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 industry.

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 at all.

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.

As 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.

Building Bridges
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 presenters?

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.

Contact information:
Distinction Communication
18340 NE Rainbow Lane
Newberg, OR 97132

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