Ever since my early days with a computer-graphics
service bureau working with presenters and their 35 mm slides,
I've had an interesting vantage point on the whole presentations
So much has changed in the past 15 years. Today's computers are hundreds of
times faster. We now use small electronic projectors and can choose from hundreds
of presentation coaches to teach us where to stand and how to deliver. We can
get clip art, fonts and images online without leaving our desks, and our software
promises to deliver ever more "dazzling" multimedia effects.
But despite all the changes in technology and all the new resources we can
tap into, the things that make a presentation truly good haven't really changed
Too Much Technology
Each of us has sat through presentations in which technologically advantaged
presenters failed to hit the mark. In the hands of a busy executive, the latest
and greatest software can still yield mediocre presentations and all
the clip art in the world can't save them.
A few years back, I attended a keynote address by author
and businessman Ken Blanchard. He'd written a number of books,
and his reputation had spread throughout the world. I had
never heard him speak before, and I wasn't sure what to expect
from him as a presenter.
he came out on stage before several thousand attendees, several
things were clear. He didn't have the stature of an Olympic
athlete; in fact, he was somewhat short and stocky. He didn't
have any prepared visuals, and as he began to speak, his incessant
pacing made me nervous. Clearly, his reputation had led me
to expect something different.
Then something interesting happened: The more Ken spoke, the more we realized
that he understood our issues.
His stories inspired us, and his understanding of our challenges was unique.
From time to time, he would interrupt his pacing to pull a stuffed animal from
his rumpled suit-coat pocket to illustrate a meaningful point.
After a while, no one seemed to mind that he was breaking all the rules of
professional presenting. And at the end of his 30-minute address, he received
a standing ovation.
What happened? And how can that kind of success happen more often for us as
For starters, he established the relevance of his points for each of us, which
created bridges to his audience that carried the rest of his presentation to
success. (Contrast his approach to that of the last salesperson who came into
your office and spent the first 20 minutes talking about his company without
bothering to mention your needs or issues.)
Next, his passion was contagious. We couldn't help but get excited about his
topic because he didn't just stand and deliver; he was genuinely passionate
about it. (When was the last time you were truly passionate about what you presented?)
Finally, he wasn't trying to be someone else; he was comfortable being himself.
I'm not sure on this point, but a delivery-skills coach might have squelched
the charm and candor that were an indelible part of his delivery.
You may disagree with my analysis (and that's OK) but if you've considered
these points for even a moment, you've doubtless learned a bit more about what
it takes to be a truly effective presenter.
||Jim 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) optimizing graphics,
and 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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