Tag Archives: presentations

Talk to Your Audience

addicted-powerpoint

I’ve sat through, as I’m sure not a few of you have, many maddening hours of reading PowerPoint presentations while ignoring the presenter. My own experience included walking a disinterested audience through a mandatory corporate template. This meant that my 0nce a month fifteen-minute opportunity in front of the company decision makers was limited to running through the required metrics and graphics before I got to the interesting stuff.

What’s Your Point?

This seems obvious, but too often presenters don’t actually talk to their audience. We turn our back on them and talk to the slides. We read them through our entire though process, justifications, side-trips, and dead-ends before getting t to our point. Some presenters don’t event get there. Instead they bury us in data but don’t give us any information.

If you’re in front of influencers and decision makers, make it easy for them. Give them the headline, tell them what you’re going to tell them. Don’t bury your recommendation / conclusion / call-to-action and expect them to figure it out. That’s why you’re presenting – to do the thinking for them, so they don’t have to. If they have to do all the thinking, then what do they need you for?

Talk to the Audience, Not the Slides

People can read. They don’t need you to do it for them. Reading from the slides gives the slides the focus. Maybe this is more comfortable than having a room full of strangers staring at you, but it betrays a lack of confidence, or sends the subtle message that you don’t care about them, or both.

PowerPoint has an outlining function, which is a great way to create a presentation. The trap many fall into is then putting it all the words up on the screen and then reading from it.

Move text to the ‘notes’ section and refer to your printed copy if you have to. Leave the main points of your persuasive arguments and conclusion. You should know the details well enough to only need to refer to it to get back on track.

Turn and face your audience. Speak directly to them. Pick a few people in the room and make eye contact with them in turn. If it’s a large audience, this is different people from different parts of the room. If there are decision makers or people you’ve chosen to build a relationship with are present, choose them.

Use Pictures and Stories

Human being are amazingly emotional and visual creatures. If your intent is to persuade and convince, use pictures. Then tell stories about those pictures. This isn’t always proper, but use it when you can. People don’t make decisions or get moved to action because of facts and figures. They do those things when you move them by your vision. The facts and figures will help support and rationalize that decision later.

For example, when working with a new client, they’ll tell me that they want to hit a certain revenue or profit target. Often stated in terms of percentage growth or EBITDA. Which is great. You need to have concrete, testable goals. The more interesting story, and the one that should come first, is “What is that money going to allow us to do?” Growth and profit is never an end to itself, it is a means to something else. Whether it’s security, or winning, or being the best at a particular thing – whatever that means for you – is the more inspirational vision.

Know what your point is and make it, talk to your audience no matter how big or small, and inspire to convince.

Everybody Sees the World the Same Way I Do – It’s a Trap!

Fifth in a series about communication and change management

Frustrated They're Not Learning? It May Not Be Them

Frustrated They’re Not Learning? It May Not Be Them

I love words. As a child when I discovered books, that became  my world. It’s where I escaped to. I write daily. I journal. I have plans to write a book. I love the smell of books. I have a library that I measure in hundreds of linear feet. Some books go back to the late 18th century.

It’s a lovely place. Coffee on, music in my ears, typewriter keyboard under my hands. Or a new book on my e-reader. When I learn or process I usually do it through words. Words are beautiful. Words are powerful. Words are magical.

Yet I’m closing myself off from most of the world. Not everybody has a sensual association with the written word like I do. Saying that out loud it seems that might be a good thing. My point is, not everybody processes the world through words. There are five senses, not just eyes scanning shapes laid out linearly.

Words are a visual media, yes, but there are also photographs, drawings, and pictures. Movies, models, and sculptures. There are many visual media, and many different ways to understand the world. The best writing (and speaking), in fact,  invokes the visual in concrete and tangible ways.

Fix #5 Appeal to All Five Senses

Learn to tell compelling stories. Tell them in different ways. Consider all the senses. Persuasive, moving arguments invoke all five senses and more. They invoke memory and emotion. We act because of how they make us feel.

I saw one of the worst examples of killing all enthusiasm for a great idea at an after-dinner presentation last week, in which a simple story from the audience rescued the evening.

The presentation was on workforce management. The slides that accompanied the presentation looked like a random collection of numbers and letters thrown at the page. The presenter read from the slides. It was horrible.

I felt sorry for the poor guy. He was trying to jazz things up by having a little drawing of a flow-chart or something in the bottom corner once in a while. Ironic really. Yet it was a simple metaphor from the audience that brought his concept  to life:

There are two kinds of shoppers at the hardware store on a Saturday morning. The first kind has a list, knows what she needs to complete the entire project, and gets in and out just the once. She spend the rest of the day executing the project, finishes early, and has a beer on the patio at the end of the day.

The second kind makes a trip to the hardware store every time they figure out they’re missing another piece or tool. This was me last summer when my outside faucet sprung a leak inside the house – six trips to the hardware store before I had the drywall back on the ceiling!

There. One simple visual metaphor and the jargon-filled, esoteric project management concept is distilled and made clear. Now the details (and project managers love details) have a skeleton to hang from. Oversimplified? Perhaps. Understandable? Yes.

The Three Question Method – How to Create Compelling Presentations

The “three question” approach is a great way to get out from the usual wall of slides that separates you from your audience. It gets you thinking about what your audience wants – and who doesn’t love a presentation that revolves around themselves?

I suggested this method of creating compelling presentations to one of my clients, which he’s used to good effect in front of a lunch of leasing agents.

You might also be interested in:
How To Make Your Presentation Better: using stories and turning points
Keeping It Simple for PowerPoint Slides: get focus by using the 10/20/30 rule
Perfect Your Presentations: a trick for getting out from behind your slides. Who hasn’t had a slide go missing?

How Not To Choke

I was at my daughter’s high school music recital last night. The jazz band had good players in it, but they didn’t do very well. Because I used to play trumpet, my wife leaned over to me and asked if there was something wrong with the trumpet. I replied that it wasn’t the instrument, but the player lacked confidence and that’s what she was hearing.

This article talks about why we choke under pressure, and what you can do about it. The book is going on my reading list.

5 Ways Not to Suck At PowerPoint

The title says it all. 5 ways not to suck at PowerPoint

My favourite tip: design your presentation for the guy at the  back of the room.

How to Make Your Presentation Better

presentation presentationsGood, simple advice for making your presentations better:

  • Use stories
  • Use turning points – a “call to adventure” at the beginning of your talk, and a “call to action” at the end