After dragging myself out of bed at 6:30 each morning, I shower, shave and
head out to order my morning coffee: a single tall mocha, light on the chocolate,
extra hot, and double-cup it please. With those relatively simple instructions,
you'd think that no matter where I went for my espresso, it would all taste
the same. But guess what? It doesn't. Even if I go back to the same coffee shop,
my "usual" tastes a little different from one day to the next. All
the ingredients remain the same the coffee beans, the chocolate, the
milk so how can it get screwed up?
The answer, of course, is that the flavor of a single tall
mocha depends as much on the person behind the counter as
the ingredients in the cup.
it comes to the quality of the presentations we create, the
difference between a good presentation and a great one seldom
comes down to software. Instead, it's the person "behind
the counter" crafting the message and using the
tools creatively who ultimately makes the difference.
Among the many presentation graphics programs to choose from PowerPoint,
Freelance, Corel Presentations, Astound it really doesn't matter which
one you decide to use. (I'm guessing that statement got your attention.) Personally,
I take it as a bit of an insult when someone describes my presentation in terms
of the software I used to make it. After all, you're probably not too concerned
about which Web development tool was used to lay out this newsletter, are you?
Regardless of the claims made by the world-class marketing organizations behind
these products, truly great presentations don't hinge on clip-art galleries,
transition effects, chart types or bullet-point shapes. These things are all
well and good, to the degree they can help you become more productive (and occasionally,
more creative). But great presentations rely far more on three mission-critical
things that all great presenters do.
Craft a Compelling Message
Your presentation software may have all the bells and whistles, but I guarantee
you're not going to find a "message wizard" to help stake out your
content. A good business message starts from a high-level, big-picture view
and flows down to an appropriate level of detail. A good message isn't preoccupied
with itself, but rather focuses on the value it brings to the audience.
Good content will seamlessly steer your audience through your entire message,
keeping the topics clean and well defined and making the relationship among
various topics clear. Graphical sign-posts along the way let the audience know
where they are and where they're headed.
At its conclusion, a good presentation summarizes the key themes in a way that
makes the audience feel like they just got off the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland.
They learned some stuff, had an enjoyable ride with a few surprises along the
way and knew exactly where they were when the ride was over.
Avoid the Text Trap
Bullet-point text is one of the easiest ways for presenters to communicate information.
Unfortunately, it's also one of the worst ways to do so. Why? Processing text
is very much a left-brain kind of thing. When we read, we filter and eliminate
based on existing perceptions; whatever information our brains don't filter
out goes into short-term memory. This approach may be good if you're building
nuclear weapons, but it can be very bad if you're trying to sell a product or
service to a tough audience.
In contrast, sensory-based information is much more likely to go into long-term
memory. Think of ways to replace bulleted lists with something more visual
for example, an animated flowchart (with supporting images) that walks the audience
through a series of steps and is triggered by mouse clicks.
Create a Unique Identity
Fortunately for business presenters, you don't have to have a body part pierced
in order to demonstrate your individualism but to make your story memorable,
you need to do something to create a unique presentation identity.
You may be fortunate enough to find a stock PowerPoint template that hasn't
already been worked to death, but you still need to personalize it with elements
like corporate colors, images and logos. Another way to come up with a unique
look is to find someone who can help you design a professional-looking, audience-appropriate
presentation with easy-to-read fonts.
Bottom line: As feature-rich as today's software is, your success as a presenter
is not determined by the particular program you use. (I've seen some very bad
presentations come from very expensive software.) Whether it's mochas or marketing
plans, it pays to find the person behind the tools who can provide the biggest
jolt for your jingle.
About Jim Endicott
Endicott is a nationally recognized consultant, speaker and trainer specializing
in professional presentation messaging, layout/design and delivery. His writing
appears in PRESENTATIONS magazine as well as a number of presentations-related
industry Web sites. His company, Distinction, provides consulting and presentation
graphics support for many Fortune 500 clients and leverages the Internet for
delivery of content and training.
Jim Endicott and psychologist Scott Lee, PhD, have recently published The Presentation
Survival Skills Guide. Its quick-reference format directs presenters to topics
that range from laying out a powerful presentation (process), crafting great
storylines (message development) and optimizing graphics, and it includes tips
on delivery skills, technology and handling Q & A sessions. Interesting
case studies and special "Shrink Wrap" sections feature unique perspectives
from psychologist Dr. Scott Lee and provide interesting insights into audiences,
retention and successful presenting.
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