How not to give a presentation
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Most of us consider public speaking and attending meetings as two of our least favorite things. Yet as leaders, we regularly run meetings, speak at conferences, give feedback and attend networking events.
With all this practice, why aren't we better at conveying information? Maybe we are focusing on the wrong things. Instead of just considering best practices to guide what we do, let's look at a few tips on how not to give a presentation.
Forget your audience
One of the easiest ways to undermine any kind of presentation, from a one-on-one conversation at a networking event to a keynote at an annual conference is to forget the audience.
For example, as subject matter experts, we have valuable information that no one else could possibly understand. As such, it is important to show off our expertise by being technical, incorporating a lot of undefined acronyms and jargon and using every possible minute (and maybe a few more) to explain what we know are the key concepts.
The important thing to remember is: If we want to give a really bad presentation, we need to focus on what we want to say instead of how the audience needs to hear it.
The basics aren't important
PowerPoint is a necessary evil. Who cares about best practices for a slideshow when no one likes watching PowerPoint presentations anyway? Specifically, it is OK to read the slides and include a lot of text to underscore how much information we want convey.
Also, if we really want to ensure the presentation is not well received, we should include as many as possible of the following:
- types of slide transitions
- small or confusing charts
- different fonts
- bullets per slide
- pictures of our children and/or pets
Ignoring the basics of PowerPoint should also extend to the related technology. For example, the minute it takes to load the presentation and check that it displays accurately is better spent complaining to the nearest person about our tech skills or lack of desire to use PowerPoint instead of ensuring a hitch-free slideshow.
Leave the filter at home
As noted in both of the above, forgetting the audience is an important principle in ensuring a bad presentation. In addition to failing to consider what the intended audience needs to hear and how to best use technology tools to present it, a critical step in alienating the audience is to speak without thinking.
Preparation and practice are not necessary for us leaders because we do this stuff so often — after all, our teams must listen to us anyway. Thus, even five minutes spent organizing our thoughts in a manner that ensures the information we want to convey is well received would be better spent squeezing in another phone call or reading through a few more emails.
The bottom line: To ensure that no one has a clear understanding of the information we want to convey, we should disregard our audience's needs, ignore all basic PowerPoint presentation advice and absolutely not think before we speak.
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