wise elephant, making it happen

Don’t Be A Sucky Presenter (via NewComBizz)

By Jason Moriber • Feb 19th, 2010 • Category: Strategy & Planning, Thinkering

(this post was originally published at the blog NewCommBiz, the below is a “reprint”)

On Twitter I follow hashtags for presentations (example #TED) of all types, to learn how I can make my own presentations better. I dip into the flow of the conversations and see what I can filter out. Both the positive notes and the complaints tend to trend similarly, either people are psyched to be there and see their peers OR they list the ways the presenter or the presentation sucks (in a nice manner of course, but you know what’s up). Based on my ongoing Twitter filtering here are some bullet points to help make your presentations better.

Ask First: Before you prepare your presentation gain a list of the attendees and see if you  contact them via email. Ask them what they expect from the presentation. If you can’t email them, research them. You want to learn as much about who you are presenting to and what they seek to gain from your presentation in advance. Sure, stick with your game-plan if you feel your presentation is solid, BUT salt and pepper it with data, notes, and tidbits that answer the needs of your audience. Plus this builds a pre-realtionship with the audience and relieves their anxiety to ask questions. Know your audience.

Go Outside the Lines: We are accustomed to preparing our presentations using a linear deck of slides. It’s a logical way to present. My suggestion is to envision a few paths through your slides (even from front to back); a choose-your-own-adventure progression. Maybe a question arises from the audience about a topic you planned on covering later, instead of waiting, jump to it, shift your flow, and be prepared to work your way back. Be loose, don’t be a stiffy.

Un-Word the Slides: As you build your presentation think of ways to reduce the amount of texts on your slides. You don’t want to speak over a text-loaded slide, or even a complicated diagram. As example, consider offering a slide that has the base elements of a diagram (a matrix, a cool illustration) and using a pointer or your arm speak-out the data vs. displaying it (this corner is good, this one bad, things are pointing to the good). Speak the data.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Eraser: Say your audience isn’t feeling your topic that day, they seem dozy, or are chatty. Stop what you’re doing, shake it up. Yes, you’ve spent that past four days going over your presentation, but if it’s not working for you with this particular audience, seize the moment, be your best editor, and change the tone and tempo of the presentation in order to gain their involvement. Be actively presenting.

It’s Them, Not You: Don’t talk about  your product, service or company, even if you feel your product is the best answer to the question being raised. You’re not there to sell them services, you’re there to impart useful information to help THEM succeed. They all know where you came from, it’s on the website, in the hand-outs, in the emails. Do your best to speak about them, to offer them value, to provide for them. No one wants to feel like they are captive to a sales pitch. Just don’t do it.

Please, don’t be a sucky presenter.

Jason Moriber is a veteran product/project/marketing manager, underground artist/musician, and online community developer, Jason expertly builds/produces/manages clients' projects, programs, and campaigns. Follow me on twitter http://twitter.com/jelefant
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2 Responses »

  1. Amazing how so few of us follow this advice. We labor over presentations going into a cocoonish thought-bubble — what can we say, what linear argument will we make, no one speak up because we’re presenting a thesis *at* you that is perfect.

    I saw a few presentations go off the rails at SXSW. The mistakes were various: a crowdsourcing panel was slow and laborious and put up simple slides showing Wikipedia definitions of “crowdsourcing” and the audience snoozed. A questioner on stage with Ev Williams tossed softballs and talked about his own blog and the crowd walked for the exits. Too slow, too stupid, too egocentric, too frothy.

    The problem is there are potentially hundreds of ways to go wrong. What I like best about your advice is how to pack a chute — how to shift gears or find another path forward when the audience begins to zone out.

    We rarely break stride, but that’s what’s needed after a misstep.

    Thanks, Jason.

  2. Thank you Ben for seconding the notion(s). Always appreciated.


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