rant mode on…
Stay with me – I’m going to rant for a paragraph or two, then get useful! Honest!
I’m not a happy man – some of my presentation colleagues bug me. Silly pictures like this are one of the reasons. (Other reasons include talking tosh! )
Why? As Shakespeare once wrote, let me count the ways! Well let’s start with the fact that the slide in the background is bad – just bad, plain and simple. No one should be applauding that unless it’s ironically, to mock.
Let’s move on to something more substantive. Useful even.
Presentations happen for a reason. Setting aside the few people who make presentations just because they like the sound of their own voices, presentations are intended to do something. At the very least, it’s to inform; usually it’s to change something. That means that before you start your presentation, it’s up to you to know what it is you need to change. Or to put it another way, you should have a reasonable idea of what ‘success’ looks like.
And therein lies the rub. Most people just make presentations to get them over and done with; they know what a bad presentation looks like and feels like, but very few of us stop to think about what success looks and feels like. Let’s face it, even if people in the room love you but don’t change their behaviours, your presentation is a failure.
On the other hand, even if they hate you, but then go on to change what they do, then it’s a success. Simple.
Are you measuring your presentations by the wrong things? Do you even know what you’d measure?
If you do what I’ve suggested – and decide what ‘a win’ looks like before you start, you’ll be much, much better placed to deliver a successful presentation in the first place
Okay, let’s list it!
Spending time before you start designing your presentation to think about exactly what you want to achieve, and how you’ll measure that, will:
- help you create a more targeted presentation, more likely to be a success
- help you handle nerves, because now it’s not all about avoiding a failed presentation
- help your audience, because they’ll only have to listen to what they need to be told, not everything else you put in there ‘just in case’
Seems like a win all around to me.
What’s the hard part?
To be honest, there are two hard parts. The second of them is how you decide exactly what success looks like for you, and you’re largely on your own for that one because it’ll be different for everyone – sorry about that!
But the first tricky bit is remembering to ask yourself the question in the first place. We’re all so habituated to doing things backwards that it’s tricky to break the cycle. Our approach? Well it’s largely self-discipline and common sense, but just to help out, we’ve created a template that contains no format information but it does contain just one sentence on one slide – the sentence is “Why are you doing this?”. That way, whenever we open the software, we’re confronted with The Big Question.
You’ll be surprised how quickly this trick allows ‘best practice’ to become a habit!