Do you really need to give a presentation?
These days the business world virtually runs on presentations and it would be a very
brave manager indeed who announced a new scheme without committing every detail to deck of PowerPoint slides.
And here is where I take issue with the ubiquitous use of PowerPoint. All too often it is used as a vehicle for detailed information, which would be conveyed far more effectively in a written report that people could read in their own time and at their own pace.
Listening is hard work. It is said that we can’t hold more than three or four ideas in our working (short-term) memories, while our minds wander about 30 per cent of the time. I imagine this is particularly true when we are faced with poor presenters threatening us with Death by PowerPoint!
Last week I sat through an entire morning of slide presentations on very important topics related to patient advocacy – and took virtually none of it in. I was turned off by how the presenters spoke (in most cases monotonously, much too fast and without pauses), irritated by their often unreadable text-heavy slides and easily distracted by other thoughts.
On the journey home I read the information provided by each speaker as back-up and found it infinitely more informative, digestible and memorable. Apart from the free meals and the networking opportunities, I would have done better to have stayed in my office.
Presentations can be counterproductive
And this is my point: if all your audience needs to do is read the slides you should send out a report instead. You don’t need a presentation to convey information, and it can be counterproductive.
The added extra a presenter can bring is the ability to inspire an audience, to challenge their attitudes and motivate them towards action. But to achieve these more active goals you need to do a great deal more than simply dumping all the relevant data on a slide set and then reading it out.
So next time you are asked to communicate about a project think hard about whether a presentation is the appropriate vehicle. If it is, make sure you work on your presentation skills for optimum impact.
Can I help you?
My company, Clearsay Communications, works with businesses, not-for-profits and individuals, to help them communicate with impact through presentations, media interviews and corporate messaging. My next Guardian Masterclass on Essential Presentation Skills is on July 6, 2015 http://www.theguardian.com/guardian-masterclasses/2015/may/01/essential-presentation-skills-isabel-walker-business-course
Or contact me through my website www.clear-say.com