It really doesn’t matter where, what or to whom you’re presenting; there’s no getting away from the fact that presentations are a pretty big deal. As I’ve written before, presentations are a unique opportunity to share your ideas, vision and knowledge to an audience who, at least to start off with, are hungry to hear what you have to say.
Of course, the privilege of presenting is all too often forgotten in a mist of anxiety and obsession with PowerPoint presentation design (truly the least important part of the presentation jigsaw puzzle) but these are creases that can be ironed out with some thought and careful preparation. As audiences, we’re willing to forgive the nervous presenter (rather them than us, right?) and, while we may tut under our breaths about meandering PowerPoint decks, if the message is audible and engaging, we’ll happily fight our way through the background noise on the assumption that there is something of value in it for us.
There is one thing, however, that audiences the world over cannot abide and that’s the presenter who patently doesn’t care. Yep – the sad fact is that the world is still full of business presenters happy to ‘show up and throw up’ their presentations, foisting meandering messages and countless content-heavy slides on audiences fighting a losing battle to stay conscious. This is true ‘Death by PowerPoint’ created by presentation designers who just don’t care.
There are a number of signs to this phenomenon; some easier to spot than others. The obvious signs are opening with a series of slides that not only commit the mortal sin of having nothing to do with the audience (how big the company is, office locations, EBITDA charts) but are also blatantly copied and pasted from another presentation. Also keep an eye out for hastily pasted in logos, slides of unrelated content who’s only purpose is to demonstrate the author’s proficiency at PowerPoint and a glassy look in the eyes of the presenter. Somewhat more subtle is the absence of what we call ‘The Moment of Truth’.
All presentations are themselves a moment of truth. They can be the tipping point between investment and return (sales presentations), research and recognition (technical presentations) or idea and reality (marketing presentations). Those presenters that recognise how high the stakes are will prepare their presentations accordingly – the resulting, carefully honed presentation is always going to win over one that hasn’t had the care and attention it deserves.
Equally, every successful presentation is anchored to a ‘Moment of Truth’ statement. It’s that key stage in the process when the connection between presenter and audience is at its strongest and a clear message is communicated and understood. It’s the tipping point that takes a presentation from being merely an information share to imparting a message that is truly valuable to your audience. Sometimes this fulcrum can be encapsulated by a killer phrase (‘I have a dream’, anyone?), the use of a prop (pretty much any Steve Jobs product launch post 2007) or the clear passing of the baton from presenter to audience (as defined by a crystal clear call to action). Whatever the method used, creating a ‘Moment of Truth’ presentation is a clear sign that the presenter has their act together and put in the hours of hard work to make sure the opportunity isn’t a wasted one.
So if it’s such a key element to presentation success, how are you going to make sure your ‘Moment of Truth’ is as strong and clear as possible?
The bad news is, it’s not something that can be rushed – it requires hard work and focus, so strap yourself in.
The good news is there are some key steps you can follow to develop your ‘Moment of Truth’…
Step 1 – Audience Centricity
Your presentation’s ‘Moment of Truth’ must be built on a strong foundation – understanding your audience.
The fusion of presenter and audience is absolutely vital to any successful presentation. Of course, this relies on a level of intimacy and understanding between both parties that far transcends your typical show up and throw up presentation.
The first step is to focus in on what makes your audience tick to build your ‘Moment of Truth’ around their interests and objectives. It’s not rocket science but you’d be amazed at how few presentations are anchored to the needs of the audience.
Step 2 – Authenticity
There’s no getting away from it – you can’t fake ‘Moment of Truth’ presentations. Clever use of props or fancy visuals won’t be able to hide a presenter who doesn’t truly believe in what they are saying. The greatest orators of our time (Jobs, Obama, Geldof) ultimately drew upon their authenticity to make the connection at their ‘Moment of Truth’ – their passion and commitment was more powerful than any fancy PowerPoint slide.
If you’re faking it, it won’t work…
Step 3 – Stickiness
While we’re focusing on that magic moment when audience and presenter connect, the reality is that if that spark is merely a brief flicker, your presentation probably won’t achieve its objectives. Your message needs to be sufficiently ‘sticky’ so that your audience can do your bidding after the event…or at least share it with their friends and colleagues.
Have you packaged your message in such a way that people will be able to share it beyond the meeting room? Steve Jobs was a past master at this, using moments like removing the MacBook Air from an office envelope to help eager audience members share his message after the presentation (“it was THAT thin”).
Think about how your audience are going to communicate your message in conversation and then make it as easy as possible for them.
Step 4 – Visuals
You don’t need an advanced PowerPoint training course to tell you that visuals are important to ensuring your message takes hold. Visuals help cement the message with your audience, from a simple diagram to a visual metaphor that encapsulates it all. Dig deep and think long and hard about what visuals are going to share your message – they could be the difference between your audience engaging with a clear and sticky message versus simply walking away confused.
Oh, and remember, simplicity is not stupidity.
Step 5 – Call to Action
Ultimately this is the final test for how truly ‘Moment of Truth’ your presentation is.
I get thoroughly cheesed off with presenters who finish their presentations with a wimpy ‘Any Questions’ slide. It’s the ultimate cop out and means that audiences are left wondering what to do post-presentation. A ‘Moment of Truth’ presentation not only signposts a call to action throughout the process but also concludes with a clear pointer for what to do next.
The absence of a clear and natural call to action screams a lack of a ‘Moment of Truth’ within the presentation…and if this is the case, what was the point in presenting in the first place?
All of this probably feels like hard work…and, frankly, it is.
But it IS worth it. If in doubt, take a moment out to think about all the hard work that’s got you to the point of presenting in the first place. The hours/days/months you’ve spent grafting to get to the point where you can share your message with your audience. All of this hard work runs the very real risk of being wasted if you go into your next presentation half-cocked.
Your hard work and message deserves a ‘Moment of Truth’ presentation…and so does your audience.