Presenting Better Presentations

I’ve been working (if you can call it that) as a professional speaker for exactly 11 years this month. Who knew that you could get paid – really well – to talk for just a fraction of the hours in any 40-hour workweek? What a great country we live in!

Now, I’d like to sell you on the IMPORTANCE of the content that follows. This will sound like boasting but I think what I do when I present is 99% transferrable to other people. So here goes: People often come up to me after my presentations and say, “That was the best presentation I’ve ever seen!”

How would you feel if you heard that after your next presentation? Or if people were saying that after your salespeople presented. I trust that I’ve got your attention.

There are a few big mistakes that most presenters make. First, people use slides that have too many words and not enough images. The human brain is visual. We remember 70% of what we see vs. 10% of what we read or hear. Are you remembering this? Plus, when they’re reading your slides, they’re not listening to what you say.

From now on, make your slides with a minimum of words and a maximum of images. If you must use bullet lists, never have more than 3 bullets and do not exceed 3 words per bullet. I call that the 3×3 rule. Of course, every rule is meant to be broken.

There are some great free sites for finding free, non-copyrighted, free images. My favorite is called Pixabay.com. (And did I mention it’s free?) Just type a keyword in the search box and prepare to be amazed.

Next, someone once made a rule that said, “Have roughly one PowerPoint slide per 5 minutes of presentation time.” Seriously? You expect me to pay attention for 5 minutes while you drone on about the same slide? Not happening!

I use more like 5 slides per minute. Well, five slides, animations, and/or builds per minute. Reviewing the five presentations I get paid to deliver, one is a series of 18 video clips, so it has just 96 slides in total (the exception to the rule). However, the next shortest deck is 215 slides, followed by 256, 311, and 334 respectively. And most of these slides contain 1 or 2 animations per slide. Some slides have 10 different animations and/or builds. And every slide has some sort of transition to the next slide.

In presenting to any audience there are just two requirements: You must be “entertaining”, and you must deliver something of value TO THEM. If you’re not entertaining, you lose their attention and they lose your content. And face it, nobody cares about you and your business (as you’ve secretly been suspecting). If I’m in your audience, the one and only thing my brain is wondering is, “What’s in it for me?” Deliver something of value that meets that test. Be educational. Understand your customer’s pain and talk about solutions.

With those overarching concepts stated, I’m pleased to share my #1 favorite image, my #1 favorite animation, and my #1 favorite slide transition. Here goes …

Favorite image: Well, it’s not a given image. Rather, it’s an image that is a screen capture (AKA screensnap) or screen recording. For example, I could tell you that Glassdoor.com is a popular employer review site where people post salary data … or I could show you a screensnap of the Alexa ranking (as I write this, #125 out of 1,500,000,000 websites on the planet AND RISING!) and show you another screensnap of salary data on any company (Starbucks, for example, where your Store Manager earns between $35K and $99K per year, typically averaging $54,778. Who knew? Well, apparently, lots of us. #125 on the planet).

Favorite animation: When I’ve got one or more images on a slide, or just lots of different things to look at, I love to highlight what I’m talking about with a rounded rectangle that sparkles into view. According to Steve Jobs, the rounded rectangle is the most beautiful shape in the world, at least among inanimate objects. To create this so called “highlighter”, select a rounded rectangle from “Shapes” or whatever your presentation software calls the shape maker. Make the shape blank (AKA not “filled”) but outlined and shadowed. Make the outline 5-6 pixels wide and colored red, yellow, or green as is most appropriate for what you’re highlighting. Set the animation mode to “on click” or “automatic”, and the animation effect to “Sparkle” for about 2 seconds.

Before I talk transitions, as far as software goes, I’m perfectly fine with PowerPoint, Keynote (Apple), or Prezi. They’re all awesome.

Favorite transition: In Apple’s Keynote it’s called Magic Move. In PowerPoint it’s called Morph. In Prezi, well, it’s essentially foundational to everything that happens. Try it out, it’s really cool.

Yes, it will take some time to build your new slide deck. But next time you speak wouldn’t it be amazing to hear, “That was the best presentation I’ve ever seen!” In the hands of your salespeople, that’s almost guaranteed to mean higher closing rates.

“Coffee is for closers?” No, great PowerPoint/Keynote/Prezi is for closers. Free steak knives are for everybody else.

If that last paragraph means nothing to you, add the best sales movie ever to your playlist: “Glengarry Glen Ross”.

Or not. Since this column was entirely words instead of images, you’ve probably already forgotten it.

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