“I don’t get it,” says the audience member,
“We have lived perfectly good and virtuous lives. Why are we being subjected to this hell?”
The presenter nervously rubs the back of their head.
“Honestly? I was pretty sure you’d be happier in this hell than heaven.”
This is the problem.
As presenters, we are certain we do the audience a favor by putting everything on our slides.
But as audience members….it’s boring as hell.
Let’s get real.
Death By PowerPoint is NOT for the benefit of the audience.
We do this to our slides for ourselves.
Sorry….Where Am I?
We worry we'll forget what we want to say.
All those hours spent planning, and we will freeze on stage.
I’ve done it before.
“What on earth am I supposed to be saying next????”
Panic ensues. I start to sweat. In spite of my greatest desires, the floor does not swallow me up.
I’m still standing there. Trying to find my place.
It makes me cringe thinking about it.
The Wrong Answer…
The easiest solution to this problem:
Write everything we’re going to say on slides. Stick them up on a giant screen. And read them.
Then we're all clear. Right?
This is the fastest way to send your audience to sleep.
Why should they listen to us if they can read it themselves?
We think this helps the audience, but instead it makes sure they:
- Check their emails
- Think about what’s for dinner
- Time the minutes until your presentation is over
Actually, this guy says it all:
Why You’re Thinking About It All Wrong…
Once this realization hit me, my entire mindset changed.
The problem is: I’m worried about remembering what I have to say.
Then the solution is: I must do something to help me remember.
It doesn’t need to involve my audience. It’s about me.
Here are some things I’ve found helpful:
1: Print out notes for me.
It seems obvious, but if I need prompts then I use notes.
Printing out the entire presentation doesn’t work for me. Because if I lose my place I started to hyperventilate.
Plus I know that as an audience member, if you see a speaker with 5 solid A4 pages of text, your heart sinks.
So I use notes:
- Bullet points rather than full sentences
- Hand-held cards rather than A4 sheets
- General headings rather than the entire script
Find what works for you.
2: Provide handouts.
I rarely do this.
Often people tell me they worry the audience won’t be able to follow along. If this is what you’re worried about then offer handouts.
If you think the audience can’t follow your presentation though, you’re making it too complicated.
Or, print off a handout for them.
3: Provide QR codes with links for more info.
If the audience needs to see a journal article, for the love of all that is good in the world DO NOT PUT UP A SCREENSHOT OF A JOURNAL ARTICLE.
It’s illegible. Nobody will remember it.
Instead, create a QR code. Link it to the article URL.
This will take you 120 seconds to do for free online.
4: Have an arc to the story.
The single thing that has stopped me from worrying about what I’ve got to say next:
Having a narrative arc.
When your presentation flows like a story, you won’t forget what’s coming next.
It’s only when you have a long list of rambling unconnected points that it’s easy to lose your place.
Now I can write with an arc, I rarely need notes at all.
Only my age-related memory loss is going to let me down here.
We get more stressed when we don’t know what’s coming next.
I get it, we are all hard-pushed for time.
But lack of effort isn’t a reason to punish our audience.
Practice your presentation a few times and the flow will become more familiar.
That Sounds Like A Lot…Where Should I Start?
Next time you’re presenting, instead of writing your presentation on your slides…
Write your presentation as notes for yourself.
Slides are for another purpose. They are to enhance your message for your audience.
See you next week.
P.S. Another interview coaching success last week!
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