Are You A Selfish Presenter?

In an effort to improve my slide design skills, this week I began reading The Non-Designer’s Presentation Book. And there are lots of good tips for slide design.

This paragraph made me sit up a bit straighter:

I, too, love to jump right in to the software, but I have to admit that by doing so I get bogged down in what the presentation looks like much too soon and end up redesigning the whole thing several times as I add more content. So I’ve learned to control myself and get organized first.

A design expert suggesting that before you open PowerPoint or Keynote, you gather your thoughts – I loved it… and then I read the suggested ways to organize your thoughts. Oy.

Putting together an outline before throwing together your slides is a good idea, but if that’s where you’re starting, I’d call you a very selfish presenter. You’ll certainly have a more coherent and organized presentation, but have you asked what your audience needs to get from your presentation? Here are two questions to ask yourself before outlining your presentation (and before opening PowerPoint or Keynote):

Question #1: What should your audience be able to do better or differently once your session is done?

What happens if you don’t ask this question?

If your audience isn’t able to do something better or differently as a result of your session, then why are you (or they) there in the first place? You may be the foremost expert in your field, but if you simply spout your expertise at the audience, how do you know whether they can do anything better or differently, or whether they were daydreaming of other things as you lectured?

Question #2: How will your audience best learn your content?

What happens if you don’t ask this question?

If your audience isn’t able to absorb your content, then why are you (or they) there? Some people process verbal presentations more easily. Some people need visual aids (like well-crafted slides). Some people could benefit from handouts on which to take detailed notes. Many people find job aids extremely useful once the presentation has ended and they return to their offices.

Yes, thinking about these things takes a little more work. But failure to ask these two questions when you’re mulling over your next presentation can truly lead to a self-centered presentation from which your audience may not gain anything.

Looking for a way to organize your thoughts around your next presentation?  You might like these related blog posts:

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2 thoughts on “Are You A Selfish Presenter?

  1. Spot on, Brian. I think you hit the nail on the head–you have to do some kind of assessment (even if the best you can do is an educated guess!) before thinking about design.

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