Rethinking the Visual Component of Your Presentations (Part 3 of 4)

September 9, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4

This is the third in a series of four articles about the need to take a fresh look at the visuals you use in your presentations. In this article I’ll talk about images that you use during your presentations that exist on their own outside of it. Things like sales numbers, financial reports, marketing data, flow charts, and org charts. All of these things are essentially documents intended to be read.

When faced with the challenge of delivering this information, either you change the document to make your point clear (thereby making the document an effective visual aid in the traditional sense) or you leave the document as it is and guide the audience through it during delivery.

Whichever way you do it, you need to make sure your decision is appropriate for the audience.

If business presentations were always simple, predictable processes, involving very little interaction between you and your audience, your choice is easy. You would transform the document into a well-designed visual. You would simplify, streamline, edit, and determine precisely what the audience’s takeaway from the slide is.

But, because presentations are usually not simple or predictable, it’s not always possible to transform data into beautiful slides. Your audience may want or need more information than a well-designed slide will allow. They may want the details so they can discuss them with you. They may be stubborn or resistant and expect you to give them the information they need to be persuaded.

In these situations, you’re better off giving them the data and all of its detail to look at.

Just keep in mind that when you do this, the focus in the room changes. It shifts away from you and toward the visual. When that happens, the presentation becomes a group discussion and you become the facilitator of it. When the conversation about the data is over, you assume your role as presenter again, but for that short period of time your responsibilities are different.

Why is this an important distinction? Because you have to let the discussion take place. That requires giving up some of your control and letting the audience determine where the conversation goes. It’s important to make sure they know what they’re looking at and why. They need time to think, question, and discuss. Your job is to let the data become the subject of the conversation without derailing the presentation.

This process is another example of how your business presentations are different than formal speeches. Presentations often require an in-depth examination and discussion of the information. The visuals you use—regardless of their origin or design—should make the process as easy and productive as possible.

In the final article on this topic, I’ll discuss slides meant to bring emphasis or emotion to your presentations.

Part 1Part 2, Part 4

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

Practicing Is NOT the Way to Go

February 10, 2011 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Myths Debunked


For the past few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of writing. The winter months are always a good time for that. My writing project is a book for business presenters. It began as a simple update and expansion of the Reference Guide (the booklet we give participants in our presentation workshops), but the scope of it expanded to the point where I’m now writing for a broader audience.

Along with the writing, I’ve also been reading a lot of books about presenting—many of the newly-published ones, some of the old ones that have been sitting on the shelf unread for a while, and even some academic textbooks. I’m doing this, in part, to make sure I’m up to date with what people in the field are saying, but also to get a sense of how writers describe the presentation process. What are their guiding principles? What assumptions do they make about presenting itself? How are they similar to and different than mine?

MYTH: Presentations are Performances

One of the most common assumptions I’ve found has to do with the notion of performance. While authors may not actually use that word to describe it, it’s clear they assume that a business presentation is a type of performance. How do I know this? One simple word: practice. As in “practice makes perfect” and “practice at least X number of times before delivery.” Many, many authors talk about the presenter’s obligation to practice.

If you’ve been through one of our workshops, you know that I strongly disagree with this. I’m not a big fan of practice—at least not the type of practice these authors are calling for. The assumption they’re making is that practicing will guarantee your success, that it will give you more control over the process.

The problem is, it won’t.

TRUTH: Presenters Engage in a Conversation

The presentation environment is not the place for that type of practiced performance. Presenters need to engage their audiences in a conversation—a conversation with purpose and structure, but a conversation just the same. The act of practicing to be perfect ties this process up in knots.

Presenters need to be prepared. They need to be ready for anything. But practicing isn’t the way to go.

Formal Speeches are a Different Matter

Now, if you’re delivering a formal speech, knock yourself out. Practice as much as you want. Speeches are an entirely different situation. Because they are scripted and often have a very carefully choreographed slide deck, speeches need to be practiced. I think that’s what the books I’ve been reading have failed to point out. They are writing for the CEO and other people who actually deliver the Big Speech.

For the rest of us, though, remember that presentations are not performances. To succeed, they must be genuine, conversational interactions.

Related Articles:

No Performing. Present (video)

Successful Presenting Starts with Understanding Your Default Approach

Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.

Presentation Myth: I have been told to Practice Practice Practice. What do you think? (video)

What’s the Best Way to Practice for a Presentation? (video)

 

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication