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Three Tips for Keeping Your Presentations Alive

There are few good ways to die. Perhaps one of least palatable is death through PowerPoint. PowerPoint offers every manager a compelling reason to retire early and start a vegan farm in Vermont.

When offered the chance to present and inflict PowerPoint hell on fellow executives, managers typically fall into two dangerous camps.

First, there are the zombies who have 300 pages of densely written slides, which they proceed to read out loud far slower then the audience can read them. After 20 minutes the audience sees that the presenter is still on slide six of 300 and the collective will to live expires totally. The zombies miss the two basic tenets of writing slides for a presentation:

  • It is better to have dumb slides and a smart presenter than to have smart slides and a dumb presenter. In other words, keep each slide very simple and then let the presenter explain and bring it to life.
  • Any presentation or document is like a diamond: it benefits from good cutting. A presentation is complete when there is not possible to say any less. Many presenters believe the opposite -- they think it is complete only when they can say no more.
The second group is nearly as bad. Its members are the self-important panjandrums who fill the air with nothing more than their own self-importance. They can bore for Britain on any subject. They normally exhibit zero awareness of the three basic principles of presenting well:
  • Energy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Excitement
If you show energy, enthusiasm and excitement, there is a risk that other people will feel the same way about your presentation and they may even enjoy it. If you are not energetic, enthusiastic and excited, do not expect anyone to feel enthusiastic for you. If it sounds difficult to achieve the three E's, try the following exercise:
  1. Present to your spouse the details of the latest cost allocation system in your company. If you fall asleep before your spouse does, you have failed. It is difficult to show energy, enthusiasm and excitement about topics that do not interest you.
  2. Tell some of your peers about the most exciting (legal and decent) thing you have done in the last year. The three E's will come entirely naturally to you.
  3. When called on to present, try to find a subject, or a point of view on a subject which genuinely interests and excites you. The secret of achieving the three E's often comes down to one more E: expertise. If you really know your material, then you will exude confidence and every question will not be a threat, but a chance to shine.
Not many of us will be great orators. But keep things short and simple and work on energy, excitement and enthusiasm, tempered with a little expertise, and we may save our colleagues from a very ugly end.

(Photo: Nic's events, CC2.0)