Effective Presentations … or how not to bore your audience out of their mind

If you have worked in an office (or, for that matter, any type of business) for any length of time, you’ve probably had to sit through a presentation with a slide show.  Most of the time, it’s a painful experience during which the majority of your attention is focused on (a) not be noticed (b) your smart phone and/or (c) an interesting new growth on the back of your hand.  What you’re almost definitely not focused on is the information being conveyed during the presentation.  If you want to avoid giving such a presentation, follow a few simple rules.

  1. NEVER, EVER, READ THE CONTENT OF YOUR SLIDES TO THE AUDIENCE!! You should treat this at the 11th   commandment. In fact, I’d probably rate it higher than 11th.  If you are going to read the slides to me, just send me a memo instead.  At least I might focus on the first couple of sentences before I get bored.
  2. Use large fonts and bullet points. Unless you equip everyone in your audience with a telescope, they can’t read that gem of a paragraph in 12 point type that fills your slide.  A presentation should be used to summarize and draw conclusions.  You can supply additional materials separately to fill in the details.
  3. Use animations to control the flow of your presentation but don’t overdo it. Animations (slides, fly ins, fades, etc.) are great when you are trying to keep the audience focused on your current point.  Like anything else, if you over use them, they lose their effect.
  4. A little, appropriate, humor goes a long way. You’re not doing stand up comedy and although you think your funny, your audience just wants to finish the meeting and get back to their real job.  So, if a joke furthers your point, go for it. Otherwise, move along.
  5. Pick a theme. This not only applies to your subject, but also to the styles (eg. fonts, transitions, animations, etc.) and delivery of your presentation.  Without good themes, your presentation will appear disorganized and unpolished.
  6. Know your material and be ready for questions. In many instances, you will convey the most useful information during questions and answers periods rather than during the main presentation.  The caveat is that you need to be sufficiently prepared in order to handle detailed questions.  As long as it is not your standard answer, ‘I don’t know but will identify an answer and get back to you.” is almost always an acceptable response.
  7. Speak slower and louder than you think is reasonable. This is not a situation in which you want to use your ‘inside voice’.  You are bringing your audience up to speed on what you know and that doesn’t just apply to the first row.  Moreover, the back row (yeah, they should have showed up earlier but…) needs this information as much as the front row.
  8. Stick to your allotted time. If you are given a ten minute time slot to present your materials, make sure you can complete your entire presentation in the time allotted.  And remember, it’s not a sin to finish a little early (many in your audience will thank you).

Finally, relax and enjoy being the center of attention for a little while. This is your chance to shine and you are the subject matter expert.  If you follow the above rules, you’ll appear professional and competent.  At that point, just wait for the applause.


About the Author: AF

Allen Friedman Founder and CEO of Techaerus LLC

Allen Friedman is the owner and CEO of Techaerus LLC, an office efficiency consulting firm. He is also a licensed attorney. Allen founded and managed one of the largest consumer collections law firms in the country and managed over 50 attorneys as well as hundreds of non-attorney staff. Prior to founding that firm, he opened and managed the New York and Michigan operations for the largest consumer collections firm in the United States. Throughout his career, Allen has always placed great emphasis on ensuring that investments in office technology provide the greatest possible returns. In order to achieve these returns, he focuses on three pillars of office management; asset management, training, and automation. His expertise includes document/image management, software and hardware integration, training, and process management and automation. Allen lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife Amy, his children Cassidy and Gideon, and two adorable dogs named Roxie (a labradoodle) and Bentley (an Old English Sheepdog).