How to Screw up Your Presentation in One Single Step

So why do most people even give presentations? Very often the answer is because they want to provide you with some raw data, facts or information. But why do we – the audience – want to participate in these presentations? Do we want the raw data, facts or information?

No, we don’t.

Because in this case a presentation is a dominance of form over content. Please, if all you want to do is to give me some data, then just shoot me an email, and don’t waste my time by asking me to attend your presentation… So what’s the biggest mistake of many poor presentations?

It has nothing to do with poor presentation skills. It’s just that the purpose of the presentation was not defined properly.

I shall start my testimony with a short comparison. (Tolkien’s fans will hate me for this one.) So, why do we watch movies? Is it because we’re interested in the mere facts (the essence of the plot)? If this had been the case, then watching the Lord of the Rings wouldn’t have made much sense. Because instead we would just read a short review, like: “A guy walks through half the world, and then throws a ring into a volcano. The end.” But for some reason this isn’t quite the same experience…

Quiet tip – the mere facts are not what most movies are about, and the truth is that we watch them for completely different reasons. Introducing the most important thing…


So what exactly is an actor? A person who earns their living by playing emotions, not giving you “the facts”. A good actor is one who can really show that their character is sad, angry, happy or whatever at the moment. Not the one who can memorise a bunch of text and say it out loud in front of the camera.

And guess what, a bad presentation is like a bad movie. Have you ever been sitting in the audience during some boring presentation praying for some kind of cataclysm to happen? I know I have.

How to define the purpose … or how to decide if the presentation is even necessary?

I’ve developed a simple way of doing this. I ask myself a question:

– Do I want to share something more with the audience than just simple facts, charts or any other type of boring stuff.  Do I want to convey some kind of emotion along with the facts?

And if the answer is “facts only”, then I cancel the presentation and send out an email. And that’s it. A lot of time has been saved this way. Both for me and for everyone who would be sitting in the audience.

But what if you do decide to give the presentation?

Well, just remember – the most important thing is the emotion. This is why people will listen to and relate to you, this is why they will remember you, and recognise you next time they see you.

Look at someone who does it the way it actually should be done. After all, creating a good presentation is not a daunting task, and you can even get your message across without PowerPoint. You just need to gather a bunch of data, think (deeply from the back of your mind) what emotions the data arouses in you, and then just say it out loud.

Share your emotions with the audience (use some body language). If you’re sad then be sad, if you’re happy then be happy. The data you want to show will be the best background for your performance, and you can be sure that the audience will remember it as well.

I think it was Seth Godin who explained how slides actually work. And this is how the story goes. Our mind works much quicker than it takes the person presenting to say anything. So when we see a slide and it makes us feel in a certain way, arouses emotions, forces us to a moment of reflection or even causes us to reach some conclusion, all of this happens BEFORE the presenter has said a word. So their job is to say something that will connect the data which they want to show with the picture on a slide.

And if they know how to do this correctly, then every time in the future when we come across something regarding this data (or about the same topic) then in our heads we will have the picture of the slide. (And sometimes it takes only one slide to give a presentation.) This is the ability of connecting raw data to emotions.

It’s just our nature… The answer to the question of why we look for the emotional message so much, even in things like presentations is simple: we are humans. And emotions are what lead us through life. Whether we like it or not, most of our decisions are driven by emotions. This is just the way it works.



So what’s the takeaway?

Here’s a short two-line-summary: Before you begin your work on a presentation think about the emotions you want to share with the audience and then present them along with the data. The presentation should be emotion-driven not data-driven. If there are no emotions, cancel the presentation.

About the Author: Karol K. is a web 2.0 entrepreneur who shares his thoughts at Tune in to get his presentation strategies.


Published On: 20th Dec 2010

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  1. Nice article!

    Lukas S. 20 Jan at 3:22 am
  2. Emotion-driven article ! 🙂 Great article, because of his sincerity and good intention, and because those words came from the inside-heart! Thank you !

    alina 18 Apr at 10:14 am