Want to do a good presentation at work?
Just get a book about good slide design, right?
There are some gurus out there who want you to believe that your PowerPoint or Keynote slides are the key to delivering a good presentation.
They are wrong.
They are wrong because their logic is fundamentally flawed.
The slide gurus logic is that a bad presentation can be corrected simply by storyboarding your slides and improving the way information is presented.
The above logic omits one key point:
No matter how good the slides are, the presenter still needs to talk about them.
And that is where the “build good slides, practice, and everything will be okay” lecturing falls flat on its face.
Case in point: Give Steve Jobs’ 2007 keynote slides to Harold from accounting.
Let’s see how Harold does with these slides. Without some coaching about how to deliver effectively Harold’s presentation about the new iPhone is going to be a disaster.
Slides are important but not fundamental
Good slide design is incredibly important for sharing a message clearly.
But here’s the thing: a good presenter can cover for bad slides, good slides can’t cover for a bad presenter.
As presenters then, our time is much better spent focusing on how we can engage an audience with our delivery, rather than struggling with PowerPoint.
To engage an audience, get them to buy-in, and have them take action here is where your time is better spent:
Understand your topic
Harold from accounting will fail to deliver a good iPhone presentation.
One of the reasons is he is not an expert on the topic.
When you are asked to deliver a presentation you need to become an expert in the topic, if you are not already.
You have to fully understand the topic you are presenting about or you will fail to convince your audience.
Take a common business situation as an example:
Your boss asks you to do a presentation on topic where you only know half the information.
Imagine you are a salesrep in a large team. You are in charge of door-to-door sales. Other members of your team are in charge of telesales.
Your boss asks you to do a presentation about the entire sales department, but you only know one part. Your part!
You can find out the bare minimum information about the telesales area and get by. The trouble with this approach is the audience will experience a strong first-half and weak second-half. You’ll talk like a natural about door-to-door sales and appear to be making stuff up when you talk about telesales.
If you take the time to understand everything about the sales department (door-to-door and telesales) your presentation delivery will be amazing rather than below-average.
Understand your audience
If you don’t know who you are presenting to it is difficult to do a good presentation.
You don’t have to know everyone in the audience, but do need to understand them as a whole.
What are their needs, wants, desires?
Example: your presentation is about a new product. An audience of product consumers versus an audience made up of the board of directors from the company producing the product would likely receive a very different presentation.
Frame everything about your presentation to suit your audience.
Practice delivery without prompts
My delivery improved overnight once I worked out that the slides shouldn’t be driving my presentation.
The best presentations are driven by the speaker and supported by the slides. The worst ones are driven by the slides and supported by the speaker (who is probably reading the slides to the audience).
Before you create any slides, make sure you can deliver your presentation from end-to-end. Then build your slide deck. The deck will be a stronger support to your presentation.
What is your presentation experience? Let’s chat in the comments below…
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