Death By Powerpoint by Tina Taylor

Your ability to communicate is the single most important factor in your professional tool bag.  People who make a difference, who inspire others and get promoted are usually those who are excellent communicators.  People who are able to present ideas clearly and convincingly, able motivate and captivate their audience.

The need to communicate is even greater in today’s fast changing workplace; information sharing is becoming the responsibility of many and not just the executives.  Of all the ways you communicate the greatest opportunity you have to make an impact is in the presentation.

So how many of you use Powerpoint?

And how many of you actually enjoy presentations made using powerpoint?

Whenever I’m presenting to one of my corporate clients (I never use powerpoint) for the first time, there is always a comment when they realise that I don’t have any slides prepared and we wont be having a slide show. 

I can remember the days I spent working in the City, attending such presentations. Being given a copy of the slides to follow and we all sat there bored whilst the presenter read the slides to us, being told to save any questions until the end of the presentation.  We all sat there trying to be attentive, I was thinking what a waste of time this is, they could have sent me the slides and then if I had any questions I’d email them.

Powerpoint slides indicate that you can plan everything you are about to say in advance.  Have you ever had one of “those” sales calls whereby they are reading a script to you of questions?  Next time interrupt their flow and listen as they try to figure out what to do next. 

I think one of the reasons why the powerpoint presenter wants you to wait until the end before you can ask questions is because the slides encourage them to ignore the people in front of them.  They have to follow the sides.  So rather than focussing attention on your audience time is spent insuring that the slides are in the right order and that you are reading them correctly.  The slides usually use jargon and more formal language making it harder for the listener.

The powerpoint slides also encourage you to feel as if you have completed your presentation when you have prepared your slides, forgetting about any other considerations that are needed.

And, so many people think that they can deliver other peoples presentations, because they have their slides.

The place to start planning your presentation is with your goal – what do you want to achieve; and what do you need to be able to do that.

Basic NLP technique – what do you want, where are you now, and what do you need to achieve it?
Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Why am I speaking?
  2. Whom am I speaking to?
  3. What do they need from me?
  4. How do I construct my message?
  5. How do I deliver it?

The casual seemingly effortless presentation is likely to be the result of a great deal of planning, research and hard work.  In the same way that you build a house in stages, you develop your presentation in a structured/layered way.  The planning and research stage is laying the foundation, and the final product stands on this.  You start off laying your foundations by generating ideas and structuring what and how you are going to deliver your message.  As your presentation begins to grow you add your own unique personality and style.

Before you begin writing your presentation clarity your objectives and research your topic.  Then you will be in the position to add structure to your presentation deciding on the key points how you will open and close the speech and add any supplementary material.  And of course you will need to prepare yourself as the speaker ensuring you are in a confident state on the day of the presentation.

It will be easier for you to decide what to say once you know:

  1. Your primary objectives
  2. Your secondary objectives
  3. Your take home message and
  4. Something about your audience

The most fundamental thing in your preparation is a clear objective, unless you know where you are going, how can you begin the journey?  It is essential that you are clear about what you want to achieve – what is your goal?  In clarifying your primary objective, think in terms of your listeners and how you want to impact them.  How do you want your audience to think and feel.

Remember that we make better psychological maps and learn easier when we are enjoying ourselves.  The most powerful communicators entertain as well as inform; which bring us to your secondary objective which is to:

  1. Inform
  2. Entertain
  3. Persuade
  4. Explore
  5. Sell
  6. Get support
  7. Influence behaviour
  8. Provoke feelings
  9. Motivate
  10. Arouse curiosity

After identifying your objectives the next step is to consider your audience.  It is vital that you think about why they are coming; what they are looking for from this presentation and that you meet and manage their expectations.  You will need to know;

  1. What expedience do they have?
  2. How well do they know you?
  3. How do they feel about you?
  4. Do they know your responsibilities and areas of expertise?
  5. Are they likely to be resistant or apathetic?
  6. What do they need from you?

Answering these questions will enable you to build a profile of your audience so you can pitch your presentation at the appropriate level.

Think ahead to your next presentation and ask yourself:

  1. Why should they listen to me?
  2. How will they benefit from what I have to say?
  3. Who is organising the event?
  4. What is the size and shape of the room?
  5. What equipment will be available?
  6. Who is speaking before you?
  7. Who will be introducing you?

The answers to these questions will be useful in creating an attention getting opening for your presentation; and now you are in a position to start generating those ideas and begin writing.

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