Why Your Presentations Suck
Today I headed down to Nelson to deliver a presentation on presentations to the In House Law Association of NZ's 2016 Conference. I wrote and delivered it for Stun, a company I've done quite of bit of work for as a performer and more recently as a copywriter.
And that's my first slide.
Harsh but fair. The thing is that most presentations do suck. We've been captured by PowerPoint as a tool to the point that it is the default way of communicating a message. It makes us lazy, it makes us boring, it makes us suck.
I talked about this last year - ranted at length would be more apt a way to describe it.
But since then I've done some rough calculations - which I shared with the ILANZ crowd. Over my 26 years entertaining and MC conferences I've probably been to 2000 events and seen more than 10,000 hours of PowerPoint. Most of it sucked. Sucked 10,000 valuable hours of my life right away.
And if Malcolm Gladwell is to be believed those 10,000 hours could have been used for me to achieve mastery in something: playing the piano, improving my guitar playing, learning orthopedic surgery....heck I could have become a ninja!
And we owe it to our audiences not to waste their time. Every presentation we make should be an experience that sticks for them. It should be an hour, or 30 minutes, or whatever that they DON'T want to get back.
In looking at the psychology of presentations I've read a little of the work of Oren Klaff who is an American investment banker who studied how the mind processes information (he did it so he could make killer pitches to rake in money). He concluded that we have a primitive "croc brain" that processes information first before it gets to the higher parts of our brain that actually analyse and process the information. That means that the gatekeeper to our attention is the most visceral part of our brain. It responds to novelty, strong emotion, movement and images. It gets bored by complexity. And this should dovetail with almost everyone's experience of boring presentations - graphs, bullet points and text crammed on a slide with a presenter who goes through the motions.
So based on that research I gave some advice (which syncs well with my last post about PowerPoint):
1. Keep your message simple. Don't present everything. Present the essentials and inspire the audience to want to discover more not send them running for the hills. Doesn't matter what your own agenda or KPIs say should be in there because KPIs don't respect an audience.
2. Meet your audience on their terms. Tailor your method of delivery and content to the audience you want to reach. The NZ Police didn't road show to schools all over NZ to convince kids that cops are just normal fun people too and that joining the police can be fun as well as rewarding. They met their audience where they are most comfortable - with a video on YouTube. And their running man challenge has become a viral phenomenon (and at a fraction of the cost of a road-show).
3. If you're not the best person to present then sit down. Doesn't matter if you are the "project sponsor", or whatever vile piece of corporate jargon acknowledges your higher pay scale but inverse level of interest or knowledge in the subject. Get the person who knows the most and cares the most to present, or design the message or whatever is necessary to give form to your presentation. Leadership does not mean fumbling your way through a presentation or a speech or a meeting that you are ill-prepared for.
4. Get the pros to do the job for you and then enjoy the applause. Companies like Stun and Greg Ellis Creative are the experts in getting the message out there. Get one of us (or better both) to help really craft your message - it's what we do. My Grandfather used to say "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing properly" and that really applies to presentations.
So there is really no need to take vital hours away from someone when they could be brushing up on their ninjitsu. A little bit of thought, a lot of care and you can create experiences that stick.
I'd love to help you with that.