E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

July 10, 2012

Productivity Tips on Presentations: Inform, Inspire and Motivate

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo's Surroundings in the SpringOne of the things that I am enjoying the most about the impact of the Social Web in our businesses is its innate ability to keep humanising the corporate world and be capable of getting away with it with little effort. The interesting thing though is that act of humanising our corporate interactions is happening all over the place, so it’s kind of difficult to find an area that may not have been touched by it so far and for a good purpose: that one of improving the way we collaborate and share our knowledge across to get work done more effectively and efficiently, whether internally or externally. One of those areas that I have been looking into quite a bit to see its own transformation from its current mindset is that one of delivering presentations, where it looks like we are finally bringing back that human aspect of conversing with people while sharing messages across, instead of boring them with Death by Powerpoint.

And that’s exactly the topic of today’s blog post. Yes, I know, another article on the topic of Productivity, although this time around with a slightly different flavour: how can we improve the way we deliver messages through presentations? Over the course of the years I have given hundreds, if not thousands, of presentations across the board and on multiple various different topics related to Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Learning, Online Communities and Community Building and over the last few years on Social Business and the Social Enterprise. And if there is anything that has become one of my major pet peeves from the corporate world is that obsession we seem to have developed over time with regards to abusing slideware in order to get our messages across. Even more to the point where not having any slides has started to feel like you are standing in front of a large audience naked, or, even worse!, you are giving the impression to those in the room that you haven’t done your (home)work appropriately and therefore have been slacking off. 

Seriously. That’s a huge problem. Our problem. Whatever happened to all of those meetings, events, presentations, seminars, workshops, etc. etc. that we use to conduct way before PowerPoint became the standard that killed the thrill of just having a conversation with your audience about a topic that you both, hopefully, are passionate about? Where did we go wrong? And, more specifically, in the today’s world of living social why do we still keep tolerating that presentation overkill where we just treat our audiences like corporate drones with an ability to listen, if we are lucky, but hardly ever interact, because in most cases rather we have lost the audience along the way, or we just run out of time by covering far too much ground. Again, seriously, where did we go wrong? 

Most importantly though. What can we do to address and fix this current issue that’s managing, rather successfully!, to destroy our capability of holding and hosting conversations with other fellow humans? Shouldn’t we be aiming at addressing that productivity overkill and do something about it? I remember how a couple of months ago I challenged, over at Google Plus, that obsession we all seem to have with PowerPoint for presentations and right then I mentioned how for a good number of different events I had from that date till today I would be challenging the status quo of delivering presentations and will be conducting a little bit of an experiment: in every single event where I would be a speaker from there onwards I would try my outmost to not use any slides and, instead, just deliver a speech where I could interact with the audience, learning just as much from them, as they may learn from me. And see how it would go … 

Well, a few weeks have now gone by and what can I say? I survived. I am alive and kicking! In fact, I had a total blast with that experiment, to the point where nowadays I am much more inclined towards not doing any kind of slideware and instead just delivering a speech where I can sense, experience and fully live that people-to-people conversation that I have been missing all along. It was a bit rough at the beginning, to be honest, more than anything else because of that feeling of being naked in front of large audiences with nothing covering my back, but then again, after the initial urge to shake off that addiction to slides things went pretty smooth. In fact, they taught me something that I did not expect learning while delivering those presentations and that I am enjoying it quite a bit now: get a sense of the room and the audience you are going to present to, adapt to their needs, deliver the speech, keep it short, and spend time on conversing with people. Be ready to learn from them, just as much as they will from you, if not even more, because there is a great chance that will be happening more often than not. Believe me, you will have a superb time along the way. 

In order to make that transition relatively easy, allow me to share a couple of tips, and helpful resources, though, realising there are probably many many more out there already!, that may be worth while looking into as well to help you shake off that addiction towards relying far too heavily on slides for your presentations and start mastering your own self in front of an audience to share and deliver across that passion and insight you have for that particular topic. Starting off with my good friend Shel Israel and his recent book “Stellar Presentations: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Giving Great Talks” that will surely help you get off to a good start on identifying the power of storytelling when being in front of an audience, whether small or a large one. Take a look into this teaser post for what you can expect from the book itself. Shel’s main key point, amongst several others, is how we are social animals, after all, thriving to hear, and learn!, from good stories and, in most cases, the realisation is that we probably don’t need slides for that. And I surely would agree with him on that one! Highly recommended!

The second resource is this absolutely delightful short video clip from Susan Weinschenk, author of  “100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People“, that lasts for a little bit over 6 minutes, under the suggestive title of “5 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know about People” and which, pretty much, will shake up the way you have been looking into presentations, not only as a speaker, but also as part of an audience. Remember when I mentioned above that People-to-People flavour of conversing and sharing your knowledge, insight and experience across with others, just like they would with you? Well, that’s exactly what you would be able to find in this video gem that I strongly encourage you all to go through it and, as a teaser, here you have got the listing of those 5 things that would help you redefine the way you deliver presentations and how you engage further with the audience as part of the conversation: 

  • The 20 minute rule
  • Multiple sensory channels compete
  • What you say is only part of your message
  • If you want people to act, you have to call them to action
  • People imitate your emotions and feel your feelings

5 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People from Weinschenk on Vimeo.


Susan introduces the short video clip mentioning how presentations should be all about informing, inspiring and motivating your audience into achieving something and after having conducted myself for the last couple of months that experiment of breaking loose from Death by Powerpoint and instead rely more on powerful stories, your own passion for the topic and the conversations you can hold with the audience I couldn’t have agreed more with her on those points. Even more so, every single presentation that I do nowadays starts with the same mantra: inform, inspire, motivate. No slides.

And see if I can pull it off altogether… And so far doing pretty well. How about you? Making any good progress as well? I surely hope so! Remember, we are all humans after all and we all live off conversations, not PowerPoint slides. We may need to start acting accordingly, don’t you think? 😉

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