How to give a slide presentation (or not).

by | Success ideas for work and life

I was coaching a speaker who was delivering a slide presentation to get his team motivated. He was more of a running commentator than a speaker. If you have to use slides to get your message over, I don’t think you can call yourself a speaker. You should bill yourself more as a slideshow projectionist. Anyway, there he was, and he had asked me to coach him.

It’s a slide presentation, OK? OK? OK? OK? OK?

His content was passable I suppose, albeit a bit long winded. He had 100 slides. He was a lively chap himself but at the end of a sentence and particularly when he finished commenting on a slide, he would ask, ‘OK?’ and turn to the screen to watch the next slide appear. It was silly and quite comical, but at 50 OK?s I stopped smiling and at 450 OK?s I stopped counting.

His slide presentation was messed up by three main issues

We talked about the presentation and came to these conclusions:

    He was struggling for engagement

    He wanted to make sure the people understood what he was talking about so by saying, ‘OK?’ he thought he was asking them, ‘Do you understand how this applies to you?’ or ‘Am I making this clear or would you like to ask for more explanatory information?’ or even, ‘I doubt if you are smart enough to appreciate what I am saying so I am asking if you understand, believing you don’t.’

    He didn’t know how to segue from one slide to the next

    (Segue: a term borrowed from music or film to describe moving without interruption from one song, melody, or scene to another.) He didn’t know how to segue into the next slide so he just said, ‘OK’ like a Year 8 English student inserting random paragraph breaks into a long essay, hoping to fool the teacher into believing the essay to be better than it is. He could have belched every couple of minutes, and accomplished as little.

    Finally, he admitted he hadn’t rehearsed.

    Big SMACK! You have to put more preparation into the delivery than the creation of the slides. The job is only 1/4 done when the slides are ready. I have a routine for preparation and when I don’t go through it, it’s a botch-up. I rehearse in my mind with very strong images and memory joggers. Others rehearse to a wall, some to an empty room, still others to a mirror. If it’s a really big occasion and it’s the first time I am giving the presentation I rehearse to my camera several times until I feel like watching myself without cringing.

‘If I miss one day of practice, I notice; miss two, the critics notice; miss three, the audience notices.’ The Polish composer and pianist, Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941), was credited with this saying in 1911 although it was a common belief among other performers; Liszt, Rubenstein and von Bülow.

Learning points for a slide presentation

    1. In the preparation make sure the material is clear, simple and easily understood by the person likely to have the lowest verbal and visual intelligence in the room. Presenting is a one-way method of getting a message over and it is not always the best method. That’s one reason why comedy club routines last less than 5 minutes and they are actually enjoyable by default. The famous TED talks are limited to 15 or 20 minutes – and THEY are delivered by the top 1% of presenters. There’s something for mere mortals to learn from that.

    The top end can’t take in what the lower end can’t take at all.Colin Pearce

    2. At segue points, engage the audience by asking them to do something to reinforce the point. Get them to draw something, tick a box, press a feedback button, take part in a poll, explain the point to a colleague, answer a questionnaire, do three star-jumps – anything rather than say, ‘OK?’

    3. Work out your verbal segues. None of these is even tolerable.

      OK?
      Right?
      Righteo then …
      Good!
      Moving on …
      So …
      Understand?
      H-e-l-l-o-o-o-o-o-o?
      Are we good?
      Yes?
      Got it?

My guy had to write his own segues, but we agreed they needed to be along these lines;

    Having said that, I need to show you a trick of the trade …
    That is only part of the story. I’m now going to show you the one thing few people see at first.(CLICK)
    Can you see now why customers need to touch and feel the product? Here’s a story to reinforce that … (CLICK)

First posted in my old Kick in the Pants Newsletter in July 2015.

Long before you’re called on to make a presentation, how about noting these ideas and include them in your rehearsal?

If you have a presentation coming up or need a general brush up on your presentations, you can engage me to help. These days I do most of this with Skype. To start up an enquiry, just send this automatically completed email.

I invite you to scroll down a bit and leave a question or comment.

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