How To Always Create A Winning Presentation

How To Always Create A Winning Presentation

There are millions of presentations given in a day and most of them will fail. Read on and you will avoid the reasons presentations fail and new strategies for creating winning presentations.

I saw some poor presentations at a recent high-level trade conference. Few presentations resulted in a presenter and the audience getting to know and understand each other and finding common ground so they can together decide to act in each other’s behalf.

The presentations were full of important data and compelling insights but also were chock full of confusing charts with squiggles and arrows and visuals and charts. I didn’t know or get their point or where they were taking me.

I was so frustrated that I had to re-read Presenting to Win, The Art of Telling Your Story by Jerry Weissman, a presentation coach who came out of the news business to help hundreds of companies in Silicon Valley and across the US. He taught them how to present more effectively during IPO road shows and other key business meetings.

Here are Jerry’s smart strategies for creating and making winning presentations that I’d like to share:

  • Five presentation Cardinal Sins
  • Ways to brainstorm and plan a successful presentation
  • Recommendations for the proper use of bullets and visuals
  • How to customize your presentation

The Five Cardinal Sins

Weissman believes that most presentations fail because of these Five Cardinal Sins and that presenters will succeed by avoiding them:

  1. No clear point – the audience leaves the presentation shaking their heads about what it was all about.
  2. No audience benefit –– the presentation fails to show how the audience can benefit from the information.
  3. No clear flow — the sequence of ideas is so confusing that the audience can’t follow it.
  4. Too detailed — the main point is obscured by irrelevant information.
  5. Too long — the audience loses focus and get the bored.

I started using Weissman’s formula years ago and organized my presentation development into brainstorming and planning.

Presentation Brainstorming

Brainstorming includes these five elements:

  1. Point B — take the audience where want to go from (point A) to the objective (point B). To get to point B, you must move the uninformed audience to understand, the skeptical audience to believe and the resistant audience to act.
  2. External positive and negative factors — can impact your message. For example, in most pitches (especially in investment pitches), a proprietary product or service in a quickly expanding market is a positive. But an emerging new competitor or a contracting market can be a negative factor.
  3. Audience identification and knowledge – are you talking to leaders or managers or assistants? What do they need to know, understand and believe to act on what you’re asking? How can you make the benefits to your audience crystal clear?
  4. WIIFY – What’s In It For You — to reach point B, you must see your company, offering and presentation through the eyes of your audience. Everything you say and do in your presentation must serve the needs of your audience. Start by shifting the focus from features to benefits. Before you make any statement about yourself or your company or the product and services you offer you ask yourself what’s the WIIFY?
  5. Setting — keep in mind the physical setting of your presentation and use all the journalism questions – who, what, where, when and how – from where of the physical location (boardroom, theater, conference and office) to the how much time will be allotted and what does the audience know about the purpose of the presentation and will there be time for Q&A? Finally, what kind of audiovisual aids will be using and will there be a demonstration? The questions and answers are critical to your success.

Presentation Planning                  

  1. Opening Gambit – know that your audience needs to be drawn into a presentation. This is purpose of an opening gambit. Don’t make your audience think by starting too fast and jumping ahead of them. The opening gambit can overcome this problem. You want to get them off their smartphones and emails and begin looking at you. Effective opening gambits can be something like “There is a probability that 50% of you won’t care about what you’re going to hear.” Another one could be “Most presentations fail and this one could be just like all the other ones.” One of my favorite is “never get a kid a kidder.”
  2. Unique selling proposition – what is different about what you are going to tell them or about your product or service? Is it your process, your expertise, your system or some glowingendorsement or testimonial?
  3. Tell them what you’re going to tell them — now that you’re caught the audience’s attention, don’t jump into the body of your presentation. Take a moment to preview your major ideas. The proven technique for orienting your audience — tell them what you’re going to tell him. Do this by telling them what Plan B is and the steps you’re going to take them on. So, it starts with the grabber, and a framework that used to use was — this is what it is this, this is how works, this why it works and this is what works for and how we know it can work for you. That framework can work for many presentations.
  4. Outline — yes, do an outline just like you were taught in junior high. Trust me, this will save you a lot of time and energy and avoid multiple drafts. It will keep your presentation on track and be faithful to the five elements described earlier. simple outline – gambit, point B, tell them what you are going to tell them, make your key USP points, tell them what you told them, point B recap and wrap it up with the gambit.
  5. Flow Structures –– there is an order in which your ideas will flow. Remember that your audience is only linear access to your content and it’s one slide at a time. Make it easy for them to follow your presentation. Don’t make them think. Check out Weissman’s book for more details on flow structures. My favorites are chronological, problem/solution, opportunity/leverage and compare/contrast. One flow structure is not necessarily better than others. But do pick one or two if you fail to choose, your presentation will draft and your audience will become confused and you’ll never get to point B.

Proper Role of Graphics And Slides 

PowerPoint has provided us with a lot of features to make a presentation look good. Unfortunately, many people use them to make it more confusing. Here are two things you need to be mindful of:

  1. The proper role of graphics
  • To make it work the guiding principle is less is more
  • Effective graphics work to minimize the eye sweeps the audience needs to make.
  • Be careful with your choice of fonts. Stay with one or two to lend a unified look.
  1. The proper role of bullets
  • Less is more — bullet slides contain one concept, expressed in one line
  • Subtitles, often, confuse matters
  • The actual bullets should contain keywords only
  • Don’t use articles, conjunctions and prepositions
  • Use a 4 x 4 formula – four lines down, for words online – maximum
  • Space the bullets in your slide proportionately
  • Bullets in a list should be grammatically parallel
  • Avoid sub-bullets

How To Customize Your Presentation.

For a fresh presentation, create the illusion of the first time, every time. Deliberately focus your energy every time you present.  Customizing it is the most effective way to accomplish this by:

  • Mention specifically, by name, one or more members of the audience.
  • Refer to a person, company or organization related to both you and your audience.
  • Address a question directly to one or more members of the audience. Sometimes it is good to have a few plants who will not feel embarrassed or fear being singled out.
  • Refer to what is happening on the day of your presentation.
  • Refer to current information that links to and support your message.
  • Start your presentation with the slide that includes your audience, location and the date.

So those are Jerry’s smart strategies for creating and making winning presentations:

  • Five presentation Cardinal Sins
  • Ways to brainstorm and plan a successful presentation
  • Recommendations for the proper use of bullets and visuals
  • How to customize your presentation

And when you follow them I am confident that you will:

  1. Clear point – the audience will leave the presentation knowing what your presentation meant.
  2. Audience benefit –– the presentation will show how the audience can benefit from the information.
  3. Clear flow — the sequence of ideas is so clear that the audience follows along.
  4. Minimal detail — the main point is revealed by relevant information.
  5. Perfect length — the audience stays focus and inspired.

There are millions of presentations given in a day and most of them will fail. But not your next one if you use these strategies developed by Weissman and tested by me.

So what strategies do are you using to assure a successful presentation?

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