Sorry. You lost me at the first slide.

Scott Harwood | Creative Director Live presentations, Sales Leave a Comment

I recently attended a workshop in Tauranga. It was held in a large hanger. The presenter was an interesting person with some good stuff to say.

However, there was a problem. No microphone.

Being a hanger, the ambiance was one of a large bucket. We all strained to hear what was being said.

A bit later we were asked to stand and move either to one side or the other of the space, so to reflect our position on various statements. Selected individuals were quizzed on why we took our either-or positions. Unfortunately, most of the rationales offered were lost into the abyss of the big bucket.

Much later someone saved the day with a microphone. Finally, normal transmission resumed.

All this got me thinking about preparation for and the makings of a great presentation. 

Although I’ve seen several excellent TED Talks via YouTube, very few of the presentations, talks and sales pitches I’ve attended have grabbed me from the get-go and kept me tightly engaged to the end.

Often presentations are driven by PowerPoint slides. We’ve all seen it. The presenter enters, introduces themselves, clicks for the first slide, turns to the screen and reads it. Everyone reads it too. We’re focussed on the screen not the presenter. And so, it plays out throughout the presentation. Both the presenter and us dutifully read the slides together. We’re not engaging with the presenter. We’re reading.


Rule number one for better presentations:

A slide is not your teleprompter. A slide should add value to what you’re saying. It’s not you adding value to the what’s on the slide. If you need cue cards don’t use the screen. Write cue cards for yourself. You can always hand out notes later.

Slides should be brief and to the point, at most a key statement or an image to elicit an emotional response. Charts or diagrams can be powerful to illustrate a concept or relationship.

Your audience is there to hear from you, to understand your thoughts, your challenges, your passion.

You should be at the centre of their attention.


Rule number two:

Ditch the bullet points. You’re talking about point one but your audience is reading point two, then point three and on to point four. They have finished all your points and you’re still at one. Spoiler alert. Your punchlines have been and gone.

Try to keep to under 10 words per slide. Five words if possible. Edit and refine to the most pointed statement you can manage.


Rule number three:

No cheese. Don’t be tempted to throw in nasty clip art. Go for the best images and graphics you can source or create. They should add meaningful value. And while we’re on this point, lose those transitions, dissolves and animations. They add no value, they just distract.


Rule number four:

No dad jokes. If you’re not a natural stand-up comedian don’t even try. It’ll just make you look nervous. BE YOURSELF. That’s why they’re there. To get to know you and your thoughts.


Rule number five:

Be clear in your mind what the presentation is for. What exactly are you trying to achieve? What action do you want your audience to take?


Rule number six:

Don’t give your audience a print out of your presentation. It won’t mean that much without you there. Compose information rich notes. Include your charts and diagrams. Refer rule number five. Include a call to action and mark out how they can take that action.


Finally, practice and then practice more. A dress rehearsal is best. Know what’s at the venue and make sure everything works before the presentation starts. Your next venue might be a bit of a bucket.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.