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How I Make My Presentations Suck Less


How I Make My Presentations Suck Less

It’s easy and fun to blame Powerpoint for a lousy presentation. Because, hey, who doesn’t want something, anything, to blame for one’s problems.

Let’s be honest. Powerpoint isn’t the reason that so many presentation’s suck. They suck because when you put garbage in, you get garbage out. 

In the process of creation, it’s just so incredibly easy to lose track of why one is making the presentation in the first place. Yes, a deck should be educational. Absolutely, a presentation should be persuasive. But the essential thread to success, whether it’s Powerpoint or Keynote, is making an audience care. That is my and your most important job with the presentation I / you are making – getting people invested in whatever it is that’s being pitched.

Stop mistaking an audience’s willingness to listen (to your pitch), with a belief that they care enough to become invested in you. Because, if they don’t care, then nothing else matters. 

With that in mind, I am sharing a simple 5 step process I’ve developed to get myself back to the point of why my presentations matter. It helps me. Maybe it will help you as well.

  1. Put the presentation up on a screen. Step as far away from the screen as possible. Close eyes.
  2. Imagine yourself as your audience and this is the very first time you’ve ever seen/heard anything in the presentation. I know it’s hard – you created it(!) – but do it. Be the blank slate who doesn’t care. 
  3. Open your eyes. Look at what’s on the slide in front of you. Try to ignore the fancy animations, pretty graphics and powerful words. Do everything you can to imagine you don’t know all the history that got you to what’s on the slide. Forget the fact that you’re (perhaps) sick of working on it, and ask yourself this simple question – does the slide in front of you give you enough information, presented in a compelling enough way, to tell you why you’re looking at it? 
  4. Repeat step 3 for every slide in your presentation.
  5. Once you’ve completed the presentation, step back and ask the most important question of all: would this presentation compel you to become invested? More to the point, if you were a disinterested stranger, would it make you care?

These are not easy steps to take. Trust me. They can result in long nights. Irrational shouting at the computer. A longing for a non-fatal accident that might give you a perfectly plausible excuse to not complete the presentation. Or maybe just a desire to run away and open that B&B you’ve always wanted to open, never to make a presentation again… Or maybe that’s just how I deal with the stress of trying to look at my presentations from the perspective of someone who isn’t already bought-in.

But I do it. And I keep doing it. For the most basic of reasons. By forcing oneself to step away and take that step, we create a window of opportunity to focus on what matters most – making our audience care. And when we do that – when we stop trying to just sell! sell! sell! – we lay the foundation for something more enduring. An emotional connection that might just lead to your desired outcome.

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