One of the common complaint you have heard ever since powerpoint was invented is that people have too many slides and on each slide they put too much stuff such that it detracts from what they are presenting. A powerpoint deck that is filled with many busy slides is the bane of any presentation we are all subjected too.
Why does this happen?
People just have not been taught how to avoid them. This is something you are supposed to figure it out on your own and many never do. And since you see others being powerpoint "jockeys." so you tend to pick up this habit and can't break it. But break you must if you don't want to waste your time and your audience's time since there is a lot invested in every presentation you deliver. I wrote about the investment that is made in a presentation in the blog titled, "What is the ROI of Your Speech?" I often say that your presentation better be your most important product you develop. If it isn't then the presentation is not needed to sell a product, solution or an idea.
Powerpoint Centric Presentation
Here is how I used to prepare a business presentation. First I would get a slide deck that marketing had developed, do some cut and paste, add couple of backup slides and I was done. Next I would try to figure out what to say for each slide and keep it no more than a minute for each slide and would end up with my 30 slide presentation and keep few extras around in case I needed them to elaborate something during Q&A. This is all I did to ace the presentation and I was pretty satisfied with this method. No one ever said anything so I became pretty good at it. I had become a powerpoint jockey.
One day, sitting in a presentation, I lost focus and had no idea what the presenter was presenting though his slides all looked great and he was saying a lot. That is when I realized that I do the same when I am presenting. Since I didn't want to be subjected to this kind of boring powerpoint centric presentation, I decided that I had to figure it out a different way which was more audience centric. What changed my mind was when I say an executive at Oracle Corporation, Ray Lane, once gave a presentation at an Alliance meeting with just one word on each slide as he was trying to convince us that we had become too comfortable presenting to powerpoint slides rather than talking to people.
Here is what I do now. It takes more time but it works.
I will write the speech first. Next, I will present it without slides and see how I come across.Once I feel natural after several iteration, then only I will add slides that I think will enhance audience's understanding pf the content. Finally I will go thrrough few more rehearsals to make sure it is indeed audience centric.
As Nancy Duarte says in her TedxEast talk when you give a presentation, you are not the hero; the audience is the hero. It is they who have to spread the message for it to be understood and spread to others. Since you have rehearsed without slides and feel natural so you know it takes to keep your audience interested, engaged and educated. You may discover that you may not need any slides at all and that should be the default. However, if it is technical, you may need few slides. When you add a slide, it has to add to your audience's understanding not subtract it.
If you do need slides, I like what Guy Kawasaki has been evangelizing with his 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint which consist of the following:
- 10 - ten slides
- 20 - twenty minutes
- 30 - thirty point font
According to Kawasaki, he says that this rule is "applicable for any presentation to reach agreement: for example, raising capital, making a sale, forming a partnership, etc."
If you can convey 100% without using a single slide then you don't need any slides. If you can't then add slides to make sure you are at 100%. If your slides are conveying more than what you are saying, then stop talking too much. This is a fine balance that you will have to practice. Remember that your presentation is the product and never show this product until it is going to convey 100%.
According to communication expert Carmine Gallo, he states that in "the information age you are only as valuable as your ideas. The ability to deliver ideas persuasively is the single greatest skill that will attract investors, partners, customers, employees, and evangelists."
If you want your speech to resonate with the audience it better appeal to their hearts. To do this you have to show passion in what you are saying. You are the product. It is your job to bring excitement into the product since product is not going to do it on its own. Steve Jobs once said that "People with passion can change the world for the better. That's what we believe."
People are always attracted to something that is new and different. But just because they are attracted, chnage is tough if you don't help them overcome that obstacle. Dr. A.K. Pradeep, neuromarketing expert, is quoted as saying in this blog "How to Pitch a Billionaire" by Carmine Gallo that "Our brains are trained to look for something brilliant and new, something that stands out, something that looks delicious.”
People like novel ideas presented with passion but the key is how much will they remember afterwards. This is where you have to make an important decision on picking one thing you want them know long after they have listened to your speech. What is the one thing? The rest is your performing to make sure that the audience remember that one thing.
What is the main purpose of your speech?
Vinod Khosla had a very good explanation in his presentation on a concept he calls "engineer the email." By this he means that after someone listens to your speech what is the key thing that you want him to say to the rest of his team, over social media or to his partners so they will come back to you to know more details. This is the true test of the effectiveness of your speech if there is any metrics on speech's success. Change is difficult for all of us and to enable change your idea has spread. You want your speech to spread your message so each time you present there is familiarity with what you are presenting. The presentation we tend to remember the most are the ones we are somewhat familiar with.
Today we are all strapped for time. We spent days, weeks and months developing products. solutions and ideas, but often the success of your these is baked into the presentation you develop. Your presentation should be viewed as a product and if it is not great then it may not make any difference how great your product, solution or idea is. You want to shorten the time to speech to market awareness to market adoption. But it all starts with your presentation. Do not just go through the motion the way I used to do and still many do. Presentation has the potential to make a difference, so invest in it, keep improving it and measure its success.