What makes a good presentation?

That’s one of the questions about presenting that I was recently asked. Why the person asked me, I have no idea. I’m definitely not the greatest presenter around. While I like to think I’m improving in this area, there are still holes in my game.

Still, I was somewhat flattered. And it kind of fed my then-depleted ego to be asked this question, and the others that surrounded it. What follows are the points that I tried to get across.

Flipping things around

I flipped the question around, and asked what makes a bad presentation? Two characteristics of a bad presentation immediately come to mind.

First up, the presentation is boring. I’m sure that you’ve sat through more than a couple of boring presentations. If a presentation is boring, you come away with little or nothing. Save some trepidation about attending another presentation by that particular speaker.

But why are presentations boring? Here are a few reasons:

  1. The presentation is too long or it’s too drawn out.
  2. The speaker crams more facts and figures into a short span than the audience can absorb and digest.
  3. The speaker can’t or won’t engage the audience.
  4. The slides, rather than the story, are the emphasis.

I’m sure that there are other reasons, too.

One reason that trumps most others is that the speaker can’t convey his or her passion for the subject of the presentation. Without that passion, you’re not going to grab the audiences’s interest. And you’re definitely not going to convince them of your point of view.

As I stated earlier, I’m not the most polished or experienced presenter. But I’ve been able to make up for those shortcomings (and others) by being passionate about the subjects that I’ve spoken on. And I think my passion made all the difference, both for me and my audience.

Going crazy with the slides

I’m not just talking about sliduements here, either. Far too many presenters abuse tools like Powerpoint and Keynote in so many ways. And far too many presenters try to cover a lack of depth with flash.

My pet example of poorly-presented information harks back to a tech writing job I had about seven years ago. I attended the company’s quarterly meeting. During this meeting, various executives made presentations backed by PowerPoint slides. Things went smoothly until it came time for the president and CEO to speak. His assistant had created a PowerPoint presentation that combined gaudy colours, the infamous Dancing Baby (hands up if you remember that!), and horrible music. This may have seemed dynamic and cutting edge to the person who put together the slides, but the effect was incredibly tacky and detracted from what the president had to say. Not that the content of the presentation was all that special or interesting as I recall.

The time spent being clever, and searching for the multimedia components of the presentation, could have been better spent crafting meaningful content. This would have used less time and the results would definitely have been more effective.

Do you have any thoughts on what makes a good presentation? Any examples of presentations, good or bad, that you’d like to share? Feel free to leave a comment.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

  • http://www.PresentingYourPoint.com M.J. Plebon

    Proper preparation makes for a good presentation. Asking the right questions first before anything else. Questions like “What is my message in one sentence?”, What do I want my audience to take home with them?”, What do I want my audience to do once I am finished?”, “Who is my audience and what keeps them awake at night?” are key questions to ask before you do anything else.

    Then research and gather the data and information you need. Write your speech in the form of a story with the protagonist being your audience. This forces you to put yourself in their shoes.

    Once you have crafted your story, develop the visuals (if a presentation is required). Remember create visuals, not text on slides that prompt you on what to say next.

    Finally, rehearse, rehearse and rehearse some more. I suggest you record your story into an MP3 format and listen to it continuously on your iPod or MP3 player. Once you get over the sound of your voice, you will become comfortable with the flow of your story.

    Finally, deliver with passion. Get excited about your topic. Channel your nervousness to excitement.

  • Emily Jackson

    You need to make sure that the audience are involved. Don’t just let them sit there and watch you do everything.
    If you have a presentation with a powerpoint on a big board, don’t turn around to read from the PowerPoint EVER because the audience will not be able to hear your voice. Can i just thank the people who wrote on this board becuase you gave some great advice. I have a presentation to do at school! Thanks/

  • Janine

    cheers i used this info for my work :)

  • Tia-Shaneal

    - never read slides verbatum

    -Have something for audience to look at while u talk

    -Speak up!!

  • ana