Today I had the pleasure of watching some of my presentations being delivered to a small but interested audience. I mainly develop presentations for other people to deliver so this wasn’t unusual, but it has been ages since I had the chance to see them being delivered to a real live audience by presenters with a range of skills and experience. Some of the presenters followed the scripts (in the notes field) word for word and others just took the main points from the slide and then embellished this with their own anecdotes and examples. Both approaches seem to work equally well and depended largely on how experienced the presenter was and how nervous they were.
It’s interesting to see and hear how people interpret what you have developed, and it’s a great test of the clarity of your work. It’s all very well for something to make sense in your own mind, but sometimes things get lost in translation. I am very glad to say that this didn’t happen today. Everything made perfect sense (to me anyway). Of course it helps if you can spend some time before the event briefing the presenter about what the key ideas are and luckily we had had the chance to that. Talking someone through a presentation slide by slide is a great way to ensure that the presenter knows your intent and gives them an opportunity to ask questions and get the timing right. It also prevents that awful situation where the presenter peers blindly at the screen, hoping to discover what point they are supposed to be making.
I don’t want to sound too boastful, but the slides looked great, even from the back of the room. I also watched some presentations that had been developed by other people in my team and these were even better. This was very exciting for me because we’ve all been working hard on developing our design skills and its really paying off.
It was a very different situation when I started with this team just three years ago. I remember the slides being heavy with text, big on jargon and technical terms and featuring no visuals (barring some inappropriate and irrelevant clip art). There were dry, boring and uninspiring to say the least. Now they are clear, to the point and interesting. They contain lots of photos and diagrams, all of which you can see from the back of the room. It proved to me that even if you work in a technical field (as I do) and you have to make presentations about topics which are important (but not always that interesting), you can really improve your presentations. We have, and I’m sure you can too.
Next week I’ll talk some more about where to start, but in the meantime it would be great if you could tell me what your biggest challenge is when you are designing presentations? I’d love to hear from you so be brave and post a comment or question.
- Do Your Slides Pass the Glance Test? (blogs.hbr.org)