Really, really bad presentations..

Picture 1It may be cultural but most of the presentations I see at work are awful. Not just ill constructed but really, really bad. Come on guys – you can make it better in a few simple steps. If you’re not sure just use Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule.

10 slides.
20 minutes.
30-point font minimum.

If you need to go smaller than 30-point then you’ve got too much text – either convert it to a document or simply keep the (slightly awkward and stilted) slides as your document and make a new set for your actual presentation. Personally I try to go further – no more than six words on a slide – I don’t remember whose advice this was, and it often takes some hardcore refactoring to get a few bullet points down to their pure essence, but it’s worth it.

The problem with filling the slides with text is that your audience responds in one of two ways. Either:

(a) they see a mass of text, get word blindness and just ignore it. They try to reconcile what you’re saying with the jumble of words on the screen and just give up.

(b) they skim the text, assume they know everything you’re going to say and then just ignore you. Usually this is when the blackberry comes out or if they really have little respect for you, then they just get out their laptop and get on with some real work.

42-17626624If you follow this rule, at least people have a chance. The harder issue though, and one that brings me to tears at times, is when the content or presenter is just cripplingly boring. I think having the mental fortitude to sit though all-day product or technical reviews is one of the main reasons that I.T. is so highly paid. Normal people would begin to self-harm by mid morning, and probably be in a coma by the 3pm coffee break.

Spend a few minutes thinking about what story you are telling. I don’t care if it’s a technical presentation, it should still have a beginning, a middle and an end. There is a situation, something changes, then it is resolved. You may even cast yourself as the reluctant hero overcoming all obstacles to reach your prize. Either way, think about what you want your audience to think / say / do at the end. Does the structure you have support this? Is it interesting? Can you make it more interesting by using stock photography or well planned diagrams? If you know what you want your audience to feel or do by the end then you should be able to more aggressively analyze each slide to see if it tells the right part of your story. And fix it.

Finally, use Keynote for f*k’s sake. PowerPoint is shit.

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