What's missing in most presentations?
For the past 11 years, I have been coaching people for high stakes presentations and product demos. I have seen hundreds of presentations. Some good, some bad, and some very ugly. These people are looking to raise money from angel or venture capital investors or they need to give compelling and memorable presentations at Board meetings, conference key notes, and sales meetings of all shapes and sizes. When people ask me what they need to change, I usually have two main comments. In all but a very few cases, the two things that should change are:
1 - Simplify your slides, especially the ones with words on them. Your audience cannot hear every word you are speaking when they are being forced to read your sides. Try this right now...Look at the words in this blog post and DO NOT read them. See if you can do that without closing your eyes. You can't! And, neither can your audience. If you have ever wondered why people don't seem to get all of your messages, it may simply be a case of them not hearing your words clearly enough. Take a lesson from the best presenters in the world. They use very few words on their slides and will always make the audience wonder what the numbers or few words mean. You are the speaker and the audience is there to hear you, not read your slides. To start with, remove every subtitle and sub-bullet on every slide and I promise you will have a more engaging experience with your audience. If you need to have all of the detail in front of you when presenting, print off the detail slides and keep them next to your laptop for reference. If you want to see what I would do with your deck, send me a PDF of your PowerPoint or Keynote deck and I'll mark it up (at no charge) and send it back to you with my suggestions within 24 hours. Remember, the people coming to hear you are not interested in reading your slides. In fact, they will automatically tune out from you and tune into something more interesting if you use slides with lots of words. I guarantee there is no better way to lose your audience!
2 - Change your opening and your closing. Usually, the middle part of the presentations I see are pretty good. It usually contains enough detail and examples to get people in the audience engaged in your topic. However, the two places where most people are extremely weak is in the opening and the closing. In your opening, if you really want to engage your audience and give them a reason to listen closely, one great way to begin is with a relevant short story that will lead you into your presentation. It's actually okay to even start out by saying that you want to share a story with them. As an example, years ago when Steve Jobs was asked to address the graduating class from Stanford University, he literally walked up to the microphone at the lectern and said, "Today, I want to share 3 stories with you..." This led to an amazingly compelling 3 story presentation and he used no visuals at all! Using a story as an opener can easily set you apart from other speakers and it should get your audience more involved with you. As far as the closing, I will share my secrets to closing in the next post.