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.
Many of the tips in our Manifesto encourage us to use less word content on slides in favor of more graphical content. Whether it be photographs, charts, or illustrations, the purpose of visual content is to help crystalize our ideas in the minds of our audience. It follows then, that the quality of this content must be as good as we can reasonably make it. So we avoid:
- Grainy or blurry images, or images with artifacts.
- Off-center text, unless it’s purposefully done for stylistic reasons or to illustrate a point.
- Inconsistent fonts styles and sizes.
- Inappropriate font style.
- Poorly done animations.
- Gratuitous (i.e. for no purpose) animations.
- Slide formats that are incorrect for the projector being used.
- Color choices that are hard on the viewer’s eyes.
Many of these will be covered in their own Manifesto Tip.
Our words will be the primary vehicle of success in communicating our message, so they must be communicated with care. In terms of quality, we refer not to how the ideas are put into words, but how the words themselves are delivered. Specifically, we avoid:
- Speaking too fast.
- Speaking too slow.
- Speaking in an unpleasant tone (e.g. shrill, grating, sarcastic, whining, etc.)
- Mispronouncing words or using unfamiliar dialects. This does not refer to any difficult-to-say words in the presentation. Those should already be well-rehearsed. What we mean here are words like “Washington”, which doesn’t have an “r” in it between the “a” and the “s” unless you’re from a very specific locale and speaking there.
- Slang. For Larry the Cable Guy or anyone from the Duck Commander team, it’s OK to say “ain’t”, for the rest of us it isn’t. At best, it makes us appear unprofessional. At worst, it may cause our message to be unfairly rejected.
- Repeating ourselves. Repeating a main point, or repeating for emphasis occasionally is OK. Overdoing it is not. Too much repetition is tiring to the ear of many types of audiences. Classroom settings, of course, are different, where intentional repetition serves to engrain new information quickly.
- Audience inappropriate language. For example, the word “dude” is best left unsaid unless we’re speaking to a Millennial group, or in an informal setting.
Remember well Tip 7: Quality Matters. We’ll expand it further as our Manifesto continues to unfold.
This post is part of the series “The Presenter’s Manifesto”. You can find the beginning of the series here: Presenter’s Manifesto – Prologue