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:
- The presentation is too long or it’s too drawn out.
- The speaker crams more facts and figures into a short span than the audience can absorb and digest.
- The speaker can’t or won’t engage the audience.
- 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.