I was feeling particularly mischievous that morning. During our course break I was wandering the corridors having a look at all the other presentations going on in the same venue and for some reason I had my PowerPoint remote control in my pocket. Will it work I thought…yes it did, my remote began changing the person’s slides and the audience were suddenly woken with the excitement and the out of control’ness of the presenter.
As I wandered along the corridor poking my nose through the various windows, I summarised the four major faults of bad presentations.
1. A failure to engage with the audience. If someone wants to listen to a presenter talk and watch some slides, then they can attend an online webinar. Face to face presentations can win over by engaging and involving the audience as much as is possible.
2. Information dump. If it’s one thing we have too much of these days and its data, information. We’re swimming in the stuff and don’t know how to cope with it all. We want a presenter to have done the sieving for us, give us the important bits that make the difference, that help us to understand the point they’re making. We don’t want dozens of bullet points, we want a maximum of three – the magic of triples is all we can and want to cope with. It’s easy to make something simple complex, but it’s hard to make something complex become simple.
3. Ending on a whimper. Have you ever seen a remote control car run out of battery, it slowly grinds to a halt and won’t move. Now, if you end your presentation like that, you don’t deserve a round of applause. Put as much planning into the end as you do the beginning. Put your Q&A in towards the end, don’t make it the ending, have something planned. A call to action, a challenge for the audience, a joke if you want, end with a question “what’s going to stop us moving forward on this”.
4. Too much PowerPoint. I think enough has been written on this. Don’t believe Powerpoint is compulsory. It isn’t, they aren’t your notes, they aren’t your handouts, they aren’t to be read at and they shouldn’t be full of words. They were originally designed to provide a visual element to a vocal presentation to replace the old acetates. They are quite capable of being stuffed full of images, movies…real visual elements that add value to the presentation. But you knew all that didn’t you.
I guess I was in a mischievous mood that day and criticising people’s presentations is a bit naughty, mine aren’t perfect I guess. And I know I’ll get my comeuppance next time.