This might sound mean but we don’t want to hear you present. The thought of you inviting us to your 2 hour presentation on “Budget Variances and Optimized Value-Added Opportunities for Synergies” makes us want to barf. Why? Because we’re terrified of watching you present.
I’m going to be a little snotty in this post (okay… maybe a lot snotty). First, you kind of expect that from me. Second, if I’m nice and polite, you won’t listen. I’m like your best friend who tells you you’ve been drinking too much and wearing lampshades too frequently. It’s not pleasant news but it’s definitely constructive and helpful.
Let’s break it down. There are three reasons we don’t want to hear you speak. Your presentation is awful. You’re boring and stiff. You talk down to us. Because of that, we hate you.
I know presentations are the lifeblood of every corporation. Without PowerPoint you guys would shrivel up and blow away. The thing is, you don’t have to be so terrible at it (although part of me is very thankful it’s such a rampant problem otherwise our Structured Thought and Communications Course wouldn’t be in such high demand).
I won’t go into why it’s critical for you to get better at building compelling presentations and having powerful meetings. If you haven’t figured that out yet, you need to stop reading this blog and head down to McDonald’s and pick up an application. I will go into why we think you’re awful, boring, and condescending. And don’t worry, I’ll offer some suggestions on how to fix the problems. Here goes…
Your Presentation is Awful
If I had a dollar for every time someone put up a slide in 8 pt and said “I know you can’t read this from there but let me explain…” I would have enough money to pay Dr. Evil’s ransom. Even worse is when you CAN read the part at the bottom that says “Slide 18 of 84.”
I’m not going to be nice here: your “presentation” is an amalgamation of 84 pages of crap you threw together just so you can show everyone how hard you’ve been working. The deck lacks a compelling story. There’s no “so what?” embedded in it.
Solution: craft a short, compelling story that focuses on THE NEEDS OF YOUR AUDIENCE. What do they care about? What’s their hot button? How can you push it and get a reaction from them? If you do a great job of targeting their needs and telling them how you’re doing so via a crisp story, you’ll end up with a much shorter and clearer presentation. Read this post for more guidance on getting to the “so what?” in a compelling way.
One mor awfeul thing about your presntartion: you misspel stuff and use the wrong words. Those red squiggly things under the words? Their they’re to show you incorekt spelings. Take the extra 5 minutes to profreed your presentation. It’s worth it. I’ve harped on this before a long time ago in another post. Check this out for some additional no no’s on how to right.
You’re Boring and Stiff
Okay Mr. Roboto. We know you’re a corporate guy and need to look “professional” in front of the team. But professional doesn’t have to mean you speak in a monotone, lack passion, or present like C3PO. I’m not advocating you become a Chris Farleyesque motivational speaker but you have to inject some of your personality into the presentation.
It’s okay to make people laugh (unless you’re presenting on factory fatalities and your company’s poor safety record). You can let them see you’re passionate about your work. You have a personality. I assume people will like it. Let it shine through. When you go all “corporate” on me I want to shove a pen in my ear. A really long pen capable of puncturing my brain stem.
Solution: Presenting is about connecting. It’s not about PowerPoint. Sometimes it’s okay to go naked and present without a presentation. Absent doing that, try getting your audience excited. How do you do that? Talk about topics THEY find exciting. Speak their language. Present on topics THEY care deeply about. If you do, you’ll find they engage in your subject much more rapidly.
You Talk Down to Us
The next time someone busts out the polysyllabic consultospeak on me I’m going to throw a binder clip at them. And not one of those tiny binder clips. I’m talking about the mondo Texas-sized ones. When you try to impress us with your big words, you come across as pretentious and confusing. When you do that, we don’t listen to you (but that’s fixable).
Even worse from a “talking down” standpoint is reading to us. When you read to us, you insult us. You’re turning your back to us and reading verbatim from your slides. It tells us you don’t trust our ability to read and it conjures up memories of Pappy telling us bedtime stories. Unless your presentation is about Where the Wild Things Are or a Dr. Seuss classic, this is bad mojo.
The only good thing about you reading to us is you have your back to us and you’re preoccupied with the reading. This means you won’t notice us about to stab you in the neck with a letter opener while you’re focused on your slides.
Solution: use simple words. Speak in simple sentences. It’s easier to understand. I know a CEO who says “if it has a staple in it, I won’t read it.” Translation: he craves simplicity. Get the jargon out of your presentation. It will make it easier to understand. It also makes you seem like less of a pretentious ass.
As far as how to stop yourself from reading to us, tell us where to focus, then shut up. Highlight one or two important points on the page. Focus us. While we’re busy reading, watch our reactions. Our facial expressions will tell you if we’re tracking or if we’re confused. If we’re tracking, move along. If we’re confused, have a discussion about the source of confusion.
Presenting doesn’t have to be hard. Notice I didn’t cover a ton of “platform skills” in the above. I’ve focused more on crafting the story, understanding the audience, and choosing your language deliberately. If you do those three things then go have a conversation with someone (vs. presenting to someone) I guarantee we won’t murder you.
If your organization needs help with these challenges, drop me a line. We can fix the problem.