The following is an excerpt from Slide Satisfaction: The Secret Behind Great Slides by Toke Kruse, former CEO of Slideshop.com. Written with modern audiences and presentations in mind, the eBook provides a complete five-step guide to creating and delivering presentations that captivates and delivers your message with acuity and power. The full eBook is available free here.
1.1 Start with Ideas, Not PowerPoint. It’s All About Ideas.
First, get a pad of paper and your favorite writing tool. Or two dozen 3×5 cards. Or a legal pad. Or a ﬂip chart. Or a whiteboard. Do not use your presentation software. Don’t even turn on your computer. Presentation software is good for making presentations but first you’re involved with organizing ideas that will be turned into a presentation. Presentation software steps you right into the trees and, for now, you need to focus on the forest.
Obvious? Yes. Just ask other presenter experts such as Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen, and Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology. They all say it – and I follow it. It works.
Do most people jump right into the presentation? Yes.
Completely focus on your desired outcome. Do you want to be hired? Sell your start-up? Double your budget? What is it?
- Picture it.
- See it.
- Feel it.
Now, when your audience takes their seats, where are they, attitudinally that is? What do they need to hear — and see — to move them from their current opinion to signing on the dotted line when the lights come up?
Now, connect the dots.
The line you draw between those dots needs to cross through the mind and the heart of your audience. If you’re good, you’ll know all of their logical objections: the financial barriers, the logistical hurdles and the tactical issues. If you have the right deal, you’ll ﬂy over all those objections. You will make a business case that makes them see they need to take the offer.
Then comes the other part, the fun part. Where’s their heart? What will trigger a ﬂood of endorphins, adrenaline or whatever other type of physiological response that will make them desire the deal? Perhaps, they’re Green Bay Packer fans. Perhaps they want to erase their competition from the face of the earth. Or perhaps you have something that will make them look and feel younger. Remember: Your audience is made up of people, not calculators. If you want them to feel the deal is the right one, then you have to make sure they feel something. Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Find your idea. Shape it. Test it. Believe in it, because if you believe in your idea, there’s a chance your audience will believe in it too. But if you don’t believe in it, then you can’t expect your audience to do so.
1.2 What’s Your Thesis?
Your presentation is about something particular. It has a point, or ought to. Pretend you’re in eighth grade English composition class and figure out your thesis statement. Consider these broad areas:
– Increase my budget by n%.
– Promote / Hire me.
– Take these defensive actions.
– Lay off this underperforming corporate division.
– Green light my new product.
– Fund my company.
– Buy this.
– Believe this.
1.3 Maybe It Isn’t Really a Presentation?
Here’s one thesis statement that might be a problem:
– Know / Learn / Understand this.
The reason this thesis is problematic is that you will be building your presentation on the assumption your information is the right fit for a presentation, a medium that’s perfect for persuasion. As old fashion as it sounds, sometimes the best way to distribute information is by ink-on-paper (or more ecologically as a digital file). For the people you need to inform, there are some distinct advantages:
- The information can be consumed at their own pace, on their own schedule and according to their own interest.
- The information is more portable and permanent when it’s a document. It can be stored, forwarded and can even be annotated.
- The information is structured in a way that’s more “friendly” to your audience because they can skip over the parts they already understand, focus on the parts most relevant to them and drill down on the parts that interest them. In a presentation, members of the audience can not skip ahead to the good parts.
All too often, people make presentations because they’re too lazy or too insecure or too vain to present their information in a document. And, in fairness, some corporate cultures use presentations almost exclusively as a way to exchange information. But for people who have a choice to present their information in a document but don’t, these people frequently aren’t willing to make the effort of writing complete sentences much less paragraphs. They aren’t secure enough to commit their ideas to paper and / or they just want to step into the spotlight regardless of the content. –And none of that is a recipe for a great presentation. I know what I’m talking about because I’ve made those mistakes myself.
1.4 Tell a Story
The story might be the oldest form of communications in human history. When Ug, illuminated by fire light, painted a buffalo on the cave wall and then stood in front of it to explain his plan to kill the beast, he was making a presentation. Tell your audience a story. You’re standing in front of an audience talking. You’re not a database. You’re not a spreadsheet. You’re a human with a personality doing something people have been doing forever: You’re telling a story. Now, tell the story that no one else in the room can tell.
If you haven’t seen the Steven Spielberg’s movie Lincoln, then I highly recommend you take the time to see it right now so you can experience what a master storyteller, like Lincoln, does and why he does it. A story moves your message into new dimensions. Facts let people know what they should believe. –One dimensional. A story helps the audience understand why they should change their minds, how they should change their minds, and the feeling they will earn when they do change their minds. –Four or more dimensions.
Your story will help create rapport with the audience. The story builds empathy and builds understanding and trust. The audience can understand how a person, not unlike themselves, came to believe in a new idea or take a new action and why they should believe too.
1.5 Objection! Objection!
Once your thesis is clear, it’s time to turn your attention to an entirely different problem: What does the audience think? Remember, the assumption is that this presentation needs to change their mind. You aren’t wasting their time presenting something they already agree with. So, where are they … attitudinally? What are their objections and what type of objections are they?
- It’s too expensive. It isn’t too expensive if it yields a correct savings in the right period of time.
- That’s not our style. That may be, but it might be time to update our style if it’s going to lead to extinction.
- It isn’t really a problem. These facts indicate otherwise and we do want to make a fact-based decision don’t we?
There are factual, emotional, cultural and political objections and the onus is on you to understand them all and refute them. But don’t turn this into a contest. Instead, be sure you’re speaking from a place of collaboration instead of confrontation.
1.6 Be Agreeable
On the other hand, where are the points of wide-spread agreement? These points of agreement must not be ignored and must be leveraged like any type of political asset. Mentioning one or two points of wide-spread agreement during your presentation can accomplish these things:
- It makes the audience think you know what you’re talking about because you’re saying something they know and believe in.
- It makes their heads nod up and down, sometimes physically, and as we know from physics, a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Stating agreements puts your audience in an agreeable frame of mind. It makes them say, “Yes.”
- It’s the foundation for a logical argument that goes, “If A then B…” Agreements are the starting point for a successful logical argument.
Do this and you’ve accomplished the following:
- You’ve established where the goal line is on the field.
- You figured out where you’re starting.
- You think you know how to move from point A to point B.
Let’s hold on to that idea that you “think you know” because the process of writing the presentation is the same process as testing to see if the presentation works.
1.7 Ask the Right Question — Out Loud
Presentations aren’t about being subtle. Presentations aren’t about giving your audience a puzzle to solve: “What does he want us to do?” “What’s his point?” You need to present your audience with your proposition explicitly and clearly. Sometimes business people call this part of the presentation, “The Ask.”
So spend some time deciding the right request to make of your audience. If there’s only one decision maker in the room, then don’t waste the time of the entire audience. If there are different constituencies in the room, then clearly state what you want each of those different constituencies to do. Help everyone understand where they ft in and what they need to do.
And make sure they understand their deadline. If there’s a vote to be held during the meeting, then the deadline is crystal clear. If they need to reduce their overhead by 10% before the next quarter, then make sure they understand the schedule and how to report their progress. If you want them to make a donation to the United Way, then pass out donation forms while they’re still in their seats and collect them as they leave the room.
Defining the action and its deadline gives the audience a chance to become involved in your story, to play a role and advance the action into the next chapter. Most everyone wants to belong to something — a cause, community or congregation — and your story is a chance for them to participate in a mission.
Proper preparation makes doesn’t ensure you’ll deliver a great presentation, but not properly preparing ensures you most certainly won’t.
Now, you may open your presentation software.
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