What makes an effective presentation? I was talking about that in a presentation clinic I ran for a company recently. One guy, Simon, was holding onto the idea that people need the full data more than anything else otherwise they would question his research. Simon was one of the brightest guys I’d ever met. He’d written his presentation like a huge document and wanted the audience to get all the information because ALL of it was really important. 79 slides full of text. But that would be tricky as
a) he was the only one in the company that understood what he was saying. I had to get a colleague to translate his ideas for me. Simon had been assuming that we all knew what he knew. That’s been called the curse of knowledge! We forget what it's like not to know.
And b) he would have carried out not just death but a whole massacre by PowerPoint. The audience would have been overwhelmed
So we spent the day re-structuring his presentation but this time from the audience point of view. Changing it so the audience could understand it and see his ideas clearly. Chucking out lots and lots of stuff. And trying to persuade him that stories really help the audience understand his exciting project. We actually had a great time and got really creative.
A Stanford University survey (quoted in Made to Stick) shows that after a presentation 63% people remember stories and only 5% remembered individual statistics (a stat about how poor stats are!). Yet only 10% of the presentations used stories in their presentations.
Presentations are not just about what you know. You need to think about how you engage and inspire your audience. So next time you are planning a presentation - try to imagine sitting in the audience. What would you want to hear/see from a presenter? My guess it won't be the 79 slides full of text that Simon wanted to use!