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.
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?
We’ve all been there – sitting in a room waiting for the start of a presentation. We may be there because the topic is of interest to us, or maybe our boss required us to attend. It might be a team or department meeting, a project meeting, or perhaps a sales presentation by a vendor. Yet none of this matters. What matters is that the presentation hasn’t started yet because the presenter doesn’t have his act together, and our precious time is being wasted.
Usually it begins with the projector. How many times have you heard the following:
With the total number of titles in the App Store now nearing 1 million, it’s more than a safe bet there are numerous variations of apps that do essentially the same things. For simple proof, I just searched for “to-do list” apps and found 2,144. If I were a developer aspiring to create such an app, I could easily become discouraged, figuring that there couldn’t possibly be any room for another one. But I would be wrong.
No matter what trade or industry you work in, there really aren’t any new ideas. Rarely will you be first in line with an idea that someone else hasn’t already had. But I’d like to suggest that it doesn’t matter one iota. Why? Because while your idea may not be new, no one can bring it to life exactly the way you can. No one has the unique set of skills, abilities, and particular way of executing an idea that you do. And if you don’t take action and make it happen, we all lose.
The purpose of technology is to make life better. With certain notable exceptions, man has been developing technology to make life safer and more enriching from the time of the wheel all the way to SpaceshipTwo. Regarding handheld devices however, particularly smartphones, the blessings of technology have brought a curse that deserves some thought.
How many times have you witnessed the following (notice my confident assumption that you have):