- Author: Michael L. Poe
1st in a 5-part series
Did I get your attention with that title? Good. That's one lesson. When you send out an email announcement of an upcoming presentation avoid putting in the subject line "Discussion of ANR travel policy." Instead try, "Cut UCCE travel costs in 5 ways." People prefer specifics. Our brains process them more easily than abstract info.
For the past couple of months I've been watching webinars, presentations and reading articles about good presentation techniques. They all say essentially the same thing. Some say it better than others. Below is my overview of how people screw up their presentations. I'll dive in on each in future posts.
Step 1. Fail to accurately introduce the topic.
The number one complaint of presentation audiences is the feeling that the presentation wasn't really for them. Was it false advertising? A misleading title? Did the presenter say they would talk about one thing and spend more time on another? Yes, that's what the audience says happens more often than not.
Step 2. Fail to create the presentation learner-centrically. Not clearly understanding what is important for the audience is a sure way to put them to sleep. This is different from Step 1 because even if your presentation matches its announced topic, you failed to really understand what your audience feels about it. "Build it and they will come" sounds great in movie storytelling, but it does not work in real life. Remember, the audience will always be asking themselves, "What's in it for me?" You need to address that.
Step 3. Try to cover too much.
Being human, your audience has limited short-term memory. Don't try to fill a 5 lb sack with 20 lbs of potatoes. Do present specifics like "how-to" steps, good examples, and good visual illustrations. Follow-up with email or online resource lists.
Step 4. Rely on PowerPoint. Your audience can silently read 4-7 times faster than you can read the slides aloud. So don't read to them what they have already read! Your slides should have low text volume. Also, keep in mind that retention rates are about 5% for lectures and 75% for experiential learning. Give your audience something to do besides just sitting there listening to you.
There are actually many more reasons you've screwed up a presentation but if you fix just these, you'll move up into the ranks of Master Presenters! I just made that up, but the idea is, you'll really improve and convey your information much better.
In this series: