This week I was at a conference in the wonderful city of Barcelona. There were a lot of presentations, I even gave one myself.
One presentation stood out for me, it was the final one of the conference. This presentation was high energy, used lots of full screen images, and it finished noticeably early. The presenters used humor and had a definite theme (I like themes). They designed their presentation to deliver a message (they called it a journey), rather than just presenting a large amount of information. These elements made it different from other presentations during the week, and I believe because it was different it was more memorable.
However, for me it was the early finish that reinforced an important point. Speakers usually fill their time slots, and I bet we have all been to presentations in which the speaker has actually run overtime. This presentation did the opposite. Was it intentional?
Yes, I think it was intentional. The presenters had a clear idea of what they wanted to say, and how they wanted to say it. They also had another goal – not to be boring. They knew they had the last time slot in a week that was full of presentations and other activities; they knew that the audience would be tired.
The lesson here: remember the needs of the audience. Design your presentation around your message, and deliver it in an engaging way. You don’t have to fill the time slot JUST to fill the time slot. Signed, sealed, delivered.
Hola de Barcelona
Refuse to be boring
I had an interesting conversation with a physician this week about how to present a data-rich topic, like a complex research study for example. Presenting this type of information in a 20-30 minute time slot (or even an hour), can be a real challenge. He explained that he modifies his presentation based on the audience. He said that he simplifies his material for general practitioners who may need a general overview, but presents a more detailed report to colleagues in his specialty because they often require the information at a deeper level.
He also mentioned that data-rich information can be dry to present. I certainly agree. Here are a few ideas from the experts to help avoid “presentation dry”.
Firstly, (as mentioned) adapt your content/presentation to the needs of your audience; this is always important to do. Secondly, remember that the conclusion is what counts. Presenting the conclusion of a study in a clear concise manner, while using simple graphics on your slides, can keep the audience’s interest. Use the 3 second rule – have no slides that take longer than 3 seconds to read. And finally, have a handout (of the detailed information) available for audience members who want to go deeper into the topic.
Following these simple suggestions may help make your data-rich presentations a little less “dry”.
Refuse to be boring
I just returned from a 3 day meeting in Orlando. Over 3000 people attended and, as you would expect, there were lots of presentations.
The presentations were like most presentations, but I noticed something interesting. Many of the presentations contained a story, and the stories had a noticeable effect on the audience. Whenever a presenter started a story, the audience got quiet and were more focused on the presenter. Everyone was more engaged.
The stories that were most engaging had common elements; they were about a specific person and a specific place and time. The best stories had a direct emotional link to the presenter’s message and were brief and concise.
The basic elements of this “springboard” type story are described in The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling – Mastering the Art and discipline of the Business Narrative by Stephen Denning (www.stevedenning.com). Denning defines a springboard story as one crafted to “communicate a complex new idea and ignite action to implement it”.
Some of Denning’s springboard story elements include:
– Having a single protagonist
– Specifying the date and place
– Stripping the story of any unnecessary detail
– Linking the story to the reason for telling it
– Using phrases like, “what if”, “just imagine”, or ”just think”
Denning gives many examples and suggests more elements for great business storytelling in his book. I think that if you use at least a few of these basic elements your storytelling will be better and your presentations will be more engaging.
Isn’t engaging your audience and igniting some action what presenting is all about?
Refuse to be boring