The age-old question.

Well, it’s not the knowledge level of the presenter. We’ve all been bored to tears by subject matter experts who could probably be cited for breaches of the Geneva Conventions, so awful are their presentations.

It’s not shiny slides. Great graphic design doth not a great presentation make.

It’s not a fluent, personable presenter who tells a great story – too many times this deteriorates into a triumph of style over substance and you walk away having enjoyed the honeyed words, but feeling vaguely dissatisfied because there wasn’t really any point to the presentation.

So what is ingredient X? What makes for an effective presentation? How about starting with this?

If any of the four C’s are out of kilter, your presentation won’t achieve what you want, or need, it to achieve:

“I see where you’re going with this Robo. I understand you perfectly and I care passionately about what you’ve just said. But I don’t agree with you, therefore I am going to take action different from that you were hoping for.”

“I see where you’re going with this Robo. I understand you perfectly and I couldn’t agree more with you. But I don’t give a damn about your topic, I don’t see what’s in it for me and therefore, I’m taking no action at all …”

And so on. Deep sigh. And the real problem with feedback like that above is that you never get feedback like that above. Those are the unspoken thoughts of your audience. How do you crack this?

The end-all, be-all of this is that presentations that are going to be effective require hard work. Lots of hard work. What continues to amaze me is that when I get into the nitty-gritty of this in training sessions 100 percent of corporate audiences tell me that they (a) wouldn’t be allowed present outside of the current bullet-pointy model and (b) wouldn’t have the time to design and deliver what they recognise to be an effective presentation. Both of which, to my ears, are variations on the theme of, “I don’t really give a damn about my audience.”

The only organisations where I have cracked this are when we have been called in at the senior-most level and have had our ideas embraced by the CEO. Suddenly his/her tolerance for bullet-pointy presentations evaporates and his/her Officers and Heads of Function are forced to dramatically revisit their approach to presenting. The change I consistently observe when this happens is … a lot less presentations. When you have to be good and when your audience is highly critical, highly vocal, and consists of your boss, you tend to pick your battles. Same number of meetings, but far fewer presentations and those that are made are of a much higher quality.

Thoughts?

Related posts:
Placing a value on your audience’s time
A stunning presenter