Monday, April 1, 2013

For Presentations, Half As Long is Twice As Good

By Virgil R. Carter

Leaders in non-profit organizations, as elsewhere in the business world, are expected to make frequent presentations on all sorts of subjects, in all sorts of settings.  It goes with the territory, right?  According to an article by Joey Asher, in Fast Company magazine, “most of business presentations stink.  Period.”  According to Asher, “(these presentations) are bloated PowerPoint-laden ramblings that ignore audience’s key concerns and fail to tell a simple story”.  Here are ways the author suggests to make your presentations the happy exceptions:
Half as long is twice as good:  Today’s attention spans are shorter than when Edward Everett, one of the nation’s great orators, spoke for two hours at Gettysburg.  The average contemporary YouTube video is just over four minutes, for example.  About the only place with audiences of any kind sit in one place for more than an hour is the movie theater.  Thus, presenters should “cut their presentations in half”.  Seven to ten minutes, before taking questions, is a good target.
Grab the audience like Spielberg:  We could all take a lesson in how to quickly grab the audience’s attention from Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece Jaws.  It opens with a girl getting eaten by a shark.  The rest of the film is about resolving the problem of the shark!  Your presentations should start the same way.  Cut right to the “shark”, the key challenge that faces your listeners and your business.  That will grab their attention without wasting time.
Make the body of your presentation pass the $300,000 challenge:  Let’s say you’re about to give a presentation.  Before the presentation I offer you $300,000, saying you can have the money under one condition.  After your presentation, I will ask three people from the audience to repeat your key messages.  If all three can do it, you win the money.
If those are the conditions, you will limit your presentation to a few key messages and keep them short, repeating them many times.  Any good presentation should leave the audience with a few memorable messages.  So ask yourself, “What are the three things that my audience must remember?”
Leave lots of time for Q&A:  Q&A is duct tape for presentations.  It fixes almost everything.  Greater interactivity improves every presentation.  Want to simplify your topic for presentation?  Take the three questions that folks ask the most and put them on a slide.  Then answer them one at a time.  It will be a great presentation.
Minimize your slides:  Steve Jobs said, “People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”  Most good presentations need no more than five to ten slides.  Figure out how to focus your message on your audience’s key issues, tell your story quickly focusing on a few key points and take questions.  Lots of questions!

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