According to Seth Godin, there are, as far as I can tell, three types of presenters. Good Entertainers, Bad Entertainers, and Change-makers.
The Good Entertainers know how to work the crowd. They know how to make them laugh, keep them on the edge of their seats, and maybe even shake their heads with wonder as they leave, thinking how great a show it was.
Bad Entertainers fail to do any of these things. They bore their audience, waste their time, and generally are unremarkable. The attendees are thinking about what they will do after they leave long before they exit the building.
The point to creating a presentation isn’t mere entertainment, although it’s a good idea to keep your audience riveted. Making them laugh on occasion is also a good strategy.
But to make a presentation worth doing, one that doesn’t waste your audience’s time, you need to have just one purpose. Godin is crystal clear on this. You need to make a change happen.
“No change, no point,” Godin says.
In other words, if we take what Godin tells us to heart, we know that the point of making a presentation is no different that the point of getting out of bed every day.
When you get up and face the day, you can choose to live it so you’re just getting by and surviving the ordeal. Or you can seek to do small things that make a difference and have the potential to turn into something better.
Change-makers create presentations that do more than just get by. They make presentations that take risks. The risk is always the same. You might fail. But if you don’t try, if you don’t do more than just get out of bed and ignore the possibilities, you’ll never know if you could succeed.
Pack Your Presentation With Emotion
When you make a presentation, you’re communicating your point of view and trying to get others to agree with you. Just like when you navigate through the day, it’s your emotional appeal that will help you achieve what you’re trying to accomplish.
You won’t get far trying to get others to follow your advice when you behave like an automaton. People want to engage with you. So whether they determine you’re a has-been or a rock star, you need to use emotion to connect with them.
Are You Selling Something?
If you’re an academic discussing an issue related to your work, are you selling something? The question Godin has us ask ourselves before creating a presentation applies to anyone who is presenting an idea. “Who will be changed by this work, and what is the change I seek?”
If you’re not selling something, then you don’t need to make a presentation. If everyone already agrees with what you have to say, then you don’t need to try to convince them. Go home and think up something else to do.
Godin gives us four rules for presentations:
1. Cue cards – Even if you don’t need to use them, making cue cards to remind you of what to say will help you outline your presentation and trigger talking points. Keep them simple and legible, so if you do need them, you aren’t squinting and stumbling as you try to read them.
2. Illustrate with images – God has a lot to say about Powerpoint, and most of it’s negative. Rather than use this software as a powerful tool to relate ideas, it’s become a crutch.
Don’t rewrite what you’re saying onto the Powerpoint slides. Don’t use images that aren’t professional or that don’t evoke an emotional reaction. Don’t use the music that comes with the system. Instead, find sounds and music that will get a visceral response from your audience. Don’t use more than six words per slide.
3. Hand out proof – The written document that supports what you’re selling should be handed out only after your presentation. Otherwise your audience will be reading instead of listening. Plus, if you tell them they’ll get it all in writing afterwards, they won’t have to distract themselves with note taking.
4. Get an answer – Don’t let them leave without getting a commitment or a signature or some sort of agreement. The whole point to your presentation is to persuade others to adopt your idea, to get them to do something different.
Make It Count
We want to live our lives in a way that makes them count. We don’t do this by never trying to persuade another person. Every day we try to persuade someone to do what we think is best.
We’ve got to give presentations the same way. Make it count for something. Make it worth doing and do it differently than everyone else.