The Seven Deadly Sins of Making Presentations. Part 2.

In the first part of our article we looked at the first three deadly sins of a presentation: not defining a goal, looking at your presentation as a PPT document and lack of structure in your presentation. Let’s now look at the last four.

In the first part of our article we looked at the first three deadly sins of a presentation: not defining a goal, looking at your presentation as a PPT document and lack of structure in your presentation. Let’s now look at the last four.

4. Trying to put all the information you have in your head / text / files into PPT slides

When you know a lot about the theme of your presentation, you don’t want to lose anything, and therefore you are trying to pour all that information into your slides. As a result, the presentation becomes a stockroom of your knowledge. It’s good if you want to keep the information in such a format for yourself, but it would be harmful to use this document in delivering the presentation to your audience. When they see such a huge amount of exciting (or not very interesting) information, they imagine themselves as researchers and become fascinated with studying the slides instead of communicating with and listening to the presenter. It’s a peculiarity of the human brain: we either listen attentively or read. When you are doing the two things simultaneously, both become inefficient. It’s worth noting that each person has their own representative system; one may be better in perceiving visual information, the other—kinetic or auditory information. Ideally, your presentation (both the process and visuals) should employ all the three channels, without overloading any one with excessive information. If you have overloaded the visual part of your presentation, you will lose people who have a better developed visual channel of perception.

How can you prevent that? The two principles—Occam’s razor and KISS (Keep It Short and Simple)—which state that entities are not to be multiplied without necessity. Ideally, one slide should represent one idea. You should also pay attention to improving the ways of presenting information on slides. But this theme is worth a separate discussion.

5. Slides are prepared by different people and not brought down to a common denominator

It often happens that a presentation is prepared by different people. For example, a manager wants to make the presentation of their unit to the customer and asks each area lead to prepare a couple of slides about their tasks and responsibilities. As a result, the manager gets a pile of two-slide presentations, copies them into one, and then delivers the “mashed up” presentation to the customer. Will this strengthen the credibility of the manager representing a leading company? Probably not.

6. Trying to make the PPT presentation both ancillary material and handouts

It is yet another form of the mistake “Trying to put all the information you have in your head / text / files.” “What can I do to help listeners go once again through some aspects they may have missed during the presentation?” One can ask such a question while preparing a presentation, and then try to put all possible information into the slides. It’s an attempt to make the slides usable as handout material as well. And it certainly is a vain attempt, because the two goals are opposite—to minimize information on the projector screen and to maximize necessary information in handouts. The conclusion is that if you need handouts, prepare additional handout materials.

7. Poor knowledge of the presentation material

This problem becomes most obvious during the delivery of the presentation. How often do you see people delivering presentations, half-turned to the audience, and reading the text on each slide? I do quite often. And it is not a couple of glances at the slides during the presentation but actually reading point by point, turning their head to the listeners from time to time. The speaker is reading the text to the listeners (or readers), being unable to address the audience. It becomes difficult to listen soon, and the presentation turns into a reading class. A admit that in some cases the presenter may be very busy and have the level of responsibility as high as that of the President. But it’s not always the case.

I would not discuss the presentation delivery process now; otherwise the number of “deadly sins” can quickly increase.

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In conclusion, I’d like to cite an example of a request for effective presentation training from an external customer. The request read as follows (literally): “We need to learn making presentations because our management requires reports in PPT format.” A question arises here, maybe they use the wrong format of reports and should learn how to rebuild the entire structure of reporting, not to make presentations? If we are speaking about presentations, let’s learn the presentation skills as such.

Vadim Kachurovsky

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