Presenting for my job is not new. My presentations are basically a sales pitch encouraging people to take up our services, so although I always tailor them to the event or audience the general content does not change too much. When you consider I am encouraging people to take up free services which will help their business save money you would think it would be easy to excite them, however this is not always the case.
We’ve all sat through poor presentations as highlighted in the video Is there life after death by PowerPoint?I don’t think I’m a bad presenter and I always apply two rules to prevent some of these problems; I do not read off the slides and I have no more than 5 pieces of information on a slide. However about a year ago I attended a conference with some very good speakers and I realised I could be trying harder to reach their level and make my presentations more memorable to the audience.
I read about Beyond Bullet Points: Using Microsoft Office Powerpoint 2007 to Create Presentations That Inform, and Inspire Motivate, and after sitting through some uninspiring presentations I decided to buy it. This book does not focus on how to be a good presenter, instead it is about developing a good presentation structure and using Powerpoint to engage with the audience so they are motivated and want to listen to what you have to say.
The most useful information in the book for me was thinking of the presentation in terms of a story. The presentation template used throughout the book is a very useful tool for the structuring of the presentation and ensures a coherent progression of slides. Previously I had gone through individual topics, which with hindsight may not have linked very clearly. However about two years ago I started thinking about the audience so began my presentation with the reasons why they should listen to me, but this book explained how I could take this further.
My first presentation using the new format was at a conference a couple of weeks ago and perhaps took the longest preparation time ever as I needed to completely change the majority of my slides. I found the presentation exciting to give, but I was also nervous because most of the text had been removed from the slides so I felt I needed to rely on notes to remind me of everything I wanted to say. Unfortunately, although I spoke to several businesses over lunch I did not receive any feedback on the presentation.
I gave my second presentation using the ideas from this book on Tuesday on a different topic from the previous one so again it required a fair amount of preparation time. This time the topic I was covering was something I know well enough to not feel reliant on my notes (although I still had them on the lectern so I didn’t worry). This time several people came over to our exhibition stand during the day and said they had listened to me present and wanted to know more. Now that is enough for me to continue with this new format.
I found the book very useful and thought provoking, even though in my present role I can not make use of all the advice because I have a set presentation template. I would recommend the book to anyone who feels they rely on bullet point text too much or if they feel their presentations could do with a little additional spark. However if you are already an experienced speaker who gets good feedback it is unlikely to provide much additional support.