A few weeks back, Karen Martin authored a post for her blog entitled, “How to capture an audiences attention” in which she gave several good tips for remembering your audience and delivering a strong presentation.
Inspired by Karen’s post and a recent chance to address the MassBay PMI chapter (a presentation for which I give myself a B+) I’d like to add another, useful tip to all those would-be speakers out there:
Don’t rely on your presentation to capture the audience, rely on your ability to present.
By presentation, of course I mean PowerPoint decks or other visual aids. Quite frankly, unless you have something technically complex that can only be understood with a graphical depiction, or you have something uproariously hilarious that can only project its humor when seen, then you really don’t need slides at all.
Yes, perhaps decorum necessitates that you have them, but you really shouldn’t need them. You really ought to be so utterly devoted to your topic that you can carry the audience without relying upon the screen. Take a look at many of the TED talks – there’s just a passionate person talking, not a smart instructor elaborating on words most of the audience can already read.
My short speaking experience is already telling me – don’t even think about opening that PowerPoint file until after you have perfected what you will say and how you will say it. Else, the slides will guide you. You need to develop that perfect ability to deliver your topic to the room first. Then, if you must, craft a few slides around it.
But only if you have to.