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October 2011

Great Presentation Advice

I saw this post on Forbes about presentations that I thought was great. The posting describes a simple test by Vinod Khosla:  show someone your slide for five seconds, then ask them to describe its content.  I had the good fortune to learn this from Yuri Shtivelman, when he and I worked at Nortel Networks.  Yuri would have me step through my slide presentation, spending a few seconds on each slide.  For each slide he would ask, "what's the message?".  Then we would write down each message, look at them in sequence, and determine whether they told the story we were trying to tell.  It was an approach that worked quite well, especially during strategic planning season.

What are the take-away's here?

  • You have to create presentations for the right side of your audience's (collective) brain--the side that processes images and ideas vs. words and arguments.  That's because people don't read your slide, they absorb it.
  • As the Forbes post describes, when you put up a slide people focus on it... and stop listening to you.  If you don't believe me, try putting a picture of a puppy in your presentation, in some random spot, and watch what happens.
  • The presentation is for your audience, not you.  If you need cues to remember your key points, write them out on index cards.
  • Tailor the slide material to the preferences of you audience.  Your CFO will want to see numbers in a table more than a chart.  Your CTO will want to see a diagram.
  • As always, less is more.  Guy Kawasaki's 10/20/30 rule is still the best!