I have (in the main) enjoyed helping others to improve their presentations, and over the years have listened to people who have played with the full spectrum of my emotions. Plenty have made me laugh, a few got me almost into tears, lots made me proud and a couple of them were so awful I wanted to pull my own teeth out.
During a course last week I found myself wondering what the critical errors are. I couldn’t let go of the question until I had worked out the answer, and I thought I’d share it with you. I hope it gets you thinking too. These are not in priority order.
1. Turn your PowerPoint into a crutch. Fill the slides with text, as you would a Word document (so you can make sure you don’t leave out anything.) Then stand there and read it to them like a voice over narrator. They read at 450 words per minute, you talk at 150 words per minute, so you can guarantee that for 2/3rds of your presentation they are sitting there waiting for you to get to the next slide.
2. Be your own Questions Policeman. Don’t allow any until the end. This way you can over-run, reducing still further the 1% of time you have allocated to them. This technique keeps those nasty little clarification questions under control, meaning you won’t have to think on your feet, and your questioner who does not understand (because you didn’t explain it well enough) has a “tune out now” ticket.
3. Be a mind reader. Lock your presentation down well in advance and turn up ready to get them to “open wide ‘cos here it comes”. Do not allow for the possibility that they might be interested in something slightly fine tuned to their needs. Yours is a globally successful format which will translate well to all cultures and does not need to take account of local niceties. Your audience is there to receive, and have the presentation “done” to them.
4. Keep the lid on emotion. Emotions are for wimps. Pack your presentation with facts, figures, logic: lots of manly Left Brain stuff, and your job is done. Do not take account of the fact that we all decide emotionally and justify with logic afterwards. That way no one will remember anything about what you said, let alone take action of any sort. And you won’t risk the possibility of people actually enjoying themselves. Heaven forbid! That would be unprofessional.
5. Do your statue impression. You are there to communicate, not to act. Therefore remain rooted to the same carpet square throughout, and imagine someone has handcuffed your hands behind your back, otherwise they will spin hopelessly out of control above your head. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t tell your face that this solution is going to change peoples’ lives. Make it look and sound like you are reading out a list of parts for a breadmaker.
6. Don’t sell it to them. You are there to tell, not sell. So don’t bother to find anything of personal relevance to the victims in the room. Then you can give them every reason to tune out within 5 minutes and they can get on with something more worthwhile, ie doing their emails. At least they won’t come away saying it was a complete waste of time, and you can continue to perpetrate the myth that people can multi- task (or more like multi – mess up).
7. Make sure they come out brain dead. Take no account of Cognitive Overload, which kicks in after item 5. Give them full value for money, and cram them hard for at least one hour. Give them 27 things to remember, don’t bother to make it memorable, don’t summarise and keep your most important stuff until the end, when all they want is their lunch and they are begging you mentally to go away and die.
How many of these do you recognise? I’d love to hear your favourite bad habits, and am considering compiling them into a Presenter’s Bible. Please post your comments here for all to see.
Oh, and by the way, I once saw someone drink two full litre bottles of water whilst making a 20 minute presentation. Can anyone beat that?