Why your presentations suck and what to do about that.

Ever wonder how effective your PowerPoint presentations are? What if you discover that the format you’ve been using is all wrong?

Inc Magazine recently published an intriguing article by Geoffrey James claiming that PowerPoint is “worse than useless”.

It brings to mind a presentation I received several years ago when I was lining up speakers for some seminars I was leading. I didn’t know what to do when a speaker submitted a 50-page PowerPoint deck for her 30-minute slot. My eyes glazed over as I scanned through it. Most of it text and bullet points, not images.people falling asleep in an office

I could see heads nodding just thinking about it. We had the speaker condense it as much as we could, but it was not one of the highlights of the seminar.

Rather, the talk that received the best rating was one where the wifi went out a few minutes into it (every speaker’s nightmare). This speaker used extensive knowledge of his topic and a warm, engaging personality to capture everyone’s attention.

So how do you ensure that your presentation is well received? I present bullet points 2 and 9 in this smart article from Presentation Prep titled “10 Most Common Presentation Mistakes”. Supported by this quick read from Inc Magazine contributor Jessica Stillman titled “A TED Coach’s 5 Best Tips for PowerPoint Slides That Won’t Put Your Audience to Sleep.” #5 is particularly appealing.

If you’ve been using slides in your presentations and notice heads nodding, what can you do?

Think about the best presentations you’ve attended. They’re probably the ones you remember. What stands out in your mind? Pretty slides? Probably not.

I’m not suggesting that you never use slides. In some cases….like a talk on photography….. they can be used very effectively. But I am suggesting that you use them sparingly — as support for what you’re saying rather than something to read from. Blah blah blah……

The best presentations are those where the speaker knows how to engage her audience. The ones you leave thinking “that was terrific” or “I want to hear more from this person”. Followed by feeling you need to:

  • Visit their website
  • Follow them on social media
  • Set up a coffee date.

In other words, the best presentations are teasers. They leave you wanting more. They’re new business drivers — the best kind of marketing tools you can find.

Next time you’re preparing for a presentation, try these 7 tips:

  1. Focus on how you can engage your audience. This might depend on who you’re speaking to. Men respond differently than women. Professions and type of industry also impact your presentation style. If you’re speaking to a group of brain surgeons, your tone and demeanor will be much different than a talk to event planners or yoga instructors.
  2. See how quickly you can get their attention. Think about what your audience needs. What can you give them that will help them work better, smarter, faster?Some speakers start with a question or two asking exactly that. Statements like “did you know?” or “have you ever tried….?” or “you know how you feel when…..?” come to mind. Why? Because they speak to problems you’ve had or entice you with a better way to solve something that’s always driven you a bit crazy.
  3. Ask your audience to take notes. You don’t just want them to listen. You want them to participate. With paper and pen, not digitally. The brain/hand connection has been well documented. Studies suggest that “Writing by hand strengthens the learning process”.
  4. Be authentic and likeable. We’re generally more engaged when we feel that we like the person we’re listening to.
  5.  Use humor (assuming the topic isn’t a very serious one). Laughing or smiling warms up a room and helps people relax. When we’re relaxed, we’re more receptive to listening – even if we don’t necessarily agree with the person speaking.
  6. Use handouts.  Preferably have them on the seats or tables at the start of your talk. That way, the audience can get an idea of what you’re going to be talking about. And they can use the handout to take notes.You might also include a “how’d I do?” form for people to rate your presentation. That lets them know you give a damn and want them to come away having learned something new or at least thought provoking.
  7. Close with a thank you. And a call-to-action for next steps.
    For example:
  • Feel free to call, text, email me with any questions you may have
  •  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram
  • Sign up for my newsletter, podcast, etc.

Try these tips as you prepare for your next presentation and we’re betting you’ll have an engaged and smiling audience.

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