Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Getting to the Point

A week or so ago, Mary Schmidt had an excellent post on the uses and abuses of Power Point . She focuses on just four points, which she gets across quite concisely, and which I'll boil down even further: 

  1. The presentation is for your customer (not you)
  2. Keep the preso simple and uncluttered, but KNOW THY MATERIAL
  3. It's okay to have a long, detailed, wordy PPT if it's a leave-behind, rather than a stand up preso
  4. Make sure your name, company, etc. are on each page

This latter one is actually something I haven't given that much thought to, but she's dead on: if someone pulls a couple of slides out of your preso to circulate, you want to make sure that they know where it comes from!

The best point Mary makes is her #1 - and for good reason.  Here's Mary:

Your presentation isn’t supposed to be designed for your comfort. It’s supposed to be designed for your audience’s interest. I once worked with a colleague who had to put tons of data on her slides otherwise, “I won’t be comfortable presenting the material.” Well, after a few times of watching the audience sink into glazed overload – she agreed with me that it wasn’t about her. Ta-Da!

Is there anything worse than watching a presentation while the presenter, with his/her back half to you, reads details off of an eye-chart? That's why point #2 is so important: keep the info on the slide to a minimum, but complement what's on the slide with your knowledge.

And there's no underestimating the importance of your knowledge. If you're giving a presentation that someone else has created, you need to know how to fill in the blanks for yourself. I go trapped once by this. My boss and I shared a presentation that we gave at breakfast seminars, and one or the other of us was always adding to it. It usually worked out okay, but in one instance Drew added a chart that I didn't quite "get." It made sense when he presented it, but there was something about it that wasn't quite clear to me. I rehearsed it and all, but I was never that comfortable with the point. And it showed! I tried to make my way through it, but ended up giving up. I explained to my audience that it wasn't my slide and I really didn't get it, and they just laughed. But the lesson was learned. You need to have your material internalized or you'll just end up looking dumb.

Thanks to Mary for the reminders.

1 comment:

Mary Schmidt said...


I can certainly relate to discomfort with another's material. But, it's learning by/through fire which isn't all bad.

Example: In my first week at Bell Atlantic Business Systems Services, I was handed a box of overheads (remember those dear ol' projectors?) with the entire corporate pitch for "executive briefings" and told to head on in and give it. (I worked at the corporate HQ and we had big poobah meetings on a regular basis.)

Needless to say it was educational, if not fun. If one can get through that, pretty much nothing else phases you.

The real bottom line is that you're a person, presenting to other people - and they can be pretty understanding as long as you act with a modicum of professionalism and warmth.