Are You Presenting Like a 5th Grader?

Dan Smaida – Saturday, August, 2016

Let’s play a game: I’ll describe one of two presentations I witnessed this week, then you tell me which one you think I’m describing. Ready?

After a brief introduction, the presenters (there were four) clicked to the second slide in their deck. I was immediately assaulted by a swarm of words – individually small but collectively overwhelming. The presenters took turns reading the slides out loud to the audience, their heads turned toward the screen. The other presenters occasionally interrupted to pile verbal explanations on top of the word-swarm. The process repeated itself over and over – click, read, embellish – until I began to feel physically uncomfortable. Then, just as I neared the limit of my patience (not to mention attention span), the presentation came to an end. I was about to expel a sigh of relief, when I heard two words that turned my blood cold: “Any questions?”

Wow. I just got the creeps all over again. Now, which presentation was I describing?
Presentation A: Executives at a billion-dollar company pre-launching a new product to employees
Presentation B: My 10-year-old daughter’s group presentation on e-coli prevention and treatment

Answer: BOTH! Take away the content, and the presentations were mostly indistinguishable in their delivery. Well, except for the fact that one group was a bunch of 5th graders and the other was grownups making six-figure salaries. In my opinion, only one of these groups has a reasonable explanation for what I saw. (Hint: It’s the group that’s not yet shaving.)

For the grownups, there’s no excuse. You can’t blame genetics, and you’re not a prisoner of your learning. Instead of the tragedy I just saw, please consider these strategies:

Observe the laws of effective slides for large groups. Pictures. A few bullets. Very few words.

Lead the deck, not vice versa. Example: verbally transition into the slide, THEN click to it.

Stop reading to me. Pause, take a breath, and let me read.

Highlight a focal point instead of treating all points equally.

Share the point of the slide – why you’re showing it.

Black the screen when you’re talking, and be quiet when they’re reading.

Consider ditching the slides altogether. Tell a story or ask a question instead.

Ultimately, I want to look at your presentation and see a meaningful difference between your professional, business presentation and the Funky Monkeys 5th-grade work team at Malone Elementary. They were good, but you can do better. Let me know if I can help.

Good selling,