Presentation tip: Don’t rely on the presentation

conference room presentationA 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.

About David M. Kasprzak

I am Certified Project Management Professional with nearly 15 years of successfully working at the project, program and enterprise levels to plan, analyze, and correct performance trends. Included in my experience is a deep passion for incorporating fundamental Lean and Operational Excellence principles into the practice of Project Management.
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  1. Nice post, David. Happy to inspire. Good point about planning your talk first and relying only on PowerPoint when it adds to the talk. Welcome to the speaking stage. Sounds like you’re on a path to great success!

    • Thanks, Karen. Like anything else, you slowly find your groove through repetition(keep in mind, I am writing this while 5 feet from my son – who is practicing his piano!). Speaking to a group of 10 in a conference room, vs. 50 in a banquet room, vs. 250 in a ballroom is a very different experience each time. Not only is it harder to “work” a large room, but the expectations of the audience change, too. A small crowd expects you to talk with them. A larger group expects you to talk to them.

      • The one thing to keep in mind is that you’ll never please everyone. I pay VERY close attention to participant feedback and use it to continuously improve. That said, I just had an experience where I spoke to a group of 250 or so and half of the feedback was beyond glowing and half was merely average. Many of the comments were directly opposite the others. In this case, I still reflect but I also realize that the crowd was too mixed in terms of maturity, company size, etc. to ever meet the vast majority’s needs.

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