Some of us of a certain age come from a time when presentations weren’t created directly on the PC (or Mac) with PowerPoint (or Keynote), or with cool new online tools like Prezi. Back then before laptop PCs and low cost flash drives, if there was plenty of money in the marketing budget, and the presentation was really important you might create photographic slides, but usually it was paper on a flip chart stand, or more likely foils and an overhead projector (and you could write your notes alongside on those cardboard frames – oops, definitely showing my age!). With all of these approaches, you would sit down and write the presentation first, and then transcribe the final version to the presentation medium. These days it’s just too easy to go straight in to the technology, because of the ease of shifting things around and making corrections as you go. I regularly get seduced in to diving in to the detail, opening PowerPoint and starting at slide 1, when I should be taking a mental step back and going back to basics.
I’ve blogged before that my favourite book on this topic Is Presentations Plus by David A. Peoples from 1988. David was a “Consultant Instructor” at IBM, and the best presenter I’ve ever seen – he could certainly tell a story. The first chapter of the book is titled “What’s in it for me?”. Whether it’s a book you want people to read, a presentation you want them to sit through, or a community you want them to join, the place to start is putting yourself in the shoes of the audience and asking that question. The second chapter of the book details David’s blueprint for a successful presentation. I found myself this week going back to his checklist:
- What is my objective?
- How will I close the presentation?
- How will I open the presentation?
- How will I organize the body?
- How will I keep their attention?
- How will I keep their interest?
- What questions will I ask?
- What questions will they ask?
- What visual aids will I use?
- How will I tailor the presentation to the audience?
- What notes do I need?
- How many times should I rehearse?
Notice that the presentation medium doesn’t come in until number 9. And that one at 12 – rehearse…. how often do you do that? Thinking about how you should close the presentation comes right at the start. This checklist is an enormous help standing alone, but the book is well worth tracking down – it’s a goldmine of old ideas and techniques that are still great ideas and techniques.