Think about some of the presentations you’ve seen that were, shall we say, less than ideal. I’m going to guess the problems fell into one of three areas: Dull delivery; Wordy wanderlust; and PowerPoint poisoning.
At first blush, it’s probably not clear what these areas have in common, other than they all have the potential to sabotage your presentation’s success. What’s the common culprit, or more importantly, the common solution?
In a word, purposeful. Let’s look at how applying that adjective can solve each of these problems.
Dull Delivery. When gripped with the anxiety that’s so common with public speaking, a speaker can often just shut down. But if your delivery has purpose, you become much more powerful. Purposeful delivery means: You look at and talk to individual members of the audience as if your purpose was to have a one-on-one conversation with each of them. You use purposeful gestures, painting pictures with your hands and highlighting or underscoring points. You use props for demonstration purposes. You have purposeful movement where you stride across the front of the room, not pace. You step to the screen to refer to something specific on a slide. You put purposeful inflection in your voice-by varying your rate, volume, and inflection. You minimize the uhs and ums, because they have no purpose.
Wordy Wanderlust. The speaker who rambles on and on may know his subject matter and feel most comfortable if he can talk off the cuff. But very few audience members enjoy listening to a speaker go on aimlessly, especially if he goes over his time limit. The antidote is purposeful organization, which means you’ll be more coherent and the audience can follow along more easily. Identify the key points you need to get across. Then consider how much time you have. You would be able to elaborate and expound more on each point for a 30-minute talk than for a 15-minute one. The mark of a good presenter is honoring time limits. Identify your main points, then decide how much you can embellish or edit each one depending on your time allotment.
PowerPoint Poisoning. If every PowerPoint slide in the world were purposeful, we’d probably cut out 90% of the slides currently in use. Here’s a great test to apply to determine if your visual has purpose—the UR rule: Does it help the audience Understand or Remember anything? If it doesn’t, it has no purpose, and therefore is unnecessary.
A simple example would be a slide that says “Guidelines for Visual Aids.” What purpose does that serve? Nothing. It doesn’t help the audience understand or remember anything. If, on the other hand, that title was at the top of a slide, and then there were five points of guidelines below it, that would help the audience understand or remember the guidelines. It would have purpose.
Please consider that you don’t have to have a visual up all the time. When it would serve no purpose in helping the audience understand or remember, insert a black slide so the screen goes dark and you can put the focus on you.
If you make everything about your presentation purposeful, you will be a more engaging, interesting speaker.