All of us have heard the saying: Tell the audience three times: Tell them what you are going to tell them; tell them; and tell them what you said. I think this is Presentation for Dummies – dummies who make presentations as if they were presenting to dummies. I prefer to treat my audience as if they are intelligent and not bore them with repetition. I am not selling soap or toothpaste to the unknown and unseen masses. If I present, which I prefer not to do, I have a small audience whom I know either in person or by reputation. Canned presentations that follow a script and repeat three times are considered insulting to this group. When I am on the receiving end of the presentation, which is more often than I would like, I quickly detect the patterns and find my mind wandering and my attention fading.
First of all, I hate presentations, especially when the presenter feels the need to stick to a script. This just shows that I am being treated like every other customer and the presenter has no insight into my problem. However, I will admit that there are times when we must use presentations, such as in oral presentations and product demos. So, let me suggest a better way to carry out the “three repetition” rule:
1. Define the problem in a way that they customer can relate and that aligns with our solution. Show the listener where your solution will fit into the problem.
2. Describe your solution in terms of the problem you laid out in step 1. This one-to-one mapping will make it easier to see how you have considered his/her specific situation and not just cast him/her into a standard cookie cutter set.
3. Summarize with a clear statement of benefits to the listener. These could be monetary, risk reduction, time savings, labor savings, etc. Make sure you clearly describe what feature that you discussed in step 2 generates the benefit and specific impacts on the listener.
If you have to present, tailor your presentation for the audience and purpose at hand. I know many of your work for companies that dictate the presentation format and style. I feel sorry for you, but I have been there as well. Work the best you can within the structure that is imposed by your company. Even though you may not be able to control the presentation slides, you can control how you interact with your audience. So, PLEASE, do not read your slide and tell you message in your voice.
I have experienced some of the “worst presentations” that resulted in awards and the “smoothest and well prepared” presentations that did not make the cut. Do not confuse the style of the presentation with your message. The audience sees you and relates to you, not to your slides. You send the message – please make it personal.
Please share your presentation stories. I would like to hear them and I am sure other readers will find them interesting as well.