7 Simple Secrets of the Best Presentations
My new book, Business Without The Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need To Know, is being published this week, so my posts are condensed excerpts from it.
I've written about presentations many times, but I've never provided the core truths that transform an average presentation into a killer one. Here they are:
1. Never lecture.
At home, a lecture is what happens when your parents catch you misbehaving. (Boring.) In college, a lecture is what happens when you've got a dull professor. (Really boring.) In business, a lecture is what happens when a presenter uses slides as talking points. (Deadly boring.) Don't ever force people to listen to you read your slides.
2. Appeal to emotion.
The purpose of a business presentation is to bring the audience members from their current emotion state (usually skeptical or uninterested) to the emotional state where they'll make a favorable decision (one hopes they will be excited and ready to take action). Therefore, structure your presentation as a journey through series of emotions, rather than a series of facts.
- Fearful. (Draw their attention to a problem.)
- Relieved. (There is a solution to that problem.)
- Trusting. (They believe that you and your company are credible.)
- Convinced. (They're ready to take action.)
- Amazed. (Draw their attention with something they didn't know.)
- Curious. (They see why your idea is interesting.)
- Inspired. (They see why your idea is revolutionary.)
- Activated. (They're now crazy anxious to be part of it.)
3. Tell stories.
Great presentations are always a collection of stories. A story might be something as short as an explanation of how you arrived at a particular statistic or an entire five-minute-long business anecdote. As long as they're relevant and concise, these stories will create the emotional response you're seeking.
4. Use signposts.
In real-world journeys, signposts guide you to your destination ("Smallville 10 Miles") or tell you when you've arrived ("Welcome to Smallville!"). In business presentations, signposts are slides that contain facts, graphics, or tables that either point to where you want your audience to go or tell it when it has arrived.
5. Keep it simple.
People pay attention to stories that are relevant, so buttress your stories and signposts with easily understood but pertinent facts that are quantifiable, verifiable, memorable, and dramatic. People also shut off their brains when confronted with complexity, so never put up a slide or show a video that's not immediately and easily understandable.
6. Get personal.
Select one person in the audience and speak directly to that person. Pretend that everyone else is just overhearing what you're saying, as at a party. Every time you move to another segment of the presentation, switch to a new person. This makes each person in the audience feel as if you were talking to him or her personally, even if you "target" only a few people.
7. Use the 20/20 rule.
Cut your presentation to 20 minutes or fewer and rehearse your presentation 20 times or more. 'Nuff said.
Excerpted from the book BUSINESS WITHOUT THE BULLSH*T by Geoffrey James. © 2014 by Geoffrey James. Reprinted by permission of Business Plus. All rights reserved.
GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist
Geoffrey James was recently named a "Top 40 Social Selling Marketing Master" by Forbes, and his blog has won awards from the Society of American Business Editors and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. His writing has appeared in publications as diverse as Wired, Brandweek, and Men's Health, and he is the author of numerous books, including The Tao of Programming, Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite, and, most recently, Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.