A powerful presentation is our most critical tool in an organisation today. We use them to build buy-in with our team members, to communicate our big ideas and connect with employees to inspire them into action. Yet the majority of the time our presentations are bland, boring and the only impact they have is to get staff running for the doors (if they haven’t already fallen asleep in their seats).
Our important and urgent messages are hidden in badly designed slides, complex paragraphs of information, and screens of bullet points that have no clear purpose or call to action. While you may not be able to magically transform a poor presentation into a powerful one overnight, to truly educate or inspire your team to leap up in their seats with glee (not to flee) then here are some small changes you can start with.
Pick one key message
When you present, pick one clear message to structure your presentation around and then repeat that message throughout to make the message stick. It is that one idea, purpose or point that is the glue that holds everything else together. Once there is a clear bumper sticker message then it’s easy to figure out what the key take-home message is for the audience and what it is they should do as a result. Anything else in the presentation that does not align to this message should be deleted, stripped out and banished. What gets left out of a presentation is more important than what goes in.
Make it emotional
I know, I know, in business we’ve traditionally been taught to do the opposite, to just present the facts. But these days, the best presenters are those who can use a combination of facts and emotion to explain a future place that everyone in the organisation wants to work towards.
Use images that match your words and make your team feel an emotion, whether that’s excited, happy, angry or sad. I’ve seen clients use video in place of static images to make their message more memorable. Remember, people buy from people they like. We buy based on how we feel about something – or someone. It’s your passion and authenticity that will help you to bond with your team, so they feel like you’re all in this together, instead of you just barking out orders of what they need to do. That emotional pull is what will impact your team’s decision to ‘buy in’ to what you are saying.
It’s important not to try and hide or cover up negative information or numbers. Nothing turns your team off more than when you lie about your financial position. You need to treat your team as equals. Provide your employees with confidence going forward. Be future focused and take ownership of the problem. Explain the steps you’re implementing to turn things around to minimise loss, and how your team can help with this too.
You need to be open and honest about where you are at right now, and what is involved in the journey to get where you are going – together. Leave them inspired, not deflated like it is their fault. Bad slides and presentations are used like a security blanket to hide things under. So start with small changes to your content and attitude, and stop hiding and hoping for the best. Your team will respect you for that.
Emma Bannister is the founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC’s largest presentation communication agency.