Bad presentations: I’ve been reminded recently of a observation by Scott Berkun, a writer and speaker who’s spoken at conferences all over the world. Scott’s also written a great book ‘Confessions of a Public Speaker’. One of the ideas in his book is something I totally agree with. Burkun says:
“The problem with most bad presentations I see is not the speaking, the slides, the visuals, or any of the things people obsess about. Instead, it’s the lack of thinking.”
You’d probably agree that this is true. No amount of being polished and eloquent with beautiful slides will save you if you don’t put in the thinking time. So what are the most common reasons this happens?
Lack of time; most people at work are pushed to the limits nowadays
It’s frequently tedious – unless you love your topic of course
The presentation simply doesn’t matter that much to you
I can promise you that ‘winging it’ rarely works! If you’re super-experienced and/or know your topic backwards, you may get away with winging it, but it’s often an excuse coming from unwillingness to put the time in, arrogance or fear. Interestingly though, think about the presenters you know who are super-experienced and know their topic in great detail. They’re often the ones who continue to put in the extra time and effort to make sure they stay at the top of their game.
I heard a story from a client yesterday who told me about her father who’d been a real estate auctioneer for years. He would do three or four auctions every Saturday for fifty weeks of the year – and every week he would practise each auction out loud, record it, and his daughter would transcribe it for him…for years. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that he was successful in real estate! That focus and perseverance tends to pay off.
Here’s what I recommend you need to think about before you give any presentation:
- The WHY for your audience. What can they take away and use as a result of your talk? Or how will they think or feel differently after hearing your information? (This is one reason why status updates are so deadly in the workplace – it’s really hard to make them engaging and have any real why for the audience.) What will inspire and motivate them?
- Making sure you have clear key points and arguments. I have come across presentations that simply don’t have a clear point. You walk away and think “what was that about? I have no idea – but it wasn’t a good use of my time”!
- A logical flow. This is one of the good reasons why practising out loud is so important. You’ll hear where your presentation doesn’t flow, or any gaps in logic. It can also be really helpful to have a colleague listen to your key messages to point these things out as well.
- The counter arguments to your points. It’s going to be pretty rare that you don’t have some degree of resistance or challenges to your key messages. If you think them through beforehand, you can hopefully avoid being blindsided by something nasty during your presentation and not knowing how to respond in the moment.
I’ve kept it short and sweet today. Hopefully I’ve reminded you of the importance of putting in some extra thinking time to prepare for your talk so you don’t fall into the trap of bad presentations. And if you do put in that time? I promise you’ll be a long way ahead of all the other presenters out there who aren’t doing it!