The Art of a Good Presentation

A Modern Survival Guide Interlude

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  1. Control — your ability to make, communicate, and enforce rules of behavior
  2. Quality — your ability to put together a presentation that is interesting, visually compelling, and does not contain errors

Presence

Your “presence” in a presentation is your ability to hold the audience’s attention and run the show. We touched on several components of this skill before, and here they are in detail:

Control

Control, control, you must learn control! Yoda said it, not me, so listen to the little green guy. When giving a presentation, your ability to control the room is critical. You can’t pass on the info you have to give if people keep interrupting you, or disrupt the flow of your presentation, or just can’t wait to ask one burning question. This is a serious problem that has occurred in almost every presentation I’ve ever seen.

Quality

Last but oh dear Lord by no means least, let’s talk quality. Getting the simple stuff out of the way, spellcheck and grammar-check your damn presentation. I’ve seen far too many PowerPoint decks in my time that had obvious, easily spotted basic errors, and presenting one of those makes you look unprofessional, which decreases the odds of your audience learning anything. If you don’t have time to error-check your presentation, you shouldn’t be giving it at all.

  • Avoid text walls: A “text wall” is just a block of text without interruptions. You know, like an internet article. People don’t come to presentations to read articles. Use bullet points, visuals, and formatting to break up text walls into discrete packets of information.
  • Cut out information-free content: Every presentation has a purpose. Cut out any content that does not serve that purpose. Every word, image, and chart should have direct bearing on what you’re trying to present.
  • Use appropriate language: Tailor your language to your audience. In general, keep things as simple as possible. Use plain language unless you’re presenting to experts, avoid circular discussion, and cut out as many buzzwords as you can get away with. You cannot fake intelligence on an issue in a presentation without wasting people’s time, so don’t try to use buzzwords or technobabble in lieu of content.
  • Use informative visuals: Charts, graphs, and artwork should be easily visible, clearly labeled, and sensitive to color-blind people. They should always show information that is relevant to your presentation, and should be accompanied by at least a little bit of text explanation.
  • Format for visibility: Before you finalize your presentation, push your chair five or six feet back from your computer screen. Can you comfortably read the text? If not, make the text bigger until you can. This may mean you have to rework your presentation, but if your audience can’t see what you’re presenting then the whole thing is useless.

Mind Your PCQs

In summary, and if you’ll forgive a mild pun, mind your PCQs. Work on your presence. Keep control of the presentation. And make sure your quality is up to snuff — even when that means having to defend your presentation from your superiors. If you can do that, you’ll probably be able to give an informative, interesting, effective presentation.

Searching for truth in a world focused on belief.

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