Tag Archives: presentation tips

Why most presentations fail

When it comes to presenting, most IT managers struggle, , , and they struggle for several reasons.

First, they are uncomfortable getting in front of people. Guess what, , , this is true for most people, not just IT managers, , , but it is something that you can and will overcome with practice.

I remember being scared to death the first time I had to make a short 5-minute presentation, , , that’s right, “truly scared”. You wouldn’t notice it now because I don’t get nervous when I need to make a presentation. The reason is because I’ve done it a lot, but in my early career years it was a very intimidating issue for me.

The key is being prepared and knowing your material.

Another reason IT managers struggle with presenting is because they haven’t learned how. Presenting and communicating is not what you “jump out of bed in the morning to go do”, , , it is simply not a fun or interesting thing to do for most of us who find ourselves in the IT world.

When you do have an opportunity to make a presentation, you want it to be a good one. There are three key reasons most presentations fail, so I’m about to share them with you and give you quick and easy solutions to help you be successful.

Problem #1 – Too much text
This is by far the worst problem. IT people are high detail and we tend to try to put all the content we want to say on a slide. I’m sure you have seen a slide like the one below where there are lengthy detail bullet points the presenter talks about, , , or worse yet, reads from the slide.

Nothing turns an audience off faster than when the presenter simply reads his slides.

The good news is that there is certainly some valuable content on this slide, but there are many problems with it:

  • Too busy
  • Includes too many points
  • Not memorable

We will address these issues in a few minutes.

Problem #2 – People don’t understand your message
When there is lots of text on a slide it creates a challenge for your audience. Most people have difficulty in reading and listening at the same time, , , plus many who are high detail tend to take notes as well. That’s as many as three things going on, , , and what gets the least amount of a person’s attention is the listening part when you have all of this activity.

There are a couple of things you can do to reduce the competition that’s taking place in getting your audience to listen and to hear you, , , and one of the best ways to help people understand your message is by creating an environment where they can focus on your verbal message.

  1. Create slides that contain one key point
  2. Spend time to discuss your point so it is understood
  3. Discuss your points in conversational mode
  4. Prepare handouts to minimize the note taking

In the case of our sample, it’s better to have 6 or 8 slides to discuss all of these points than to try and discuss them from 1 slide. Multiple slides won’t be as busy, you will have your audience’s attention for the key point you are making on each slide, and you have room to make the slide more interesting, , , and maybe even memorable.

Problem #3 – People’s memories are limited
In most cases, people only remember about 20-30% of what you tell them. Knowing this to be the case is a plus and gives you insight to do some things that will help your audience “remember” your presentation.

  • Handouts can help
  • Images are memorable and make a presentation more interesting
  • Repeat key points to drive home your message

Let’s take our example, , , a “presentation remake” is in order. Below are revised slides that I think help you achieve better understanding, create more interest, and make your presentation more memorable.

Slide-1:  Start the presentation with “why” project management is so important. Your audience needs to hear, “what’s in it for me” and “why this presentation is important” right up front.

Slide-2:  Next, lay out the three phases of project management (project definition, project development, and project execution). Then explain that 70% of a project’s success is based upon the planning (project definition and development) work done in the beginning before you actually start doing any of the project work.

Slide #3:  The first phase is Project Definition. Explain the two key things are defining the project goals and objectives and quantifying specific project deliverables.

Slide #4:  You don’t have a real project unless your project sponsor agrees with the objectives and what you will deliver.

Slide #5:  Phase 2 is Project Development. Once you know what is required (objectives and deliverables), you develop the project plan made up of the Project Scope document, Project Schedule, and Budget. When you have all the tasks identified, you know the skills required so you can assemble a competent project team.

Slide #6:  Developing the project schedule is a key part of the plan. It defines what needs to be done to complete the project (tasks), who should do the work, and when the work must be completed to deliver the project successfully.

Slide #7:  Phase 3 is Project Execution. Executing the project means kicking off the project to get everyone on the same page and manage your team’s expectations and then monitoring and shepherding the project along to success with project status meetings.

It takes a few more slides but your total discussion will be about the same amount of time. Show the slides and discuss the key point of each slide, , , don’t read text.

It will make a big difference in your next presentation by helping your audience better understand your material and make it more memorable.


Make your presentations interesting

I’m sure you have sat in a boring presentation before. Everything in it is so boring it is all you can do to sit through the whole thing.

Presentations don’t have to be boring, , , in fact, they ought to be fun, informative, and interesting, , , something that makes the audience sit on the edge of their seats in anticipation of the next slide.

Here are some quick tips to “spruce up” your next presentation:

Tip #1 – Create an appealing slide master

  • Keep it simple, use warm colors and a theme that ties into your presentation topic.
  • Minimize background “noise” so it does not distract from your bullet points

Tip #2 – Slides with impact

  • One key thought per slide
  • Minimal bullet points
  • Don’t read your slide, , , discuss your key points
  • Incorporate personal experience stories and examples

Tip #3 – Create visual interest

  • Add an interesting graphic to enhance your point
  • Animation can be good but also distracting
  • PNG files are made for PowerPoint slides with background

Tip #4 – Energize your audience

  • Raise your energy level and it will boost audience interest
  • Use pauses and emphasis on key points for effect
  • Keep it moving
  • Smile and have fun

Tip #5 – Prepare

  • Become very familiar with each slide to glide through them
  • Know your key points on each slide
  • Practice in front of a mirror until you are comfortable

Delivering a presentation is frightening for many, but don’t let it intimidate you. Being nervous is not only natural, , , it is a good thing and shows you care.

The more you present the easier it gets, , , even becomes second nature over time. Remember to have fun and enjoy the opportunity and experience.

Are you prepared to present?

I attended a 1-day photography workshop this past weekend hosted by an organization in my home town. I went more to donate and support the organization than to learn about photography, , , I’m also always interested in observing the techniques and tools of others who make presentations.

Observing others is something you have probably heard me recommend in the past. “Observe others and incorporate the good things into your approach to things” was one of the best pieces of advice I received from my first IBM manager. I’ve been doing this my entire career.

You can learn a lot from people who are capable and good at what they do. You can also learn a great deal from those who are not so capable. This workshop was one of those.

This workshop was simply awful. Even though I learned a couple of things, it was just a terrible presentation and the following information explains all.

Learn what not to do
Here is a rundown of what I consider critical flaws in this workshop:

  • Forgot his laptop power cord so he had to turn the laptop off every chance he had because he was afraid the battery would run out. It did in the middle of a point he was making.
  • Didn’t verify connection with the projector and ability to view the PowerPoint slides beforehand. As a result, he spent 10 minutes getting his laptop and the projector to sync up, , , he didn’t know how to do this.
  • Information slides were all text on a dark background, , , not interesting at all.
  • Presentation rambled and had no real organization or flow to it, ,, appeared to be very ad hoc with no sense of direction.
  • He rarely looked at students, , , rather he looked down most of the time. Got to have eye contact to gain interest.
  • His presentation was very technical. There were 21 people in the workshop and only 3 or 4 knew what he was talking about when he discussed aperture and f-stop.
  • He didn’t understand who his audience was and as a result most of his presentation was over their heads.
  • He showed some photos but did not show cause and effect of how he created the type of photo he was discussing.
  • There was no Feedback form to fill out, , , so he doesn’t learn whether he does a good job or a poor job.
  • He asked for questions but most in the room didn’t know where to start, especially with such a technical presentation they were experiencing.
  • Had to search for files he wanted to show, , , terribly unorganized.

The bottom line is that our presenter was not prepared to present. As a result, most in the class were lost or did not get much value from the class.

If you plan to get in front of a group of people to present something to them, you owe it to your students and to yourself to be organized and prepared to do a good job.

I’m glad I attended this workshop because it gave me new ideas of opportunities I think are worth pursuing and material for this post.