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Scott Harvey discusses why are there so many bad presenters?

At a conference I visited last week the audience was asked to grade each presenter from 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest score and 5 the highest. Sadly there was not a grade for the different aspects of each presenter, only this "overall" marking scheme, so in reality the score would return little value to the organizer.

For example, the first speaker was a very good speaker, but their PowerPoint presentation was simply awful. Very slow, very intense, and as a result the audience were already falling asleep by 10am! As a result I had no option but to give the speaker a 1 on the scorecard. A great pity, because in a more open system only the presentation itself would have scored lowly. So why is it that despite all the professional PowerPoint templates, PowerPoint plug-ins, and help available, people still produce such poor presentations?

Presentation Article and Advice about Creating Content

Why are there so many bad presenters?

Scott Harvey, Managing Director, The Impossible Media Group

Been there. Done that

We've all read the articles, and seen the headlines, "How to deliver a great presentation", or "10 ways to a better presentation", but with these general analysis', is any real benefit or value given to us and after reading such articles do we suddenly deliver a great presentation? After all, it's all well and good talking about practicing your speech, facing the audience, using visual aids and props, but if you have a bad presentation...well you have a bad presentation. Even if Elvis himself were to appear and sing The Impossible Dream, it would still be a bad presentation. So instead of thinking about what you want to say, and instead of thinking about how to conquer your public speaking nerves, lets focus on the thing that your audience is for the most part actually looking at. Your good old PowerPoint presentation.

Making a meal of things

It's funny how for example when we are making dinner, we cook the meat, we boil the potatoes, we steam the vegetables, we simmer the sauce, we chill the wine, and we set the table, etc. etc., In fact a simple a thing as a dinner, is actually complex, and at the very least, consists of many individual activities.

Now imagine a PowerPoint presentation. Why do most of us approach it saying ok, I need to write out my key arguments and add some bullet points?

Hmmm... wonder surely a PowerPoint presentation is more complex than this? More complex for example, than making a dinner?

So what activities or ingredients might we think are necessary to produce a better PowerPoint presentation? With our goal to making us a better presenter.

Proud or embarrassed?

Well firstly lets examine the role of a PowerPoint presentation. Would it be fair to say that a PowerPoint presentation is a companion to a presenter on stage?

If so, how would you like your companion to be if for example you attended a formal dinner party? Would you like your companion to be well dressed? Attractive? Intelligent? Capable of holding a conversation on their own without you? Perhaps charming? Witty? Confident? Alluring?

There are many qualities one could define, but to look at it in another way, one might say that you certainly would for example not want your companion to be badly dressed, poorly organized, confusing, slow, overly stuffed, monotonous, boring, or simply tiring would you?

So with that agreement, where should we begin?

Step One

As a child when you went to bed, perhaps your mother or father told you a bedtime story? Perhaps they read to you until you fell asleep?

As you got older, you probably learned how to read, and so realized that you didn't need your parents to read to you anymore. Now, how is it that the moment most people make a PowerPoint presentation, they seem to forget all that they learned from childhood and revert to reading to their audience?

Since most of the members in your audience will be able to read, and have in all likelihood done so for many years, there's actually no need to stand on stage and simply read your presentation to your audience. They can do this themselves.

Far too many presenters think that a PowerPoint presentation is a visible speech. That it allows them to be able to read off it like some auto prompt. But this is not what a PowerPoint presentation is for. It is a companion to what you have to say. Not a copy. It should support your speech. Not be your speech. If you require notes, use notes, but use your presentation for notes, because just as a child, if you stand and simply read your presentation to your audience, you'll have them falling asleep but sadly long before any young prince reaches the castle and rescues the maiden, and there certainly won't be a happy ever after in the audience kingdom.

Step Two

It's perhaps a cliche but with PowerPoint it certainly is true. Honesty is the best policy. There is no point trying to convince yourself and others that your presentation is the toast of the ball, if you've brought along the emperors new clothes. People will see through it. So be honest with your PowerPoint presentation and be realistic. If your presentation is too long, has too many bullet points, has too much text, has too many graphics, is too messy, is not flowing logically, or otherwise confusing, be honest!

Step Three

You've spent days or weeks preparing all the things you want to say and all the things that are important for your audience to understand. But ask yourself honestly, are all the things important? A survey carried out by the American Institute of Physiological Research & Behavior in 2005, showed clearly that 4 hours after a presentation no audience member could remember more than 2 key points of a presentation.

Wouldn't you want your audience to remember the 2 most important points of your presentation? Wouldn't it therefore be better to strip your content and presentation down to focus on these 2 points rather than the 20 or 30 that your presentation probably tries to inform?

Step Four

Your companion should be attractive. If you have a corporate PowerPoint template, use it, but again be honest. If you feel that the template simply looks old or drab. Looks tired, or uninteresting, don't use it. Don't make the wrong impression. There's no point standing in front of an audience full of energy if what your audience is looking at is old, tired, dull, and downright boring. You wouldn't take a sedated companion to a party, so why use a deflated PowerPoint template to complement you on stage.

If you need to refresh your corporate template, or if you need a fresher and more relevant PowerPoint template for your presentation, contact us here at 123PPT with your request, our creative staff are more than happy to be of service, and will provide you with a free no obligation quote.

Stage Five

Back to the old cliches it's again true that a picture really does speak a thousand words. At least, the right and relevant picture that is.

Imagine your presentation is about the problems of third world hunger. Whilst you stand and speak perhaps about the numbers of children dying each day of starvation and lack of water, what would make a more powerful slide in your PowerPoint presentation for your audience to be viewing whilst you speak? A chart or graph of numbers and statistics or a single image of a painfully thin undernourished child? Think about it. Your chart, your statistics, your figures, they won't make people think. They won't even help people remember. But the right and relevant image will. It will compliment your speech.

To conclude

So whilst you may feel you can improve on your vocal delivery, or your public speaking skills, or your presentation nerves, try to separate this from your PowerPoint presentation.

Make a good presentation and your audience will forgive you. We are all human, and we all know the nerves that even professional speakers experience in front of an audience. But make a bad PowerPoint slide presentation and your audience will not be so forgiving, because with or without nerves, there really is no excuse for bringing a badly designed and planned PowerPoint presentation to the party.
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