Delivering business presentations – perhaps to prospects, colleagues, partners, or investors – has become a critical aspect of business value communication.
You can be a start-up or small business, or a billion-dollar multinational. Business presentations can be used as a sales tool, for training/education, or to motivate, inspire, or take action.
So why are the majority of corporate presentations boring, too long and badly presented? It doesn’t matter if your company/product/service/message is fantastic. If you cannot fire-up your audience through great content and delivery, then you’re probably better off not using presentation software at all. Given the importance the business world gives to presentations, I find it amazing that business schools don’t spend more time educating students on how to create and deliver content more effectively. But that’s the subject for another day.
Why Do Most Business Presentations Suck?
Delivering an effective presentation is not just about the content. In fact, I’ll maintain that the effective delivery of the information you’re communicating is actually more important than the content of your slide deck.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve found the solution to world hunger, time travel, or how to maintain the structural integrity of a club sandwich while consuming it (toothpicks are cheating, as far as I’m concerned). If you can’t keep your audience focused on what you’re saying, you’ve lost the game.
While there are certainly individuals who shouldn’t be getting up and speaking in public under any circumstances, I’m still firmly of the belief that the vast majority of people can carry off a stunning business presentation. It may not end up being TED Talk quality, but it’ll be good enough to maintain audience interest and effectively convey the particular message.
I’m going to reveal to you the single biggest improvement that you can make when planning your next business presentation:
Don’t use your computer. At least, not yet.
Start Your Business Presentation On Paper
When you need to create a presentation, the first thing that most people do is fire up their slide presentation software of choice – PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, or perhaps Adobe Spark. This is probably the very worst thing you can do, since by default all of these applications impose a format and layout for an idea that’s usually still being formed and refined in your head.
When you’re still fleshing-out ideas, concepts, and metaphors, the last thing you should be thinking about is slide design.
What’s far more important at the very beginning is creating the structure of what the final presentation will become. Define the goal of the presentation: What’s the take-away you want your audience to remember once you’ve finished? Where are they currently in terms of their knowledge of the subject?
The best presentations are delivered as stories – they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Write your story out, as an essay or even just as outline notes. Define the introduction, the main content, the summary.
The Secret Of Success: Post-It™ Notes
The next time that you need to put a presentation together, don’t start by going to your computer and opening-up a blank slide template. Instead, take out a couple of pens, some paper – and some Post-It notes.
Storyboard your presentation as if you were writing a play, or a movie script. Why? Because that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Try to craft the presentation to have a natural flow, leading the presenter and the audience to the conclusion and summary. Write or draw on the Post-Its as to how you want the message to come across. Not literally – don’t write down slide titles, or bullet-points. Just the information that you want your audience to remember once the presentation is over.
Taking The Presentation To Your Computer
Refine and edit the Post-Its. Stick them to the wall, edit their content, change their order. Refine, iterate and tweak until you have a basic skeleton of how the story needs to be told.
Once you’ve got the basic outline to your story, only then is it time to sit in front of your computer.
PowerPoint, Keynote, Spark, or whatever isn’t the presentation. The content is the presentation. Refining your message using analog tools keeps you focused on designing the optimal delivery of the content, rather than if the next slide should have a fade-out transition rather than a wipe right-to-left.
The next time you have to deliver a message using business presentation software, try reaching for the Sharpie and Post-Its before powering-up the laptop.
Ten will get you five that your presentations will be all the better for it.