Sep 5, 2016

People hate presentations. How to make them love yours?

Most people hate most presentations that they sit through. That's because most presenters bore their audiences and fail to engage and excite. This has given rise to the term 'Death by PowerPoint'. In this blog post I unravel 7 tips that counter Death by PowerPoint and make your audience love your content and love you too.

  1. Make your presentation easy to understand. Clarity trumps everything.
  2. Capture the attention of your audience.
  3. Do not try to tell them everything. They do not need to know it all.
  4. Make your presentation easy to pass on.
  5. Make your slides very visual. Shun lots of words and go for images and videos.
  6. Ensure you appeal to logic and appeal to emotions while building credibility for yourself.
  7. A presentation which fulfills the above six criteria takes time to prepare. There are no short cuts.

Creating content that your audience will love starts with clarity. You lose your audience when they do not understand you. There are a few simple ways to cross this hurdle and make your content easier to understand.

- Stop using all jargon and abbreviations.
- Prepare your presentation and present it to a colleague or friend. Ask her questions and find out how much has she really understood. Now make changes to your content.

- Use examples and analogy to explain important concepts. Nothing should be communicated without a suitable example.

Attention is a very scarce resource and some say it is the currency of communication in this age. No one pays attention to anything for very long. As soon as you start presenting your audience will be busy checking Facebook and Email. How do you deal with such a situation?

- Start with a bang. Make your start exciting and win the interest (and the attention) of your audience.
- Narrate a story. All stories are exciting and gets the attention of people.
- Use a DID YOU KNOW slide in your presentation. Asking a question or sharing something people don't know gets them to pay more attention.

As a presenter we want to tell everything to your audience. We are by definition more passionate about our topic. Teachers love their topic more than students. CEOs love their mission more than the workmen. Trainers love their domain more than professionals who are getting trained. Tell your audience what they need to know and nothing more. You cannot overfeed a person and expect them to like the food and the experience. As they say in Japanese Hara hachi bu, eat until only 80% full. That's when you'll love the food and it will do good for you.

More often that not, you deliver a presentation which your audience needs to remember and pass it on. A B2B sales presentation to the buyer cannot be forgotten within the next 24 hours. A startup pitch to investor should be in her memory for quite a while if you have any hope for success. How do you ensure your audience remembers the crucial stuff?

- People remember stuff when they have fewer things to remember. So talk less in your presentation.
- End your presentation with a good summary and cover the 3 to 5 main takeaways you want the audience to remember.
- Narrate a story. Stories are remembered for a very long time and are easy to pass on.

No one likes a PowerPoint Presentation that is full of text. Will you like such a presentation? Of course not. To create content that your audience loves you also need to present in visually. Good food + bad packaging = bad food. Here are a few simple tips to communicate your content visually.

- Do not use bullet points.
- Use high resolution images and use large images
- Use very few words per slide.
- Replace a list of bullet points with icons.
- Use legible sans-serif fonts in your presentations.
- Have only one slide on one message.
- Avoid too many charts and diagrams on one slide. Distribute these over multiple slides.

Aristotle shared the secret of persuasive communication centuries ago in his treatise Rhetoric. In a nutshell he talk about three things.

- Appeal to logic. Use data, case studies and research.
- Appeal to emotions of your audience too. Use stories, vivid language and quotes.
- Build trust for yourself. Your audience will get persuaded only when they trust you. If you are not the CEO or a known expert in your domain, you need to communicate your expertise first. Get introduced properly and build trust in your audience. If they trust you, they will trust in what you have to tell them.

Making a presentation which fulfills all or most of the six points above takes a lot of time. As a professional presentation designer, to make a presentation of 20 minutes I spend anywhere between 50 to 75 hours. Most of this time is spent in discussion, reading and developing content. As a thumb rule,

- Spend 50% of your time preparing your content
- 25% of your time designing slides, and
- 25% of your time rehearsing your presentation.

Good things take time and a presentation that is loved by your audience will definitely take you a lot of time.