If You Must Give a Presentation, Please Make it Worthwhile

Few things in life are as annoying as a poorly prepared presentation. Twenty years ago, many folks relied on things like Toastmasters (do people still do that?) to help make them better speakers. Based on the presentations I’ve had to sit through in the last ten years, my guess is that Toastmasters numbers are probably declining. Of course, there’s probably a sampling bias here, but let’s look past it.

What’s happened in the last twenty years that may have worsened presentations? Note: In 1993, I wasn’t listening to many presentations, so it’s possible that the presentations haven’t gotten worse just that I’m seeing more of them. Computers. These convenient devices are far more ubiquitous than they used to be. More than that though, powerpoint (or some sort of presentation software) is even more readily available.

“I’ll just plug my notes into a PPT and I’ll be all set to give this presentation.”

No.

Or, let’s have a guest better express my feelings to just plugging your notes into a presentation:

Simply plugging your notes into a presentation is not the answer for a presentation. No. If you’re going to simply plug your notes into a PPT, then why don’t you just send me a paper? Most people can read something faster than if a person tries to tell it to them. So, make your case in ink and I’ll read it — it’ll save us both time. In fact, this is something that is done at one of the biggest companies in the world: Amazon.

Last year in an interview with Charlie Rose, Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, revealed that there are no PPTs when he and the other senior executives meet. Instead of a presentation, the “presenter” has to write a 6-page memo. Upon beginning the meeting, everyone sits around the table and spends the first little while reading the paper. Then (and only then), do they begin discussing the issues raised in the “presentation.”

I realize that this method probably won’t work for everyone, so I thought I’d include a wonderful presentation (ha!) on giving presentations. There’s a lot of great information in there and while I’m not crazy about the “death imagery” at the beginning, the points contained within are important.

~

To be fair, I should say that not all of the presentations I’ve given are ‘stellar’ nor do they follow some of these simple rules. Just like you, my first excuse would be, “I’m too busy to properly prepare, etc.” The question that follows that line should be something to the effect of, “then why am I giving this presentation?” If you don’t have the time to properly prepare, then maybe the presentation isn’t as important to you as it should be. Maybe you should pitch your boss (or your team) Bezos’ idea of sending a 6-page memo instead. Regardless, if we’re going to be presenting to each other, then I think we should do each other the courtesy of delivering an effective presentation.

Note: Why do I get the feeling that someone — at some point — is going to dig up this post I wrote and make me want to eat my words? I guess I’ll have to send them to the disclaimer.

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One response to “If You Must Give a Presentation, Please Make it Worthwhile

  1. I have written a few posts on Presentation techniques that may interest your readers, notably one on how to make your presentation in 5 steps:

    http://dansteer.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/make-a-presentation-in-5-steps-overview

    ..and 2 others about making good visuals:

    Turn text driven slides into awesome visual messages

    http://dansteer.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/turn-horrible-text-driven-powerpoint-slides-into-awesome-big-bold-visual-messages

    and how to make good tables to present numbers:

    http://dansteer.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/make-effective-tables-for-your-presentation-8-simple-tips

    Hope this is interesting for you.
    I will share your blog via Twitter
    Thanks!
    @dan_steer

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