After a week of feedback, I realize I unintentionally sent the wrong message when I said I wasn’t buying the new MacBook. It’s true; I’m not, and I haven’t changed my mind for all of the reasons I gave. However, for the majority of people looking for a new laptop, it is probably the perfect machine. Here is the ultimate litmus test: If I were buying a laptop for my parents, my in-laws, my friends, or anyone else I know who is a casual computer user and who trusts me, what would I buy? It would be the new MacBook, hands down. Why so?
When talking about gun laws, it is sometimes said that guns don’t kill people; people do. Regardless of where you stand on that issue, the physical reality is that it is in fact the bullet that makes contact and causes the damage. Tip 8 in the Presenter’s Manifesto states exactly that: Bullets Kill. And by that, we mean the text bullets on our slides. Too many bullets can kill our audience’s attention and render our presentation ineffective.
In Tip 1 of our Manifesto, we declared that the purpose of presenting is to communicate a message in order to enable or persuade. We also noted that anything that detracts from this goal must be eliminated. Here in Tip 7, we examine the first of many things that have the ability to greatly enhance our message or greatly detract from it – the quality of our presentation. Quality matters in both the visual appearance of our slides and the delivery of the words that we use.
I’ve been in the market for a new laptop for a while and have been patiently waiting on a possible spring announcement from Apple before making a decision. That announcement happened earlier this week, so now it’s decision time. Since folks often ask me what computer they should buy, I’ll share how I made my own decision this time around, particularly in light of yesterday’s news. As the title of this post indicates, it’s not going to be the new MacBook. If you’re just interested in my MacBook thoughts, you can skip down to The New MacBook section.
Sometimes we need to give the same presentation multiple times with just slight variations. Depending on the audience, perhaps 80% of the content is always the same, and the last 20% varies by the needs of the particular audience, or by a specific area of focus. Product sales presentations are a classic example, where based on the expertise of the audience, not all of the material needs to be presented, or it may be needed to be presented in a different sequence.
Today we discuss Tip 5 in the Presenter’s Manifesto, which is “Less words, more talking”. At first that may seem like a paradox. In this case, “less words” means less words on the screen, rather than in what you have to say. Edward Tufte has made one particular Nasa slide about the Challenger disaster quite famous in his book Beautiful Evidence. Here’s a version of it that we’ll use to illustrate Tip 5 and several others. What strikes you most about this slide?
As stated in Tip 1, our goal when presenting is to communicate a particular message to a specific audience, which we do in order to enable or persuade in some way. That’s only going to happen if we truly know our message inside and out.
A well-delivered message holds the audience’s attention and keeps them from reaching for their smart phones to text and do email. Unfortunately, this is becoming ever more challenging because audiences have ever shorter attention spans. Why? Because we are competing with the addiction to the electronic gadgets in their pockets and purses, and soon, on their wrists too. Some will try to hide their device under the table, and others will just pull them right out in the open. If “monkey see, monkey do” sets in, we may lose the entire room.
To help cope with this, I’d like to introduce a new metric: Time-to-Device, or simply TTD.
So far we’ve established that our ultimate goal when presenting is to help our audience in some way. We are trying to enable or persuade. It makes sense then that the second tip on making effective presentations has to do with our message. We always keep in mind that:
The first tip about making effective presentations has nothing to do with content, technology, or presentation skills. It has to do with purpose. Famous author Steve Covey has written “Begin with the end in mind.” So what end should we have in mind as presenters?