Present less to share more

Oct 20 2006 by Janet Howd Print This Article

Audiences are so demanding these days.

Unless presentations are delivered as succinctly as possible and with panache Ė listeners give them the thumbs down and the presenters face the ordeal of a drawn out death by texting.

Doomed presenters who dim lights in a vain attempt to re- focus audience attention on slides supposed to add clarity to their ideas, simply add clarity to the underhand messages whizzing to and fro.

Too and fro! - That is the characteristic which makes ideas beguiling. That is the characteristic which poor presenters avoid like the plague and able presenters use to the full. Note the10/20/30 rule which business guru Guy Kawasaki applies to an hour's presentation.

10 should be the maximum number of slides a presenter uses.

20 should be the maximum number of minutes a presenter talks for.

30 should be the minimum point size for print anywhere on a presenter's slides.

The rest of the hour Ė a full 40 minutes - should be spent in dialogue.

If we expect other people to attend to what we have to say we must allow them time to tussle with the ideas we place before them. The best time for that tussle to happen is while we are in position, and able to defend and expand the ideas in person.

So a presenter who only has a fifteen minute slot should extrapolate from the proportions above and act accordingly.

I recently came across a design guru who was packing 40 slides covered with an indecipherably small print point into a 15 minute time slot. This meant that the material on the slides was reiterated at break-neck speed, leaving no time for questions.

On being asked as the audience left why the designer's prowess had not been applied to slide presentation, a research assistant replied that they "didn't want to leave any information out because they didn't want to dumb the subject down."

Oh Please!!! Regurgitation is anathema to communication. It makes people sick!

It's talking about knowledge that expands knowledge.

Reading out ideas to people is no substitute for sharing with them the thinking behind those ideas. Enthusiasm for a subject is no substitute for being able to explain the reasoning behind that enthusiasm.

Ideas that are well voiced and well aired generate feelings of warmth and connectedness that spread amongst those engaged in the sharing and can buoy up their spirits for days afterwards.

Organisations need more presentations of that kind They need more of that kind of empathetic interaction if they are to retain and cohere good minds and create and improve great products.

The human brain is still capable of taking in, assessing and connecting more information than even the most advanced computer. It's just insulting to that intelligence to ream off words, graphs and images from a laptop and then walk away.

So plan to involve your audience as you prepare your next presentation. The discussion you set in trend may be so engaging that its participants lose track of time.

The thumbs may still go down, but only to text that they'll be late for their next appointment because they want to stay talking about your ideas.

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About The Author

Janet Howd
Janet Howd

Janet Howd is a voice coach who works with corporate, academic, legal, theatrical and private clients in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe.