A great presentation, done in under 20 slides

I recently produced a keynote presentation for a perfect client. A perfect client because he gave me a lot of his time when I needed it. Perfect because we are in absolute sync with the vision for the presentations goal and message. The presentation is for his national sales meeting. It is the final message that closes out several days of input, information and bonding. It is the send off message meant to fire them up and send them out with renewed energy and a new vision for the future.

I was determined to provide him with everything he needed to inspire his audience and do this in 20 slides or less — because more damned slides does not a good presentation make. In my experience, great presentations have four elements:

  1. Must have an element of surprise
  2. Must involve the audience
  3. Must be simple (the Gettysburg address was only 272 words and was delivered in under 3 minutes),and most importantly
  4. It must be something you believe in deeply.

Your mission is to take the audience from where they currently are, to where you want them to be. And you can’t just tell them, you must guide them with gentle and thoughtful persuasion. It is also about listening… it isn’t about having the gift of gab or the gift of great story-telling (although every engaging presentation incorporates a great story), interestingly, it is about being a good listener.

People are making important presentations every day. They may be marriage proposal presentations, presentations to a prospective client, or a presentation to persuade an entire sales organization as in my clients case. In every scenario, it is imperative to find out what the audience really wants or needs to hear. Without this, you risk lecturing as opposed to communicating.

As you develop your presentation, apply the idea of seeing yourself and hearing what you are saying. Do this from the point of view of each and every member of your audience. I have found that an effective way to start a presentation is by posing a question or an intriguing and memorable thought and coming back to that repeatedly. This helps imprint the idea in their minds after they leave. It is amazing how one – visually depicted –  intriguing thought will help an audience conjure up quickly the essence of your presentation long after they have left the room.

In the case of our presentation, we posed the thought, “We brew a great cup of coffee.” Our opening slide featured that headline with the image of a great steaming cup of coffee. The message was around taking service to a whole new level, not unlike what Starbucks has done to brewing coffee…it ain’t just a cup of coffee anymore, it is theater, complete with sounds an interesting visual experience and perpetual interaction with the Starbucks brand.

And like a good book or movie, a good presentation has to have a clear start, a middle and an end. The organization of the material that makes up the bulk of the presentation is a whole entire additional blog that will have to remain as part II. Because, alas, I’ve reached my 272 words.

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