The Biggest Mistake You Probably Make When Giving Presentations
Posted by Damon Nofar | November 22, 2017
Almost exactly one year ago I was in Paris with a colleague and his team of presentation coaches to hold a presentation workshop for an international company. The attendees were senior managers that wanted to improve how they present - whether that be sales pitches to potential clients or internal presentations for employees.
The very first thing we asked the attendees to do was to write down their views on what reflects a great presentation vs an awful presentation.
To my delight, many of the top points from the awful side were "bad slides", "too much text on slides", "ugly powerpoint slides".
Awesome, I thought to myself.
Because that meant that they understand the value of clean design when it comes to business presentations, and on top of that I selfishly saw several potential clients.
Bad slides can make the greatest presenter fail.
One would think that as long as you are a good presenter, the slides do not really matter, right?
I saw a great example of this when we had the managers deliver a 5-minute presentation to understand their current presenting style.
One of the managers (let's call him John) had a great stage presence and his outgoing and funny personality caught my attention straight away. John was not talking about a super exciting topic but his impressive way of presenting it made me actually want to listen and see if I could learn anything.
The issue was that John's slides kept pulling my attention away from him and what he was saying, and my focus was instead on reading his bullet points. And it didn't take long before I had lost him and what he was talking about.
This happened over and over again with several of the other attendees.
What became evident was that most of the managers were good at communicating their ideas but they didn't need all the content that they had stuffed in their slides.
The details in their presentation slides worked against the speaker rather than supporting them. And this is a fact that most speakers neglect: do your slides support you or hinder you?
If you recognize yourself in John's example above, and are thinking "yeah, you're right.. but I don't have time to do any flashy stuff to my presentation and this is really not my priority since I have other more important work on my table."
Fair enough, I hear you. Now hear me out.
You put in all the hard work, learn about the product/service, gather content and get your numbers right, look for prospective clients, do cold calls, and so on.
And on the day where you are actually talking to your prospect (either face-to-face or via phone), you deliver your message like this:
To me, that feels like a lot of wasted time.
The most important moment of closing a deal is when you actually have the client in front of you. This is the moment where they have taken the time to listen to what you have to say and your job is to get their attention and keep it throughout your pitch.
Why not make the best of it after all your hard work?
You don't need to be Da Vinci to create clean slides.
In John's example above, I noticed that he did a great job explaining the key points in this particular slide example, and he did not need all the bullets and content that he had listed up.
So I suggested that he only kept the title in order to get the audience's attention right away when he clicks forward the slide, and then turn their attention to himself by using his structural and friendly way of explaining the points.
Or even better, he could include an extra slide that display the key points as he is speaking. With this technique he can control where he wants the audience's attention.
All slides can obviously not be as simple and clean as this example. However the point is to always ask yourself:
Do I really need all these points on my slide?
What things can I delete and fill in with my speech instead?
Do my slides serve its purpose of supporting me or are they actually taking the attention away from me?