The medium is the message.
I have been to more than a few presentations where the presenter’s slides were undermining their message. Like a presentation about a simple solution to a customer’s problem. And then using slides that are so full of text, images, charts and graphs that they scream complexity at the audience. Like a presentation about the advantages of thoughtful design where the slides aren’t thoughtfully designed.
Presenting an exciting and new innovation? Then your slides have to look exciting and new (not just those words on the slides). Talking about efficiency? The slides need to look efficient. In fact, the whole presentation needs to be efficient. Your visuals can be message amplifiers, message killers or just neutral.
Using visuals that resonate with and amplify your message is all part of designing a memorable presentation. Presentation design is about creating a positive, memorable audience experience. Everything you say or show needs to help your audience understand and remember your message. If your slides are telling the opposite message to what you are trying to convey, that is confusing. And confusing is never memorable.
Maybe Marshall McLuhan was right even about presentations, the medium is the message.
Thanks Gary for the idea.
A better way.
One day in 2007 I walked out of a hospital board room into a busy hallway and stopped dead in my tracks. I realized I had just experienced one of the most boring presentations ever. The problem was…I was the presenter!
I had bored myself, never mind my poor audience. There had to be a better way.
You learn to deliver great presentations.
Since that day in 2007 I have become a student and passionate advocate of the “art of the presentation”. I soon realized that designing and delivering an interesting, focused, memorable presentation was a skill you learned. It wasn’t a magical ability that people somehow had. Being able to design and deliver an impactful presentation is a skill every business (or other) professional needs to master.
On a mission.
During my travels I have met large numbers of experienced, talented people who believe that presentations are critical to their success but have almost no training in presentation design or delivery. I am on a mission to change that; I want to share what I have learned with others.
Since 2008 I have done presentations on presentation design/delivery at national and local conferences and have given presentation design/delivery workshops around the world. I have had the opportunity to work with many individuals and teams as they designed (and delivered) impactful presentations for their audiences. I enjoy hearing other’s experiences, and sharing insights on how (and why) to design and deliver interesting, focused, and memorable presentations.
Presentations don’t have to be boring.
In 1971 country western singer Jerry Reed had a hit called “When you’re hot you’re hot … when you’re not you’re not”. This is a concept that all presenters can relate to. Do you have a hot connection with the audience, or … not?
Recently I was booked to do a sales presentation on a Monday, at 8:30 p.m. I knew it would be a long day for the audience members as most had been at work since 7:00 a.m. I also didn’t know them so there was no prior relationship to build on. With those two things in mind I felt I needed to design the presentation to be as entertaining as possible. I actually was not looking forward to presenting as I didn’t expect to be very effective. I was in for a pleasant surprise!
Even after their long workday (which included sitting through 3 other presentations on the same type of product) the audience had a lot of energy left. They understood my message, and I understood their perspective. It ended up being more of a conversation than a presentation. From the connection perspective we were both “hot”.
I think there were three things that helped create the connection between us:
- I prepared the presentation with the audience, time of day, and their situation in mind. This is always important; it should be a key part of how you prepare for all presentations.
- I touched base with each audience member briefly before I began speaking. This is new for me but it worked well. Before presentations I typically focus on the computer/projector, so I don’t get to (or take the time to) touch base with individuals. This time since I didn’t know anyone I took the opportunity to hand a business card to each person as they arrived (there were 10 of them). That action gave us a chance to connect for a few seconds, even just to say hello.
- I focused more on the audience than the material while presenting. This forged the connection, and we related well to each other. This concept is sometimes referred to as “presence” or being in “second circle”.
The term “second circle” was coined by voice teacher Patsy Rodenburg. She has worked with actors like Dame Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes so she speaks with authority. Some people refer to being in the “second circle” as being “on your game” or “in the zone”; basically it can be defined as a high state of awareness, concentration and connection.
Presenters want a ‘hot’ connection with their audience. If you feel you are not connecting try the three things that worked for me: preparing with the audience in mind, touch base with individual members before you begin, and when presenting focus more on the audience than your material.