The attention span of the average human has gotten shorter and shorter. Yet, presentations are getting longer and denser. If there is one thing that everyone giving a presentation needs to learn, it’s this:
LESS IS MORE.
Put down your words, your charts, your graphs. Arrange them. Write them out. Then cut them by half. More visuals, fewer words.
Tell a story, don’t lecture, don’t preach.
Combine charts & graphs, make them easy to read & understand, use visuals to make your point. The attention span of the average human has gotten shorter and shorter. Yet it seems that presentations keep getting longer and denser. Oh, and another thing:
MAKE YOUR POINT(S).
If you’re lucky, really lucky, one or two cogent points will stay with your audience for more than a nanosecond. Maybe even for a long time. But only if you make fewer points and make them extremely well. Prove your point of view simply, easily and with a minimum of puffery. You want those people to walk out of that room convinced and excited, not confused.
Don’t try to show how smart you are by using a lot of jargon, lingo, fancy equations, and smug, trendy processes. Really smart people can convince with a minimum of well-chosen words and examples. Think of Obama’s inaugural speech. It was only a few minutes long, yet it was warm, inspiring and completely understandable. William Henry Harrison’s speech, considered the worst ever given, was over two hours long. It was extremely detailed, extremely heavy on allusions to ancient Rome, and extremely boring. Not only that, it killed him. After speaking for over two hours in freezing, wet weather, he died of pneumonia a few months later. A boring presentation can kill your chances, whether it’s at new business, impressing a group of peers, or getting a raise.
Which brings us to:
DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE HUMAN.
The audience is human, too. Unless you’re giving a presentation to a group of sloths or koala bears, they want a little humor, excitement, entertainment. Talk to them, not at them. DON’T READ! Make yourself an object of respect, not resentment. We all know that a bad presentation just wastes our time, and we resent it. Make friends, not enemies.
That doesn’t mean pander or make lame jokes. Just talk in normal terms about important issues that actually mean something to your audience. Give them a little credit for having brains. Don’t beat your points to death. Be open and honest. Most of all, be willing to skip a few slides and start a conversation. Be real, be brief, be interesting and tell them something they don’t know. They’ll love you for it.