, the templates are loosely applied. This means that fonts and themes among slides are different. And, graph or visual colors are different. Half the time you wonder if the final order even makes sense. Spend time reworking the format on slides provided by others. Yes, it’s annoying. But, it does make a different in the level of polish. More importantly it makes you look smarter.

Presentations May Need A Report :: Don’t turn your presentation into a report. Yes, I know that doing page layout in Word sucks. But, powerpoint is equally annoying for page layout. But, many consulting firms seem to make powerpoint the platform of choice for reports. They create slides with 200 – 500 words on them and pretty picture. This isn’t effective for getting your message across. Write a document. And, the 200 page slide decks that are flipped through to socialize the data are even more annoying. Make it visual. And, remember, just because slides have no marginal cost doesn’t mean that you have to add them unnecessarily. That said, sometimes more slides and a word or two can create a really compelling user message.
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