Deliver a Memorable Presentation

I used to joke with my colleagues that I am a “Power Ranger”, one who is good at preparing PowerPoint slides. Presentation is a key staple in the corporate world. Be it an internal meeting where an idea has to be shared and approval sought or for marketing your product to the target customers in a seminar. Churning out beautiful PowerPoint slides with great pictures and beautiful transitions is good, but not great. A great presenter has to be a “Transformer”, transforming ideas into impactful messages.

As with all masterpieces, this requires hard work and effort. It is a form of respect to the audience to prepare your presentation to make sure you are not wasting their time.

1. Start with the end in mind: What are you trying to tell us?

Delivering a presentation is like making a movie. There must be a key theme behind the story. Do not pack too many things into one presentation. You can achieve more with less. If your audience will only remember one thing, what would that be?

In preparing the presentation, it is critical to start from the audience’s point of view. What do they want to get out of your presentation? Very often, we get carried away by what we want to say and not what the audience wants to know.

A presentation should not be a one-way street. It has to be a conversation. Imagine answering the questions in the audience’s mind. Simon Sinek shared that every great communication starts with “Why” before “What” and “How” (Ted Talk: “How great leaders inspire action”). Without answering the key question of “Why”, the audience will not be interested in the “What” and “How”.

2. Be engaging: Why should we pay attention to you?

We often observe the audience starting to check on their mobile devices barely five minutes into a presentation. In this social media age, we are constantly seeking to be entertained and engaged. The mind wanders off if you are not engaging.

Slides should be used only when needed to reinforce a message. Many presenters are using slides as their crutches to push along the delivery of a message. Recently, I attended a seminar of a world renowned expert in business franchising. The speaker was very clear in his delivery and the audience benefited greatly from his sharing. The problem lies in his PowerPoint slides. The background color is distracting for the eyes and clip art pictures that look outdated make me think that it was created probably 5 years back and reused since. It is such a waste to let a bad PowerPoint deck discount the effect of your presentation. The feeling is like having a conversation with a respectable figure who has vegetables from his lunch stuck between his teeth.

If you wanted a change from the usual slideware, try Prezi, a cloud-based presentation software (http://www.Prezi.com). It is a good tool to use in providing a clear flow of thought for the audience. Regardless of the tools used, remember that it remains as a tool. Your flow of delivery should take the center stage.

3. Be memorable: tell me stories

Researchers in Spain has found that different parts of our brain are activated when a story is being told. If we are listening to a PowerPoint presentation, our language processing parts in our brain (Broca and Wernicke’s area) get activated. If a story is being told, other parts of our brain that we use in experiencing events are activated as well. That explains why we can remember stories that were told during presentations, but not the long PowerPoint slides even with the best visual aids.

I remembered attending an internal communications session a few years back where there were many presentations lined up for each business leader to share their quarter’s results and focus. The head of consumer business walked up to the stage and asked the audience if we could understand the urgency and importance of improving the organization’s customer experience. While we were expecting the usual slides of statistics, he surprised us by playing a live recording of a call center agent handling a frustrated customer’s call. The 5 minutes of recorded conversation still ring in my ears as I recall the session. The frustration of the customer in being asked to repeat her problem and being passed from one department to another brought the problem alive. It was impactful.

Think of a story that your audience will be able to relate to and deliver it in the form that will be the most impactful. It can be a recording of real customers’ experiences. It can be your own personal experience or a story that illustrates the key message.

Tell a good story and your audience will never forget the message that you are putting across.