Shalu Wasu | Feb 07, 2010
I don‚Äôt know about you but I can‚Äôt take it anymore. So I have written this piece to reassure others that they won‚Äôt be subjected to the same misery when I am presenting. See if you can find something useful for yourselves here.
I must say that I am equally fed up of the numerous ‚Äòrules for making presentations‚Äô that we stumble across every few days either in a presentation or on the net. When you google ‚Äòrules for making presentations‚Äô, you get more than 8 million results! Most of them are standard clich√©s that irk me no end.¬† So I have created my own set of presentation rules. I follow my rules to the last detail and I have rarely been disappointed. I implore you, urge you and beg you to follow my rules as well.
Are you ready to see my rules? Are you sure? Do you promise to follow them? Okay, okay, here goes. The following is my list of rules:
Rule No. 2 Have your own (personal) set of guidelines for making presentations. Keep them flexible and change them often.
That‚Äôs it. That‚Äôs my list of rules. If you follow this you will never be in a situation where you torture others with your presentation. Okay, that is the end of the article. Move on to the next one.
Oh! Wait. You are probably thinking, ‚ÄòIf there are no rules, what do I do the next time I need to present?‚Äô¬† Well, sorry. I cannot tell you that. That is for you to figure out. But I can and I will share some ideas and guidelines that I have created for myself to help me prepare a presentation or deliver it.
But remember that while these ideas work for me, they might not work for you.¬† Ultimately you will need to have your own rules for presenting. All good presenters have them. Look at the following examples.
- Lawrence Lessig: He is a monster slider! He can use up to 200 slides for a 10 minute presentation and he makes them really good.
- Seth Godin: He follows a style which has a lot of visuals, little text and likes to surprise the audience.
- Guy Kawasaki: 10 slides, 10 ideas, one idea per slide, not more than 20 minutes.
- Takahashi: Super size font sizes (more than 120) and obviously very little text.
It‚Äôs okay if you don‚Äôt have your own ideas ready now. Work on this and develop them over time. Here are the ideas that work for me.
1. Don‚Äôt use too many words. Better still, don‚Äôt use them at all! I don‚Äôt like to use words in my presentations. I use pictures instead. If I have to, I will restrict the number of words to 3-5 (in font size 100+). If your slides contain the full text of what you want to say, you‚Äôll be tempted to just read from them, rather than communicating with the people in the room, and most of your audience will be reading them instead of listening to you. My personal challenge is to go through an entire presentation without using any words at all! I will update this post when I am able to do that.
2. Don‚Äôt be professional. Get personal. I try to ‚Äòconnect‚Äô with audience. I have found through experience that projecting a professional image that is workmanlike and stiff does not work especially if the presentation is long, say, a half-a-day program.
3. Don‚Äôt use PowerPoint templates. Use the blank screen like a canvas. I hate using ready-made PowerPoint templates. I feel that built-in templates are ‚Äòtacky‚Äô and most of them are not suited to my no-rules style of making presentations. If you use these standard templates you will necessarily end up with presentations that are clich√©d, riddled with bullets (pun intended) and those that will induce yawns. ¬†Most of the times, I do not use any template. I don‚Äôt need to since I mostly use pictures and big font sizes.
4. Don‚Äôt dress up. Strip down. Stripping down means removing all the fluff and padding to get to the essence of the message. How to strip down?
- Be present 100%. Do not think of the consequences of your presentation, or the preparation or anything else. Not being present 100% in every moment of speaking is cheating the audience.
- Do not keep the focus on your performance. Instead focus on trying to sell, inspire, help, inform, teach, persuade, train, motivate, provoke…
- Do not present in a dark room where the focus is on the screen. The screen is just one component of the presentation. The audience came to see you as well as hear you.
- Be as near your audience as possible. Let them feel your energy and passion. Use a remote.
- Be yourself. Your core personality should come through in the presentations. Do not pretend to be someone you are not. Your quirkiest habits could turn out to be your strengths.
- Cut out the jargon. You fail the test if you have anything remotely close to the following phrases:
Proactively create enterprise-wide e-services without turnkey systems. Seamlessly enhance resource maximizing technologies for premier infrastructures. Objectively matrix revolutionary meta-services via optimal architectures. Credibly promote adaptive e-business without prospective innovation. Globally visualize worldwide e-markets vis-a-vis business solutions. Assertively disintermediate scalable materials with B2B platforms. Uniquely re-engineer progressive solutions for B2B synergy. Compellingly empower visionary metrics and equity invested portals. Appropriately incentivize professional strategic theme areas through user-centric infrastructures.
5. Don‚Äôt love the audience. Provoke them. Your objective is to make them think. That won‚Äôt happen if they are not stretched, or if there are no areas of disagreement. The greatest learning happens when people think. It is as simple as that. You need to make them think. To be able to do that, you need to pull them out of their comfort zones.
6. Don‚Äôt encourage participation. Encourage co-creation. Rather than just have the audience make meaningful comments, get them to contribute creatively to taking your agenda further. In a presentation about training programs, you could ask the participants to contribute one idea that is not covered by you. Suddenly, a dozen participants will come up with an idea each and you have a dozen more ideas.
7. Don‚Äôt hide the nervousness. Share the joy. Presenters spend too much effort and use up every trick in the bag to ‚Äòavoid‚Äô looking nervous! Well, thinking, planning and preparing for not being nervous is a surefire way to ensure that you will be nervous. Instead focus on the positive side. Focus on how happy and thrilled you are to be making the presentation and to have this opportunity to share! Focus on what you have to share rather than your ‚Äòperformance‚Äô.
8. Don‚Äôt can it! Flow with it. I have been victim of over preparation. In such situations, I usually end up making a stiff, workman-like presentation. However, in situations where I am well prepared but not overdone, I seem to flow into the presentation naturally.
9. PowerPoint is not the presentation. You are. PowerPoint is just a tool to present. You are at the core of the presentation. Without you, a PowerPoint deck is just a bunch of facts and figures. You may as well email it and then cancel the meeting. Next time, someone asks you to mail the ‚Äòpresentation‚Äô, tell them, you cannot travel by email. ¬†You can only forward the PowerPoint deck through email, not the presentation!!
10. Communication is not WORDS+BODY LANGUAGE+TONE. Communication is the transfer of emotion. Facts, numbers, data, charts and logic can be emailed, emotions cannot. Your job as a presenter is to add emotion to the presentation. You can do so by being passionate and by believing in what you are presenting.
11. Never give out handouts before the presentation. Give notes later. Don‚Äôt give the slides as handouts in the beginning or everyone will get down to looking at the stuff while you‚Äôre talking and ignore you. Instead, your goal is to get them to sit back, trust you and take in the emotional and intellectual points of your presentation. Also remember, since your slides now have only pictures, it may be a better idea to prepare a separate document to give as a handout rather than the slides with pictures.
12. Do not stick to your story. Make the story sticky. Try to follow at least 4 out of the 6 essentials that Chip and Dan Heath talk about in their book Made to Stick. Here is a quick summary.
a. Keep it simple! Find the core of your idea and focus on the core. Only. You cannot find the core of your idea by ‚Äòdumbing‚Äô it down. You can do so by finding what is essential to your message. Strip your idea down to the bare essential. A successful defense lawyer says, ‚ÄúIf you argue ten points, even if each is a good point, when they get back to the jury room they won‚Äôt remember any.‚Äù To strip an idea down to its core, we must be masters of exclusion. We must relentlessly prioritize.
b. Violate people‚Äôs expectations by doing something unexpected. The objective is to
‚Ä¢ Surprise people and GAIN ATTENTION.
‚Ä¢ Create interest to SUSTAIN ATTENTION.
Make your ideas concrete by adding vivid images and sensory information.
c. Make people believe your ideas by making them credible. Vivid details boost credibility. Present statistics in a human context. Find a source of credibility to draw upon.
d. Get people to care about your ideas by adding emotion. Associate ideas with emotions that already exist in others. Bridge the emotional gap between your idea (that they don‚Äôt care about – yet) with something they already are emotional or care about. Research shows that people are more likely to make a charitable gift to a single needy individual than to an entire impoverished region. We are wired to feel things for people, not for abstractions and extrapolations. Sometimes it can be tricky to find the right emotion to harness. For instance, it‚Äôs difficult to get teenagers to quit smoking by instilling in them a fear of the consequences, but it‚Äôs easier to get them to quit by tapping into their resentment of the duplicity of Big Tobacco.
e. Make people act on your ideas by telling them stories. Use stories as stimulation (tell people how to act) and as inspiration (give people energy to act).
Avoid clich√©d presentations. Don‚Äôt bore your audience to death. Make your presentations worth their while.
Filed Under: Growth