The 2 Levels of Defining Presentation Success

June 3, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Presentation, Training

Your success as a business presenter always exists on two levels.

  1. On one level it is determined by whether the stated goal of the presentation is reached. Did the buyer agree to buy, for example. Or, did your team see the need for the new procedure you’re asking them to follow? This type of success is fairly easy to measure.
  2. The other level of success is more difficult. It is a measure of how effectively you managed the process of presenting. Or, as we look at it, did you manage the conversation in an appropriately orderly fashion?

The second level of success often determines the first. I’m sure there are times when a poorly managed presentation achieves the goal it was intended to reach. But when you consider how the process felt to the audience—frustrating, inefficient, a waste of time—such a presentation can hardly be considered a complete success.

Presenting is Part of Your Everyday Work

The thing we need to remember is that presentations are part of everyone’s day-to-day work. So when presenters fail to manage the process well, they’re making it difficult for audience members to do their jobs. When that happens, audience members are stuck. After all, they are captive. They don’t have the option of walking out or flipping to a new channel. So what they often do is silently disengage. They might feel a sudden need to check their email or think about dinner, doing whatever they can to cope with a bad situation.

Most of the time this reaction has little to do with the goal of the presentation (level 1) and everything to do with whether the presenter is managing the conversation effectively (level 2).

For example, if you’re delivering market research to a group of sales people, your audience wants to understand the research, but they also want you to make understanding it easy. That level of success goes beyond the information itself. It involves:

  • Emphasizing context and relevance
  • Providing perspective
  • Leaving out information that isn’t useful to your audience (whether you want to or not)
  • Caring about their understanding and buy in
  • Being responsive to the in-the-moment needs of the audience

Business presentations are a collaborative process. Pulling your slides together and having a specific goal is only the first step, and that step alone will never guarantee success. A successful presentation is one in which the audience and the presenter work together in a fruitful, efficient process.

[Tweet “A successful presentation has audience and presenter working together.”]

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Should I Apologize for Bad Slides?

January 15, 2009 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Improving Your Visual Aids, Preparation, Presentation

Question:
I’m stuck having to present some pretty bad slides.  They are too complicated and present more information than I need for my presentation.  I can’t change them for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into here.  I’ve heard that you shouldn’t apologize for things like this by saying something like, “I know this is hard for you all to see,” but in this case I feel like I should.  What do you recommend?

Answer:
You’re not alone.  A lot of people are stuck having to present difficult, overloaded or poorly thought out slides.

You face two distinct challenges.  (1) As you prepare, you have to weed through the clutter and find the story you want to tell, and (2) you have to find a way to deliver that story – and have it make sense to your listeners – when the slide isn’t giving you much help.  Here are a few recommendations.

Challenge 1: Weed through the clutter
I’m afraid I can’t be of much help with this part of the dilemma, other than to encourage you to keep the big picture in mind.  Find the story you want to tell and stick with it.  You don’t have to talk about all the details on the slide if they don’t support your message.

Challenge 2: Help your listeners
When a busy slide comes up, your listeners’ eyes will go to it and try to figure it out.  Ideally they should be able to look at the slide and get a pretty clear understanding of it.  But if the slide is too complicated, they’re likely to give up.  Your job, then, is to help them through it.

  • Use the slide title
    If the title of the slide frames your story, use it to your advantage.  “As this title says, this is the sales forecast for Q3,” or “As you can see, we’re looking at the new workflow for project X.”
  • Acknowledge instead of apologize
    In your question you asked if it was appropriate to apologize.  First, I don’t think you’re breaking any sacred rule by apologizing for a difficult slide.  But moderation is key.  If you end up apologizing too much, your efforts won’t mean much.  Try shifting your thinking a bit.  Instead of apologizing for a busy slide, acknowledge it instead.  Use phrases like, “I know there’s a lot on this slide. I’d like to pull your attention to the upper right corner” or “Let’s focus right here,” as you point to that specific area on the screen.
  • Use triggers
    If you can, add triggers to direct attention to specific areas on the slide.  Triggers are things like arrows, circles or bold words.  Triggers tell your listeners that even though there’s a lot on the slide, you’re going to focus their attention on certain parts it.
  • Print handouts
    If listeners can’t see the detail on the screen, print the slide and give it to them as a handout.

In summary, you’re responsible for making sure listeners understand your message.  Even when you’re handed a difficult slide, do what you can to make sure that happens.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication