Saturday, June 23, 2012

Two Quick Tips to Better Presentations

Reading columns by former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan is a special joy. Her way with words is understated, focused and powerful. I'd give my left arm to write like that, and not just because I'm right handed. Her most recent column offered two great nuggets that people who give speeches and presentations should take to heart. The first one seems so simple.
"People like to listen if you're saying something interesting."
Being interesting means losing buzzwords, telling stories and conveying passion for the topic. If you're not excited about the topic, why should your audience be? A PowerPoint slide is not nearly as interesting as a well told, relevant story.

Gary Vaynerchuk tells the story of how he came to believe in the power of social media, and he's worth listening to because it's interesting to hear. He uses no slides. It's captivating and worth your time even if some of the language is NSFW.

The speech takes a while but, as Ms. Noonan says, it takes some time to build a story that supports a great idea. I listened because Vaynerchuk's talk conveyed a great idea.

The second great tip in Peggy Noonan's column is about focus.
"A speech about everything is a speech about nothing."
What that means for most corporate types who use PowerPoint is no back-up slides. If you have to use back-up slides, you don't know your audience and you don't have a clear point for your presentation. If you can do your presentation with no slides, please do.

Focus is everything. It's what grabs people's attention, it's what captures their imagination and it's what moves them to action. Tell your audience exactly what you want them to know, believe and do. Don't just hope they get it.  If you can't pinpoint that for your audience, you leave it to them to decide what's important and what they can ignore. It's likely a good percentage of them will ignore what you think is most important.

Two simple, but powerful tips: Be interesting. Be focused.

It's the only way you'll ever be memorable.

Bill Salvin

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