Imagine for a moment I hid a set of keys for a new Lexus in one of those personal storage lockers at Portland International Airport. And all you had to do is find the specific door, put in the key and it's all yours!
My job? I just had to explain to you how to get you there through the busy and hyper-distracting environment of an international airport. It's not that I want to make it hard for you to find -- to the contrary -- I really want you to find it. But we may have a challenge... I like to use words to explain things.. lots of them.
Show you a map... you get it. Give you turn-by-turn (bullet-by-bullet) set of instructions and... well your Lexus may be waiting for a while in the parking lot.
This metaphoric dilemma is what presentation audiences experience every day of the week. If they didn't know better, they just might suspect you were working overtime to make sure there was no way they could possibly "get" the really important stuff you intended for them.
The problem? You've been ruminating with that message for days, maybe weeks. They have mere minutes to understand your intent. You labored over your presentation slides for hours... they have 30-seconds to figure one out.
We've come a long way in being able to put together a presentation -- yet in some ways have not progressed very far at all. Despite our enhanced ability to fade, pan-zoom, create motion, append media, present online, present offline and choose from an ever growing array of design layouts and shape effects, we've lost track of our prime directive.
(Seek to 'do no harm' comes to mind but perhaps there's something even more important.)
At the end of the time you've been given... after all the collective hours of invested effort and energy… and at the conclusion of precious time invested by your audience to disengage from other priorities and be present... they must remember.
And this is where we too often let them down. We think software features = recall. They don't. We believe graphical embellishments by themselves create message clarity... they can not. And like someone who has relied on a cane long after the pain subsided, it has become an unfortunate part of who we are and what we do. The process has somehow become more important than the outcome and we've abrogated a job that is ours and ours alone... message clarity and simplicity so others can truly understand.
So consider this personal challenge...
What if your personal compensation for the entire month was dependent one single thing?
Here it is. If those sitting on the receiving end of your next presentation could remember and repeat back a simple few points they believed you wanted to get across, you got paid. If they could not or struggled to somehow distill those things out of the 40 or 50 points of emphasis you made during your presentation -- your check went into a drawer until they could.
What would your next presentation look like?
I'm guessing your visuals would get amazingly simple. And those dozens of points you previously wanted to communicate? They somehow refined themselves down to a few simple ideas illustrated in visually rich ways and underscored with personal stories to make them powerfully relevant. And the close? A single word or two on screen, reinforced and related to their lives.
Desiring to communicate so much... we often end up giving them nothing at all.
So I will leave you with a few simple things...
OK, so I don't really have a Lexus waiting for you at the Portland airport and there is no locker with a key. But the point is hopefully crystal clear. Don't make it hard for your audience to walk away with something important. Clear away the visual and messaging obstacles to really understanding. And most of all...
Remember why you’re there in the first place.
Jim Endicott is an internationally-recognized management consultant, executive coach and author. Jim’s company, Distinction Communication Inc., works with clients ranging from Fortune 500 executives to small business start-ups to help them enhance the personal communication effectiveness of those tasked with communicating high-stakes, high-profile messages.
Jim has also been a Jesse H. Neal award‐winning columnist for Presentations magazine and has also contributed presentation‐related content to magazines like Business Week, Consulting, Selling Power and the Portland Business Journal.
Categories: guest_post, presentation_skills
April 2003 | May 2003 | December 2003 | January 2004 | February 2004 | March 2004 | April 2004 | May 2004 | June 2004 | July 2004 | August 2004 | September 2004 | October 2004 | November 2004 | December 2004 | January 2005 | February 2005 | March 2005 | April 2005 | May 2005 | June 2005 | July 2005 | August 2005 | September 2005 | October 2005 | November 2005 | December 2005 | January 2006 | February 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 | August 2006 | September 2006 | October 2006 | November 2006 | December 2006 | January 2007 | February 2007 | March 2007 | April 2007 | May 2007 | June 2007 | July 2007 | August 2007 | September 2007 | October 2007 | November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 | February 2008 | March 2008 | April 2008 | May 2008 | June 2008 | July 2008 | August 2008 | September 2008 | October 2008 | November 2008 | December 2008 | January 2009 | February 2009 | March 2009 | April 2009 | May 2009 | June 2009 | July 2009 | August 2009 | September 2009 | October 2009 | November 2009 | December 2009 | January 2010 | February 2010 | March 2010 | April 2010 | May 2010 | June 2010 | July 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November 2010 | December 2010 | January 2011 | February 2011 | March 2011 | April 2011 | May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011 | September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011 | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | April 2012 | May 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | November 2012 | December 2012 | January 2013 | February 2013 | March 2013 | April 2013 | May 2013 | June 2013 | July 2013 | August 2013 | September 2013 | October 2013 | November 2013 | December 2013 | January 2014 | February 2014 | March 2014 | April 2014 | May 2014 | June 2014 | July 2014 | August 2014 | September 2014 | October 2014 | November 2014 | December 2014 | January 2015 | February 2015 | March 2015 | April 2015 | May 2015 | June 2015 | July 2015 | August 2015 | September 2015 | October 2015 | November 2015 | December 2015 | January 2016 | February 2016 | March 2016 | April 2016 | May 2016 | June 2016 | July 2016 | August 2016 | September 2016 | October 2016 |
Microsoft and the Office logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.