I’m a PowerPoint lover. I admit it. I’m not ashamed of it. I cut my teeth on PowerPoint when it first came out because I worked for an SVP of Marketing who LOVED IT. So, HE decided I was going to become an expert at developing presentations that made him look great. Though I could develop presentations that would showcase the story he was trying to tell in a way that made it visually impactful and appealing, what I couldn’t do is make him a good presenter. He did that all by himself. I’m here to tell you… he was outstanding (not that I would ever tell him that). By watching him, I learned how someone can tell a story with slides behind them in complete synchronicity while causing the audience (myself included… and I’m the one who designed it in the first place) to remain riveted, attentive, interested, and invested.
Here’s just one example: While giving a presentation on marketing warfare, he put a General Patton military cap on and literally paced the stage in the same fashion George C. Scott did in the movie Patton. Using a pointer stick to point to the screen for key strategic points in various slides and talking in calm tones that crescendoed to yelling, he then motioned me at the perfect time (right when the Patton-like speech was getting old) to start handing out books to every single attendee. And then he closed with a quote from Yoda. Yes… Yoda, from Star Wars.
I share all of this because it’s a been a long time since I watched someone present where I felt compelled to pay attention for fear that I might miss something of interest. Instead, after all these years of training leaders and educators how to present effectively while we design their presentations in awesome fashion, I found that I started keeping a list of all the things that presenters were doing when I noticed folks in their audience started checking their social media accounts. I’m not making a word of this up… these are the things I saw on the screen or from the person presenting that drove their audience to look down at their phones:
1. They started talking about themselves.
2. They had a slide up that was a chart or graph no one in the audience could see clearly… or better yet… understand.
3. They had no visuals. Photos, color, items of interest, breaker slides, one-word slides, video vignettes, etc.
4. They read each bullet point out loud verbatim (Thanks, friend… I could have saved the trip. Really didn’t need you to read to me as I left that need in the second grade with Mrs. Quick).
5. They wore a suit or outfit that caused the audience to look away because folks couldn’t bear to look at it throughout the 40 slides that were yet to come.
6. They kept looking back at the screen… no eye contact with the audience.
7. They didn’t know the subject matter. You think I make this stuff up, but I’m telling you…
8. They had a glaring error. Once the audience spots an error, they can’t stop judging the errors, which means they might as well be on their phone… scrolling through foodie accounts on Instagram, pondering what they are going to have for dinner.
9. They have slides with a white background and yellow font for text. Ummmmmm… we can’t see it, which means we can’t read it.
10. They were monotone. Presenters need to understand that the “voice” is often as important as the information on the screen.
11. The information doesn’t have a start, a middle and an END. Just rambling for the sake of rambling sends folks to the big FB.
12. The same slide stays up too long. I had a buddy tell me one time that he just leaves one slide up the whole time and tells the information because he doesn’t want people paying attention to the slides. I said go to the comedy club and get a job as a standup comedian. Then people will feel like they got their monies worth. Tell them to come and hear an expert talk? They want slides to refer to.
13. They started name dropping. LOL… I had to choke back a laugh when I saw the guy next to me roll his eyes and pull out his phone to start scrolling through match.com after a presenter yattered on about famous person #1 and #2 came to him for advice on something. It’s one of my favorite memories.
14. They didn’t take the clue when the “time person” started giving the presenter the sign for you have 5 minutes left, 4, 3, 2, 1… and then didn’t notice (or care) when he went 20 minutes over the allotted time. Instagram got a ton of “likes” on that day.
15. They had bullet points that were 3 sentences long. I could have read it faster on my own and headed home already.
16. They attempted to make a joke… where a joke was not needed, wanted or appropriate.
17. They were fake. Fake is really, really, really bad nowadays, my friends. You can’t give authenticity to a presentation? Your better to stay home with the second-grade teacher reading to each other.
I’ll leave it at that… for now. Instead, in my next blog post, I’ll outline the things that will make folks look up from the phone.