I have been enjoying Frank Luntz’s excellent book Words That Work. His subtitle for the book is: It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear. Which immediately begged the question in my mind – “What if they are not listening at all?”
This is a particular problem in a presentation setting. With so many adherents to the:

HEADLINE
  • Bullet
  • Bullet
  • Bullet
  • Bullet

HEADLINE

  • Bullet
  • Bullet
  • Chart!

school of presentation, I wonder how many people are truly listening any more?

I know I am certainly guilty of this. If a presenter starts by telling me that he/she will be making the presentation available to the audience, I give him/her my polite attention and if, three slides in, that presenter is merely reading his/her slides off the screen at me, a large switch in my brain gets thrown to the ‘Off’ position.
I don’t mean anything by it. I’m not trying to be rude. Indeed, I would argue that the person displaying a total lack of concern for the feelings of others is the presenter. So why should I participate in the process? If the topic is of genuine interest to me, I will have a written record of everything the presenter said when he/she distributes the PowerPoint after the talk. In the meantime, I can hit the off switch and go to my happy place …

Think of it this way – it is your duty as a presenter to be relevant. Why else should people take time out of their busy day to come and listen to you? Please don’t read your slides out at me. I don’t care if you are a subject matter expert, reading aloud utterly devalues what you have to say and greatly lowers my opinion of both you and your topic.

In the third of my series about the practical aspects of developing and delivering presentations, I’ve dropped some of my thoughts on moving past the Headline / Bullet / Bullet / Bullet model into a quick little slideshow. See if these strike a chord with you …

[RSS readers may need to click through to see the file. It’s a Slideshare thing – sorry]

Here’s another little thought. In a moment, I want you to close your eyes and vividly recall some things. First, I want you to remember your front door. In detail. The keyhole, the handle, the colour, the texture, any blemishes it may have on it. Its weight as you push it open. The sound it makes as you close it behind you. Close your eyes for a few moments and try that.
Second, I want you to remember something from your schooldays – your first day in primary or secondary school, or maybe a particular class that you loved. Think of the classroom. The blackboard. Your teacher. Your chair. Your table-top. Your schoolbag. The people who sat near you. Once again, close your eyes for a couple of moments and retrieve those details.

Question – did you do all that visually or verbally? Did any bullet points feature in your memory? When human beings lock stuff down into long-term storage in their memory they do it visually. V-i-s-u-a-l-l-y. So if you are the King or Queen of Bulletpointland, it really would be a good idea to re-examine your presentation style because, quite apart from rendering your audience catatonic with your infinite stream of bullets, you are ensuring that little or nothing of what you say is going to be remembered.

As ever, comments, additions [yes please!], corrections, counter-arguments and insults will all be gratefully welcomed.

Related posts:
PowerPoint – The Appalling Presenter Manifesto
PowerPoint 1 – Presenting with visuals
PowerPoint 2 – The planning stage