Effective Business Communication – Presentations

by James on January 5, 2009

Golden Gate BridgeEffective presentations, presentations that sell have three things in common:

  1. A clear over arching message or Thread of Steel;
  2. Slides that make one point, that answer the “So What?” question; and
  3. An understanding that the audience is buying what you are selling not the PowerPoint presentation.

Use these tips to help you write your next presentation and you will find it flows better, and has more impact. You will also find it takes less time to write.

Thread of Steel

The Thread of Steel is the single unifying idea that an effective presentation is built around. It’s the comment you want uttered in the elevator after the meeting. It’s what you are selling.

Seems like a simple idea but I challenge you to look at past decks and write down the Thread of Steel. Or, the next time you attend a presentation, try to write down the Thread of Steel after the meeting. It’s harder than you think. That’s because it wasn’t determined prior to writing the deck. It’s also why 98% of PowerPoint presentations are crap.

What’s Your Point?

Have you been in a meeting where each slide was more obscure than the previous slide? I’m sure you have.

As you craft each slide consider whether or not it adds to the Thread of Steel. If it’s superfluous, get rid of it. Is there more than one message on the slide? If there are, you have a problem. One point per slide that supports the Thread of Steel. It’s all you need and it’s all your audience will remember.

People Buy People

A PowerPoint presentation is a visual aid. When a person presents the content and uses PowerPoint to support their ideas, the authority rests with the person making the presentation. When all the information is on the slide, the authority transfers to the slide. And who wants to work with a PowerPoint slide?

Hip Shots

  • Write the Thread of Steel before you write the deck. Write it out in huge letters and pin it to the wall. Write it on a Post-it Note and stick it to your monitor. Refer to it often.
  • One point per slide. As you write ask yourself, “So what is the point being made by this slide.” Not “the points,” just the single point you want to make at this stage of the presentation. Use Notes and the appendix to store/record the details.
  • Use visuals to make your point. Visuals are more memorable because they allow you to tell stories. A wall of words or numbers is hard to get excited about, hard to remember, and can distract the audience from what you are really selling, your ideas.
  • Keep it short. One word is perfect. One picture is better. Never use more than 10 slides to make your argument. This is harder than it seems but the result will be a tighter more focused presentation.
  • Present with passion.

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