Friday, January 25, 2008

Presentation Idea #125: How To Keep Your Audience’s Attention By Keeping Power Point In Its Place

Keep Your Audience's Attention By Staying Focused On The Message, Not The Power Point Slides.A few years back, I was interviewing for a sales engineering position with a large computer company on the West Coast. During the interview, the hiring manager asked me how I would put on a presentation for a client if I had to go out into the field with a sales rep.

Well, having spent some time in sales and participated in numerous Dale Carnegie programs on the West Coast, this was an easy question for me. So, I replied that I would first contact the client and ask him or her a few questions to make sure that we were on the same page and to understand why they chose us. Then I would ask them some questions about their objectives, what they were looking for and what type of limitations they were encountering. Of course, this also involves consulting the sales rep to review any information that they had gathered from the client.

His response stunned me. The interviewer told me that wasn’t the way to do it. The answer that he was looking for was: go down to marketing and get the PowerPoint presentation.

I don’t know if this is still a common practice at this company, but the strategy does have merit. First, the presenter doesn’t have to think about what is going to capture and maintain the audience’s attention, not when there’s a packet of PowerPoint slides to lean on. Second, the presenter has a suitable excuse if the presentation does not go well: It’s marketing’s fault for making a lousy PowerPoint presentation.

One of the points that we just covered in the most recent High Impact Presentations program is that the PowerPoint slides are not the message. They only enhance the message. When delivering a presentation in front of a group of people, remember that you are still the center of attention and the main message has to come from you. If you could deliver your message with nothing more than a bunch of slides, there would be no reason for you to stand in front of the group and perform the presentation. Just email out the slides to everyone and you’re done.

I’ve never been a big fan of giving a canned presentation based on a bunch of “professionally-created” slides. However, there is value to having visually stimulating and attention getting slides. If you are like me and you don’t have that visual flair, you will need to team up with an artist who can create your slides for you. Keep in mind that the artist probably doesn’t have a feel for the dynamics of platform presentations, and especially for the nuances of the message that you want to convey. Stay in control. This is your message, not the artist’s statement. The slides are there to accentuate your presentation, not to overpower it.

There were many other ideas and tactics that we covered in the most recent High Impact Presentations program. But if you are interested in the various aspects of using PowerPoint, I would suggest that you sneak a peek at Seth Godin’s Really Bad PowerPoint. The ideas that he suggests will be major wake up call for many presenters in spite of the fact that this document has been out in cyberspace for over 5 years.

Bottom-line here is this: Don’t use PowerPoint as a crutch. Stay in control when delivering your message

Now, if you do a lot of presentations and you are looking for other ideas that we cover in this program, leave a comment below or send email to me. We’ll discuss other aspects of PowerPoint and presentations in later posts.

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