The Joy of Sox–how to deliver a great presentation

NPR is the white noise that usually accompanies me to and from the office lest I let the traffic turn me into one of those drivers CNN broadcasts with footage of police helicopters hovering above my road rage.  For the most part I have learned to tune out NPR’s political bent and focus on their Macarena-mind human interest stories.  Stories like the whistling sound made by the yellow-spotted salamander living in equatorial Iowa.

These days NPR is all-a-thither about the forthcoming forty-eight month renewal at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  The noise the NPRers make high-fiving each other in the hallways is almost loud enough to drown out their rewriting of Mitt Romney’s position describing him as being in favor of shipping our homeless people to South Sudan because our homeless would have so much in common with Sudanese homeless.  It would not surprise me to learn that an NPR staff intern had drawn a caricature of the prophet and signed Mitt’s name to it as an enticement to have someone fire an RPG into Mitt’s campaign headquarters.

Was that a contrail shooting past my window?

It is an interesting exercise taking apart a one hour speech and repackaging it as a five minute talk—Twitterizing.  It goes to the quote, “I would have written less if I had more time.”  The corollary for presentations may be, if it does not fit one slide, it’s not properly thought out.

I think what a lot of presenters miss is having an understanding of what makes for a good presentation.  Here are a few of mine.

Presentation Rule 1—never bore the audience.  They are pulling for you to do well for your sake and theirs.

Presentation Rule 2—most of the audience can read.  If your slides are filled with text and bullet points, their natural inclination is to read what you’ve written.  They are doing this while you are reading aloud the very same text.  If they are reading, you become superfluous.

Presentation Rule 3—the audience cannot walk and chew gum at the same time (they can’t read your words and listen to you.)  For those presenters who favor text on their slides there are two choices; read from the slides, or try to offer commentary about the slides.  For those who do not read directly from their slides and want to offer commentary it gets even more awkward.  You look at the audience and see them reading the slide.  Your natural tendency is not to interrupt their reading because you are trying to be polite and you do not want them to miss your words of wisdom.  Then your mind starts to wonder if what you are about to say is so important if you should have written it on a slide.

Presentation Rule 4—if you wear wild looking socks–see mine above–you had better be delivering one heck of a good talk.

My philosophy about presentations is not wanting people taking notes based on what is on my slides, hence I use pictures to convey an idea.  I hand-draw concepts from which I can then speak.  Since there is nothing of import on the slides, people start staring at you, something which will make a lot of presenters even more nervous.

The downside of this approach is that since everyone will now be listening to you instead of reading or writing, you better have something worth hearing.  The issue then becomes how to craft your words in a way to get your audience to remember your message.

I favor humor and telling a story.

Will these steps work for you?  I hope they do.

I felt they were working pretty well for me the other night right until the end when an attractive woman approached me and said, “You look like Jack Nicholson, only not as unattractive”—so at least I’ve got that going for me.

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