From Boring to Barack in 30 days

Earlier this year, in a mood that could only be described as overconfident with a dash of Kanye, I marched into my boss’ office and declared that I would like to give a presentation on negotiation (post-LSE of course). At the time of this ambush, London, and back, seemed awfully far away, ample time to morph into Barack Obama and fulfil my life ambition to ‘give a good speech’. I should note that by presentation I mean 1 hour seminar to 50 or so of my colleagues as part of our fortnightly continuing professional development programme. Not a big deal. I repeat, not a big deal. But of course I can’t help treating it like my Presidential inauguration address.

So, with just 30 days and 30 nights until my maiden monologue, my evening (and foreseeable future) looks like this…


Can I just say BATNA for 1 hour?

So what even makes a good presentation?

Well for me, it’s the same as what makes a good book. I have to learn something new and it has to leave me thinking, or wanting to talk about it, long after it has finished. And of course, delivery is everything, so a bit of *PERSONALITY* is key. Humour, personal stories, photos, videos and audience participation all help a presentation along.

So now it’s my turn to meet those needy standards.

To give the people a little less of this….


Studies have shown

And a little more this…


I do love a hat

And I must draw upon everything I’ve ever learnt about giving a good presentation. 2 thought leaders come to mind:

  1. Grant Butler, of ‘Think, Write, Grow’ fame, which I just read on my trip and wrote about here; and
  2. Ben Richards, of Aticus Consulting, who I saw speak at a conference once where he spoke incredibly well on the topic of speaking well (not surprisingly).

I learnt:

Preparation is key. Both Butler and Richards suggest allowing 2-3 weeks to prepare and practice a 1 hour speech (2-3 weeks!!). Richards is particularly keen on practice, saying that you should never say something for the first time to an audience. Butler says you have to think about the time investment the audience is making in you. If you have 200 people in a room for 1 hour, that’s 200 man hours dedicated to you. You should match that with something of value. Remember, though, that a good presentation is a valuable piece of IP, so you can continue to leverage your time investment for as long as the material remains relevant.

Delivery is everything. Richards says that most people don’t allow enough time to work on delivery, yet audiences tend to remember the presenter more than the content itself. He says that, on average, an audience will remember less than 10% of the content of a presentation. So about 3 key messages.

It seems, though, that most people are in denial about this, and try to cram too much information into their speech and onto their slides. The problem with that approach is that it leaves no room for delivery techniques that help to drive home the content.

We’ve all seen it. I certainly never remember the presentations that make 20 different points over as many text heavy PowerPoint slides. There is just nothing in there to spark my memory once I leave the room.

On the contrary, the presentations that focus on a few key points, and hammer them home with stories, photos, videos, whatever, are the ones that make me feel something (interested, surprised, captivated, a bit smarter than before) and therefore the ones that I remember.

And isn’t it better to hear 3 things and absorb them all, than to hear 20 things and remember nothing?

You might think all this talk of packaging the message is a bit superficial. Seminars are not for my entertainment, right? I’ve had this debate before. People have told me that some topics are just too dry, too serious or too technical to bother with delivery techniques. Well I totally disagree. It’s not about covering up content, it’s about dressing it up into something that is relatable and therefore memorable. And surely, the more important the subject, the more important it is that you do your best to make sure people remember it.

I mean what if I told you that a presentation about a software/ hardware product could play to your emotions? Or an airline safety video could be funny? You’d probably be like, ‘some Very Important Topics are too serious or technical to worry ab…’ (no you wouldn’t, because you’re cool). But anyway, I’d say, of course they can!

Think about the launch of the first Apple iPod – emotive, visual, completely captivating. Had that new product been released via PowerPoint to some tech journos, to be written about in the papers, it may not have had quite the impact.

And how about this, from Air New Zealand, which is 100% legitimately their airline safety video. I think it’s fairly new, and replaces their earlier ‘Lord of the Rings’ version. Whoever said Virgin was the cool airline has not seen this…

So with 30 days (okay 29 as this has taken me ages to write) until my presentation, I now have a pretty good idea about where to begin. Preparation, delivery and a bit of pizzazz (because nothing is too serious for some pizzazz). I better get on it.

Any advice? What do you think makes a good presentation?

Thought Leader(s): Grant Butler, Ben Richards

Source(s): Butler, G (2012) ‘Think, Write, Grow – how to become a thought leader and build your business by creating exceptional articles, blogs, speeches, books and more’, Wiley. 


One thought on “From Boring to Barack in 30 days

  1. Pingback: Step Aside PowerPoint, Prezi for Prezident | thingsilearnt

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