After Hours

Make your presentations outstanding by breaking these 10 habits

If your presentations aren't memorable and engaging, certain habits could be standing in your way. See how to turn those habits around and achieve positive results.

If your presentations aren't memorable and engaging, certain habits could be standing in your way. See how to turn those habits around and achieve positive results.


Your chances of being tapped to deliver a formal presentation are much higher than they were just a few years ago. In fact, by some estimates, as many as one-fourth of the jobs in the United States will require employees to give a formal presentation in 2010.

Unfortunately, many presenters fall into certain habits that become barriers to communication. These habits are breakable, though -- and each has a good substitute to take its place. The positive replacements focus on making the content clear, relevant, and memorable. And they can turn an adequate presentation into one that's remarkable. Here's a summary of 10 bad habits you can break.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Stop: Being an information resource. Start: Being the funnel, filter, and guru.

Put away the teleprompter. Presenting is more than giving a speech. You're changing data into information, knowledge, and with a little luck, wisdom.

2: Stop: The train -- there's no track. Start: With the end in mind.

Invest the amount of preparation time in your presentation that will make it a winning experience for you, like an athlete whose first goal is self-improvement.

3: Stop: Trusting the human ear. Start: Polishing your shoes.

Don't keep it simple; make it simple. Transform a complicated thought or process into something that is easy to see and appreciate.

4: Stop: Explaining your slides. Start: Illustrating your ideas.

The images you use will create lasting impressions if they connect with your words. We're a visual culture and need the combination of content and visual emphasis.

5: Don't: Focus on everything. Do: Build around a unique value proposition and an unrefusable offer.

The ability to define your message in terms of a UVP and UO is the central piece of making your presentation remarkable. Keep your other points ancillary to these two.

6: Don't: Talk to the wrong people. Do: Know thyself and thy audience.

Other than what topic you are presenting, the audience you are talking to is the second most important factor in what you say. Find out who they are.

7: Stop: Avoiding an argument. Start: Winning them over.

A remarkable presentation answers a question the audience has by providing a persuasive answer.

8: Don't: Overlook the details. Do: Go to market.

Attention to detail and making sure of the accuracy of what you present and how you present it is the linchpin to gaining credibility in the marketplace and with your audience. Sweat the small stuff.

9: Don't: Give your audience a debut performance. Do: Test-drive early and often.

Know your material backward and forward and don't let your final audience be the first ones to critique it.

10: Stop: Trusting them to draw their own conclusions. End: With step one.

Every remarkable presentation is in the end a sales presentation. You're selling your idea, your plan, your company, and yourself. The conclusion of the delivery is the beginning of the dialog.

Additional resources


The ideas in this article are drawn from the upcoming book Creating a Remarkable Presentation by Overcoming Ten Breakable Habits, published by CreateSpace and scheduled for release in January 2010. Full details are available at www.tenbreakablehabits.com or via e-mail at jeff@tenbreakablehabits.com or on twitter @jeffcerny.

About

Jeff Cerny has written interviews with top technology leaders for TechRepublic since 2008. He is also the author of Ten Breakable Habits to Creating a Remarkable Presentation.

10 comments
Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

advertising pitch. A presentation is more than selling something people may not want to buy. The real rules of a presentation are: 1. Keep the slides short and simple, with no more than twenty words. 2. Do NOT read the slides to the audience, most have eyes. 3. Modulate your voice so you don't bore them. 4. Make sure what you say expands on what's in the slides. 5. Don't take all day to belabour a point, speak and get out of there. 6. Use plain and simple language. These are NOT in any specific order as they are all of equal weight, but that's all you need to do. Unless, of course, you're a marketing person who just LOVES to hear the sound of their own voice drone on all day long.

ps.techrep
ps.techrep

1. Build your presentation around meeting a need, not the subject. 2. Engage the audience before starting the presentation. Ask for a show of hands that raises problems they have that the subject of the presentation can help solve. Unless you can focus the presentation on the needs of the audience, they won't care about the content. 3. Understand the audience as well as the subject. Determine the level of their previous knowledge of the subject so you don't bore them to death rehashing fundamentals or overwhelm them in technical detail. 4. Don't talk down to your audience. 5. Lead off by stating the conclusion. Provide an executive summary so the audience can see where to are going. 6. Powerpoint is just a tool. Static Powerpoint slides are no more effective than overhead projector overlays. If you must use visuals, make them simple, clear, attractive and legible. Visuals must clarify and emphasize, not distract an audience from what you are saying, or they will hurt your presentation. 7. Come prepared. Understand your subject. 8. If asked a question to which you don't have an answer, or if it would be too lengthy or complex to explain with the time allowed for the presentation, say so. 9. Break the presentation into self-contained 15-20 minute chunks with clear conclusions and opportunities for the audience to ask questions. 10. When you have reached the logical conclusion of the presentation, restate the objective so that it is clear that it solves a problem, meets a need, and provides relevance and context.

N4AOF
N4AOF

Apparently the goal of the author was to have ten points so this would fit in a "10 things" blog. Perhaps instead a more useful goal would have been to provide some useful information. With little or nothing in the way of specifics or examples and with most of the ten titles being quirky and largely unrelated to the text with them. I found this article a total waste of time.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Involve the audience. People pay more attention when they interact.

wim.harthoorn
wim.harthoorn

On point 6 "Powerpoint is just a tool. Static Powerpoint slides are no more effective than overhead projector overlays", And nor is it necessary to demonstrate your skill with all the gizmos like slide builds and transitions. Presos should also be of appropriate length, if you want to lose your audience at the start nothing does it better than the footer that says "slide 1 of 172". It's a good exercise to see if you can get your message across with just one slide, it's very powerful if you can. Slides are also the support act, not the main attraction. What's on them should be diagrams and pictorials to support your speech, and key facts and figures you want to burn into the minds of your audience. The slides are not your prompt sheet, the most boring presentations are ones where the speaker tediously steps through the bullet points

jeffcerny
jeffcerny

The specifics and examples are what you'll find in the book - the blog is about the book and not the other way around. Jeff

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

of a tutorial. A presentation is meant to be a lot like a lecture where you impart the information / knowledge to those who are listening, not like a meeting where you get them to contribute.

Phil Haney
Phil Haney

I disagree. The article should stand on its own. For me, this one is useless if I don't go and buy the book. Most of what the author said is meaningless without further clarification. And let's not forget to throw in a couple of useless buzzwords: [i]"The ability to define your message in terms of a UVP and UO is the central piece of making your presentation remarkable. Keep your other points ancillary to these two."[/i] What the frack is a "unique value proposition?" I want to go and play Buzzword Bingo" with Dilbert. http://dilbert.com/fast/1994-02-22/

EncinoMan
EncinoMan

Very often our products and services, to customers inside AND outside our organizations are evaluated on sheer trivia. When you have just one quick shot at making a good impression a tiny flaw can close the door. There was a small chemical manufacturer I worked with who was asked to supply a drum of product when the regular, established supplier couldn't fill a particular order. The little plant swung ino action, made the product with a higher purity than the regular supplier. Then they arranged xpress delivery at no extra cost. The day the item was delivered the little plant's manager received a call from the customer asking if there was a particular reason the product label was installed on the container upside down. The manager had no explanation making it obvious that a careless mistake had been made. Improperly labelling a hazardous material is a violation of the policies of several safety and environmental agencies. The customer could have been fined over the supplier's small but careless error. The little plant got no further orders from that potentially new customer. I was the guy who got in a hurry and screwed up. They promptly sent me to IT/ER where I could do less harm. Excruciating attention to detail is not an option where quality evaluation could ride on nothing more than a perception; right or wrong. Learn to stick labels on stuff then move on to the complicated skills. CYA!

Courtaknee
Courtaknee

Phillip Where is the substance? It sounds like the author of this article responded to you in saying that the article could stand on its own as a summation of overall points. Furthermore, as I'm sure most of us reading this article could tell you, a unique value proposition is precisely the addition of those three words...a proposition that has unique value, something very valuable for presenters trying to bring new information to an audience. Not surprised to see you're going to play Buzzword Bingo with Dilbert...