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#600: Make Your Presentations Soar

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Friday, July 1, 2011
Updated: Friday, July 1, 2011
How can I keep my presentations focused and full of content without resorting to "Death By PowerPoint?"

Because most consultant presentations are more informing than persuading, we are inclined to reveal all we know about the subject by lots of slides with lots of content (diagrams, bullets, build slides). However, if we consider how adults learn and remember, we should resist this temptation and stick to minimal, clean content with a visual appeal. Apple's Steve Jobs has, over 20 years, evolved as a presenter into what a good consultant should emulate.

There is a simple (in theory, hard in practice) formula Jobs uses for his presentations to make them remarkably effective, and you don't need groundbreaking technology to make your presentations memorable:
  1. Plan in the Old-fashioned Way of Black-and-White - create a storyboard - on paper - with concepts before you even start dumping your favorite images, graphs or demonstrations into a PowerPoint deck.
  2. A Twitter Friendly USP - create a memorable and short theme statement for the subject of the talk that you are sure everyone will remember.
  3. Introduce the Common Enemy - central to remembering a story is a contrast between protagonist and antagonist (for Apple is was IBM), so find something notable that the subject of your talk is intended to "defeat."
  4. Focus on Benefits - instead of trying to wow your audience with all the features, which they will forget within seconds of the words coming out of your mouth, make sure they understand how they will personally benefit - they'll come back to learn about features if they are interested.
  5. Use Simple Words - without paying attention, consultants can slip into their jargon, so use the simplest words you can, which will help you boil down your message to one that resonates.
  6. Make Numbers Meaningful - especially for consultants or anyone presenting technical findings or recommendations, cast large numbers in terms that make sense (e.g., the number of widgets sold this year would fill up 30 football stadiums).
  7. Practice a lot - Jobs spends days working and reworking his talks so they are seamless and easygoing when he delivers them, often recognizing many little ways to refine the content, pace or emphasis each run through.
Tip: One final hint is the overwhelming use of graphic images instead of words. Watch some Jobs presentations and you will see how a lot of content is conveyed with only a few word slides. There are books on this topic but a good slideshare presentation gives the basics on how to make your presentations soar.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  consulting skills  presentations  recommendations  speaking 

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Comments on this post...

Roberta Guise says...
Posted Saturday, July 2, 2011
Three more suggestions:

-- Add stories. People remember anecdotes and well-told stories, whereas facts easily slip the mind.

-- Don't give the content before you give the content. Let's say you have three points to make. Reveal the first point on your slide and talk about it. Then reveal the second. After that the third.

-- Create word slides that complement rather than echo word-for-word what you're saying. That way you won't be tempted to read off the screen and risk putting your audience to ... snore ... sleep!

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