Presentations don’t have to suck

flameWould you want to sit through your own presentations? I’d like to think I would but the reality is that most people wouldn’t ask themselves that question before putting together their next ‘killer deck’. That’s how we get to where we are.

Now take into consideration the problem of virtual presenting, where we don’t see our audience and need to reach them all the same. How much do you think they’re paying attention? How often are you on the receiving end and not listening all that closely?

Being honest, we’d have to admit that we check email and perform other work while we’re consuming virtual presentations and even those in-person. Our attention is divided and we’re wasting everyone’s time to some extent, maybe to a great extent.

Practice makes…much better at least

So how do we turn that around? What about the most basic thing…practice? So few people practice what they’ll deliver before going ‘live’ and it always shows. The best presenters practice, record, and view (with the volume off once) for the really subtle things that need to be improved. We’ll gladly devote days to a deck but not spend the relatively short period to practice.

It takes investment to get payoff and there’s no substitute for practice.


How much do you remember of what you read on a screen? Words leave little strong impression whereas images burn into our memory. The choices are a unique picture or  another bullet point with words like “robust” and “scalable”. Yuck. Despite how many times we read it, the lions share of presentations are bullet pointed.

That’s what notes are for. Use your presentation real estate to burn an image that gets remembered.


Thank You, Carole!Images offer an opportunity for creativity and a chance to surprise the audience. A Jackson Pollack background does much more to make a slide memorable than any number of words. Believe it or not, you’re better off with an unrelated but memorable picture than you are with something cliche and forgettable.

So with so many years of PowerPoint under our belts, when will people learn to move from 40-slide decks and bullet points to practiced, short, simple, visual decks that get remembered?

The most evocative form of poetry? The haiku. The most effective writer in history? Shakespeare…limited by iambic pentameter and 20,000 words. The most famous speech? The Gettysburg Address at 280 words and less than 2 minutes long…no pictures exist because it was over before photographers could set up.

So when will people create presentations that don’t suck? As soon as they decide to.


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Categories: Selling

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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One Comment on “Presentations don’t have to suck”

  1. December 4, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    I have a different view. Practice just makes the the awful product even more polished. There is a fundamental flaw in the way that presentations are thought about. The 3 distinct phases of preparation, delivery and leave behinds are not recognised. It is all lumped together as “Powerpoint”.

    This blog is excellent as it is prompting me to write up my thoughts in a blog.

    In the meantime, here is an interview on the Top 10 hints of Presenting.

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