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”

Should a Presenter Read from the Slides?

March 31, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Mary Clare Healy, Myths Debunked, Presentation, Video

On our Facebook fan page ( we recently asked our fans to “name something that a presenter does (or doesn’t do) that distracts you from hearing/understanding the speaker’s message.”

Most of the responses had something to do with presenters reading their slides. While I agree that it’s distracting when someone lifelessly reads a slide full of long sentences or paragraphs, I disagree with the notion that one should never read what’s on the slide.

As I write this, I can almost hear your audible gasp.

Let me explain.

When a slide first comes up, it is second nature for people to look at it to grasp its meaning. At that moment if you start to talk, you would be pulling your listeners’ attention in two different directions. Are they to read the slide or are they to listen to you? Trying to be good audience members they’ll try to do both. And they will not fully succeed at either.

Conversely, as a presenter, you may not succeed because you will have lost control of their focus, which can lead to confusion.

So, as presenter then, you need to help them grasp your topic by directing their focus either to the slide or to what you’re saying. One easy and effective way of doing that is to read the slide when it first appears. Literally turn to it and read what’s there without any comment. (Yes, your back will be to the audience, but who cares? Your listeners are looking at your slide, not your bum.) Then turn from it, move closer to your audience and launch into what you have to say about what’s on the slide.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking that this won’t work. And you’d be right if the slide was full of text. That’s why it’s so important for slides to be pared down to the bare minimum.

Remember that the slides are not your presentation. You (and what you have to say) are the presentation. Use your slides not as a script but as a framework to keep your discussion orderly.

My colleague, Mary Clare Healy, has a video blog saying roughly the same thing.

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