By: Erika Turan
A good friend of mine recently presented at a global conference. It was a great opportunity for him to share his experience working at a Fortune 500 company for more than two decades. However, when he asked me to offer feedback on his presentation, I was struck by how his message was obscured by corporate lingo and cumbersome slides. It hid an otherwise great story, and I told him so.
It’s easy to fall into the traditional presenter role: stand formally, deliver formally, use slides with bullet points (or even slides so full of data that you tell your audience, “I know this is too tiny for you to read, but this is what it says…”). It’s safe, staid and oftentimes totally forgettable.
So, here are some tips to take your presentation from ho-hum to the likes of a TED Talk. (There’s a reason they’re so popular, you know.)
- Drop the corporate jargon. Review your slides, practice your presentation and be ruthless. Corporate jargon is like too many layers of lace and tulle on a beautiful dress: it obscures, confuses and it’s unnecessary. Sometimes, it’s just a crutch for “let me use these common business-speak buzz words to hide the fact that I’m not entirely comfortable with the subject matter.” So, look for and scrap over-used, under-descriptive words and phrases like:
- Hit the ground running
- Move the needle
- Drill down
- Do more with less
- Best practice
- Game changer
…the list is long, and if you’re unsure if you’re using overused jargon, here’s a great infographic.
- Connect on a personal level. One reason TED Talks have resonated with millions of people on-line and in-person is because the presenter is often telling a story, and usually it’s a personal one. Drawing from your own experience makes for a much richer, more personal and more memorable presentation.
- Ditch the acronyms. Every company and industry has them, but unless they’re commonly known, avoid sprinkling your presentation with them. You’ll only lose your audience. Same thing goes for operational facets of your own company. One part of my friend’s presentation mentioned an internal group at his company, and he just assumed his audience would know the group’s function based on its name. Be sure to give a brief explanation of the “External Relations Partnership Business Group” (or whatever thing it is you’ve included in your presentation that people might not be familiar with).
- Make yourself a little uncomfortable with the PowerPoint. We’re all so very guilty of this sin: relying on our PowerPoint to have all the words and points we want to make. Crowding slides with anywhere from 20 to 200 words. Bullet point after bullet point. It makes it easier to present when you’ve essentially replaced your presenter’s notes with a big ‘ol slideshow, but it also means your audience is trying to read while you’re talking, and they can’t do both at the same time, so you lose them. Their minds start to wander, they check their phones… make yourself a little uncomfortable: don’t rely on the PowerPoint to tell you exactly what to say. Convert your slides to powerful graphics, photos or three key words, then make yourself the focus of attention. After all, you’re the one with the knowledge. Here’s a great example of how to make PowerPoint much more effective.
- Be excited. Bring energy and passion to your presentation. “Excitement” might not be the right emotion for your subject matter, but bring curiosity. Bring interest in what you’re presenting. It’s contagious to those watching.
Hope these tips help you nail your next presentation. I can’t wait to see you become a viral TED Talk sensation.