Preparing for your presentations and avoiding ‘death-by-PowerPoint!’

Everyone is aware of death by PowerPoint, especially me, so I knew I had to put some effort into making this presentation something I was happy with.

Preparing for your presentations and avoiding ‘death-by-PowerPoint!’

A while ago I was asked to present to a group of people who were just starting out and some had already begun their journey in business and in keeping with all the tried and tested social media approaches, one of the tasks was to produce a PowerPoint presentation, not just for me to use to present but also to produce something for them to take away afterwards.

Read a book on presenting – so I read seven!

I love books, especially business books and even more so if they’re marketing related. So, with my project in mind I did my research.
The books I reviewed were:

To be honest I thought they were all great, especially as it takes time and patience as well as a certain state of mind to put in a book what you have learned, in a logical format.

Changing my approach

What was great about this exercise was that it forced me to review my overall sales pitch and the sentences are used to talk about salesXchange.

For me it was a classic case of “well I know what I'm talking about” and expecting the other person to get it immediately.  It’s a good job my wife is such a sensitive critic.

I cringe at what I've seen and done before in terms of slides and dialogue, but now, having studied these two books, I feel more prepared and definitely more confident in the way I talk about salesXchange because I know it makes sense and secondly, I've tested it with other people so it's not just me thinking it’s okay.

Early days and more to learn

Its early days and I hope to do lots of presentations and continuously improve, adapt and change, but for now, I'm pretty happy with my first self-taught ‘coached’ effort of combining words, images.

We need all the help we can get to avoid ‘Death-by-PowerPoint’, especially as we embark on a new journey with our “ground-breaking” new business idea that we believe will change the way people do business all over the world.

A desire to teach…

It is clear to me, that when someone writes a book and publishes it with such care and attention about how each page is presented and communicates, and then allows you to download it for free, speaks volumes about the quiet confidence of the person and the business.

After reading both books again and again, it became crystal clear why and how so many people get presenting so wrong, including me. 

Bent Spines & Dog-eared Pages

I'm not detracting from any of the others, but the two that really stuck in my mind and have both their spines bent and pages that are dog-eared are Slide:ology and Resonate by Nancy Duarte.  I later found out the Garr Reynolds used to work with Nancy Duarte and they’re very good friends.

The book Resonate (as I found out later) is also available from the Apple store however I purchased my books from good old Amazon before I knew…, so now I have both versions.

For someone like me who wants to tinker with PowerPoint and present a new message, these two books were amazing.  The essence of these books are as follows:

Crafting the flow

Resonate explains about storytelling and how great presenters construct their speeches and presentations.  Resonate also analyses the logic behind the format of stories and as an example, explains the plot sequence behind Star Wars films to help explain why this particular format works.

So, Resonate helped me craft what I was saying and put it in the right order.

Choosing the visuals

Slide:ology; forced me to think about the images used and how I constructed the slides. The order was determined by the spoken element as I’ve mentioned above, but it’s not as obvious as it might sound.

By combining the two I was forced to match the right spoken element in terms of the flow of dialogue with the right image and detail on the slide, which changed so many times, I can’t tell you.

Saying what you mean

Carmine Gallo’s book Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs was a delight to read, not least of all to be able to understand why Steve Jobs was able to command such a following of his presentations and keynote speeches.  I originally thought it was something inexplicable, but it turned out to be good ol’ fashioned hard work and practice that made everything Job’s do seem so effortless. Carmine Gallo also wrote another book called Talk Like TED that shares some of the stories and training of people who have spoken on TED.  Definitely worth a read.

The Presentation Coach, Lend Me Your Ears and Life’s a Pitch were invaluable as all three in their unique way help to explain how the audience are thinking and how the presenter can set him/herself up for a fall if they’re not careful. 

Conclusion

There is a saying, “Perfect preparation prevents poor performance” and when it comes to presentation skills, nothing beat practice, practice, practice.  It’s also worth pointing out that the best piece of advice is to complete as many ‘dry-runs’ as you can. 

It means that no matter who or what interrupts you, you can always pick up the thread and be able to act naturally, calmly and most importantly, authentically, in front of your audience.

About the Author

Nigel Maine

Nigel Maine

Nigel is the Founder & Managing Director of salesXchange and has been helping SMEs for over 25 years to develop their marketing, technologies and infrastructure to generate more profits, more efficiently. His recent book book "Integrate! The Essential Business Technology & Marketing Handbook" can be downloaded from Amazon.

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