Best Practices

Loudoun SourceLink: Rule #1: Don't Be Boring

Published Apr 07, 2015
by: Lois Kirkpatrick

great presentations

Ever been to a Power Point event? They have different names - Lightning Talks, Ignite, 24x7, Pecha Kucha - but the idea is the same. Speakers give Power Point presentations, with a hard stop at five to seven minutes, using a limited number of slides. The format forces speakers to get to the point, and to be entertaining. It's an excellent format to use any time you give a talk, especially if you're presenting to potential clients or investors. Here are five ways to make your presentations more powerful. 

1.  Don't be boring. Let your passion show. You're so passionate about your business, you've invested most of your time, money and energy into making it succeed. Enthusiasm is contagious; let yours do the selling for you.

2.  Don't make an eye chart. Don't ever put so many words on the screen that you'll have to tell your audience, "You probably can't read this." The best Power Point presentations use about seven words per line, and only three lines per slide.

3.  Say it with pictures. Think about Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update." There's a photo on the screen behind the news anchor showing what he or she is talking about. They never copy and paste the anchor's script onto the screen. Never put your script on slides and read it to the audience.

4.  Keep it short. The famous WWII speech that that says, "December 7, 1941; a day that will live in infamy" is only six minutes long. The Gettysburg Address is only three minutes long. Even that rousing speech given by a fictional president in the movie "Independence Day" is only two minutes long. Make your point powerfully and end your presentation.

5.  Leave a separate handout. Don't use your Power Point as a briefing sheet and hand out printed copies of it before you speak. This wastes everyone's time. Your audience will read ahead instead of listening to you, and then they'll pull out their smart phones and tune you out. Put your main points in a one-pager, and only hand it out at the end of your talk. 

If you want to see some of these principles in action, watch TED Talks. Here are three by marketing guru Seth Godin.

Photo courtesy Microsoft clip art

Content contributed by Lois Kirkpatrick of Loudoun SourceLink, a proud affiliate of U.S. SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.