There are many schools of thought on what makes a great presentation. And there are further nuances in what makes a presentation work depending on the venue, the topic, the audience, etc.
Here’s the thing.
I’ve watched a ton of presentations and given a ton of presentations. I’ve seen and delivered the good, the bad, and the oh-so- PowerPoint ugly. I’ve also spent a lot of these sessions observing the audience’s response and follow-through.
And I’ve learned A LOT about what works and what doesn’t.
So, I’ve distilled what I’ve learned about the most fundamental ingredients for an awesomesauce presentation into this here podcast episode. I’m not saying these are the only important elements, but I will say that when I pay close attention to them, I’m always happy with the outcome of my data presentations.
And I know that if you focus on them too, you will rock your next analytics readout, sales pitch, conference keynote, whatever!
Are you ready to take your data presentations to the next level with me? Alright, let’s do this thing!
In This Episode, You’ll Learn:
- How to to kick off your presentation on the right foot
- Approaches for storytelling and content structure
- Why you need to learn better chart and slide design
- How to deliver a conclusion that leaves them wanting more
- And more great tips!
People, Resources and Links Mentioned In This Episode:
- Brain Rules by John Medina
- The ethos3 Podcast with Scott Schwertly
- Presenting by Boxes Method by Olivia Mitchell
- My Data Visualization webinar with the Digital Analytics Association
- How Typeface Influences The Way We Read and Think by Chris Gayomali
- My presentation timer tool for keeping your timing in check
- Stand and Deliver: How to Become a Masterful Communicator and Public Speaker by Dale Carnegie
Upgrade Tip of the Day:
- Did you know you can replace a font in PowerPoint? When you want to replace all instances of a font, just go Home Ribbon → Replace → Replace Fonts. No more hunting down all the instances of that old, stinky font!
Your Next Steps:
- Please leave a rating or review in iTunes if you like what you hear.
- Let me know in the comments about questions you’d like answered and experts you want interviewed. I want to make the show as useful to you as possible, so the more I know, the better!
Thanks for Listening!
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Click here to view the transcript for this episode.
Now since I started on this path on as a coach, I’ve realized that presentation skills isn’t exactly top of mind for a lot of analysts. Presenting seems to be sometimes regarded as a necessary evil in the suite of our responsibilities. And it’s something you have to just get through so you can get back to your desk and continue your number crunching. And I know that data visualization seems to be a much harder buzz word in analytics than presentation but I can’t express how important it is to master both of them because they really worked together. And they’re extremely interrelated and really the most gorgeous, beautiful data visualizations in the world won’t do a thing for you if you don’t know how to showcase them and deliver them to your audience especially in a live setting. And that’s what this episode is all about.
So let’s talk about why this is important. I don’t know that all digital analysts and marketers really grasp how important where all presentation place in their careers. Executives, Sales people, Industry Consultants they all understand its importance because the outcome from those presentations is directly linked to their financial success and their personal brand which also links back to their financial success.
But I don’t think this link is always as clear for practitioners. And it’s not necessarily their fault. It’s just the nature of their role. And I’ve read ton of books on data presentations. So I have a good grasp of the concepts and tactics that are recommended.
But maybe more importantly I’ve watched a lot of presentations and I’ve given a lot of presentations. So I’ve been very careful to observe the presenter, the content and the audience reactions and both of those settings to really gauge what works and what doesn’t. The challenge here is that some of these areas are important for larger venue presentations like industry conferences and summits. And if you presented those definitely take note, there’s going to be a lot of good stuff for you here too. But for more intimate presentations, there’s a little bit more wiggle room on some of those techniques but many of the concepts was still apply and all note where I make those distinctions. So let’s do this.Ingredient #1: An engaging introduction
Okay. We’re going to start with the very first ingredient because it’s the very first thing that kicks off a presentation, and that is an engaging introduction. During my journey to what I call Presentation Enlightenment, I read an incredible book called Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina. And he is a leader in studying the human brain.
It gave a pretty crazy statistic about our attention span. As a presenter you have less than eight seconds to maintain the attention of your audience. Eight seconds. That’s it. You actually have a longer window of opportunity with your goldfish. And with mobile everywhere always that window is getting shorter and shorter everyday. I don’t know about you but more than months I’ve watched my stakeholders picked up their phones to check email during my presentations. And that’s a really clear sign that you’re losing them and it just makes me crazy. So what can you do to prevent this out of the gate? The answer depends a little bit on the format of your presentation. If it’s a small internal meeting, the most important thing is to start with is a clear solid voice at the beginning, that portraits confidence. Even if you’re not feeling so much on the inside. Trust me. You know, a bright enthusiastic tone will totally draw your audience in and invite them to participate in your dialog. And it will get them excited about what you’re about to talk about. Sometimes I think we tend to shrink into a bit of a shell and that can be very obvious to the audience and causes them to tune out a little bit. I’ll also make sure to immediately state the objective of the meeting. Hopefully there is one, and I say that because really often I see meeting invitations sent out without an objective or an agenda or even a really clear description. I mean how many times have we rushed to a meeting and realized we have no idea what it’s about because the meeting title was “Meeting about blank campaign”.
You know, this is not an acceptable way to set a tone for a meeting. It should be very clear at the start of that meeting what the goal of that next 60 minutes is. So I can also tell you, you know, what’s a big turn off for a large format audience is a really boring bio about yourself or a long winded sales speech. You might as well have slipped a roofie to your audience because you’ve instantly made a presentation that’s about you and not about them, the audience. And what you can do to solve their problems. And you’ll just lose them right away.
So for a larger format presentation, I usually kick it off with a bold statement. Like what I did today, a statistic. Or a question for the audience that helps pull them right in or story, which you know, storytelling. It’s when everyone’s talking about. You know, personal stories showing how you’ve gone through the exact same challenge you’ll be presenting about is probably the best way to lock your audience attention and instantly create a relationship with them. You know, when the audience can relate to you, they can more easily internalize your information and see you as a subject matter expert.
Common ground is so important during every presentation. But in both scenarios whether it’s small & intimate or large format, I highly recommend stating your main conclusion and recommendation upfront. That might sound a little counter-intuitive but you’ll instantly set the tone about what you want the audience to do. And it will just set the tone for the entire rest of the presentation. And it will help lock that in for them when you restate that at the end. This model will just transform the productive, the productivity, and the effectiveness of your meetings. I’ve watched it happened. Please give this a try. Let me know how it goes because I think you’ll be amazed.
Ingredient #2: Clearly structured & well-supported content
Okay. So Ingredient number 2 is clearly structured and well supported content. One of my favourite podcast is the ethos3 Podcast with Scott Schwertly. ethos3 is a presentation design firm and they produce incredible work for some of the world’s biggest brands. And they also produced tons of insightful content for anyone who presents information.
And on episode 9, he describes three storytelling approaches that work incredibly well for presentations. And I want to talk about one of them in particular for analytics or marketing presentations. This is how I like to think of storytelling when I start thinking about how I’ll present. And this will going to sound a little weird but sometimes I asked myself, how would JJ Abrams present this data in a movie, or Steven Spielberg. Let that sink in. I’m not suggesting that you put flaming asteroids and crazy aliens in your presentation, although that could actually be pretty entertaining. There is a reason why those kinds of movies last with us and make a lasting impression throughout the ages and it’s because they follow one very effective storytelling model. And that is the hero and villain. And this can be translated down to even the most intimate presentation as hard as that may sound.
So hero and villain is the most common storytelling approach in books, movies and memorable presentations. The approach is simple but it’s effective every time. A hero is someone who may or may not even think of themselves as a hero yet. You know, think about Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker. They’re challenged to use all of their skills and knowledge to defeat the villain. In this case the Nazis or the Dark Side. And one of the reasons this works in presentation is that an audience can channel themselves into these heroes and they relate to their flaws and they feel bolstered by their victories.
So maybe you’re wondering, how do I apply hero-villain approach to my small internal meeting with my managers and directors. And it’s very simple. You might be tempted to think that in this case you are the hero but you are actually not. You are the narrator, kind of like Morgan Freeman in most of the best movies out there. You know, you’re only telling the story. The hero is actually the audience and the villain is the problem that you are collectively trying to solve.
Maybe the villain is a change to your website that caused a drop in conversion rate or an advertising campaign that didn’t do as well as you thought it would. But the point is that when you place your audience in a position of empowerment to be the hero and vanquish the villain by, you know, making decisions that are based on your data. That is when you’ve created a winning hero-villain analytics presentation. And you’ve told the story of their victory, essentially. Or you’re guiding them to decisions to claim their victory.
So that’s one approach that you could use. If that’s too challenging, the most basic structure I recommend for presentations for internal marketing and analytics is something called the Presenting by Boxes method and that’s by Olivia Mitchell. And you can find a link to that e-book that I got a while back, and it’s on my show note’s page which will be leapica.com/002.
So it goes something like this. At the top you have your intro statement, it’s the compelling story, a fact or quote. Underneath that you have your key message it’s your key statement of the main idea you want to convey and possibly the recommendation you’re giving. And then under that, you have absolutely no more than 3-5 main arguments or data points. I know that might sounds strange because we’re accustomed to going to these meetings with like 50 different data points. But that’s a fantastic way to paralyze your stakeholders and make them act on nothing, when if you’re giving them 3-5 data points that they can act on now, there are much more likely to be able to focus and take action. And honestly how many people can take action on 50 data points at once? Maybe eBay or Amazon but certainly not most of the organizations that I’ve worked with.So with that, you know, you have your three main arguments and under that you have your supporting data points and you want to try to address the three kind of arguments your audience might have against you. So try to put yourself on your audience’s shoes and think what would they argue against this. And try to address upfront, it will make you a rock star. Believe me. And then underneath that, you have restated your key message and you have your conclusions. So that is a fantastic argument. It’s a great way to get organized, something you can give a try. You also have to make sure that your content is really well supported and you know, data is crucial here. So especially for a persuasive argument where the audience might be a little resistant, you need to back up all of your key points with very well researched and documented sources. So that means making sure that every data point you have on your slides has a small source notation at the bottom with the platform you pulled from the publication, if you’re citing something from outside and the date range. And including sample size is also really important for survey data as well. You know, if you’re making an assessment on three responses to a survey, that’s really not going to carry much weight with your audience. And it’s not good data mining, anyway. So keep that in mind. Ingredient #3: Effective and appealing visual design
Okay. The third ingredient here is one the areas I see the most room for growth in most presentations but can also be the most intimidating for a lot of practitioners and that is effective and visually appealing slide and data design. So as I said before I’ve watched a lot of presentations and I will tell you that there was one big common thread between the ones where I could not pay attention and completely zoned out, because I have the attention span of a goldfish. And that was a very ineffective use of the presentation tool they were using.
In my signature Get Their Attention keynote session, I gave a brief history of the world that PowerPoint plays in our epidemic of conference room boredom. You know, despite the number of would be challenger presentation tools on the rise, it has still effectively dominated the entire professional world. And it’s estimated that it used to present something, to someone, somewhere, over 350 times per second, which is crazy. And not necessarily a good thing because I’m sure you’ve noticed that you know, with PowerPoint becoming the Kleenex presentation tools, a global epidemic of really boring and really ugly and just downright disturbing presentation slides have emerged and plagued our conference room for years. But I don’t blame the tools for this. You know, this might be tough to hear but you know, we as the presenters are not using this tool correctly and we can learn some basic slide and data design principles that leverage psychology to help deliver our message to our audiences brain without causing it to fry their brains. And it’s not as hard as you think.
The first principle every analyst marketer really needs to master is effective charts and data visualization. If you are a member of the Digital Analytics Association you might have heard about my recent webinar all about how to avoid the 5 Most Common Data Visualization Mistakes. And one of the main ones I talked about are using the wrong type of chart like pie charts not customizing the chart to remove the all of the extra clutter Excel Adds to that and also creating visuals that don’t tell a story or speak relevantly to the audience. So an ideal state for every chart or graph you present is prompting a “whoa”, or “that’s interesting because”, or “okay, what do we do” there’s your goal.
The next thing is imagery. Imagery is probably the most underutilized aspect of presentations I see today. And yet imagery can cause the recall of information to go from 10% to 65% in two days. And that’s also from the book of Brain Rules by John Medina. I really can’t recommend that book highly enough. Sometimes we used the wrong photo you know; it’s not relevant to our message. It’s clip-art which should never ever make it to your presentations again. And you know sometimes we use the right photo but not to its full potential. We have it kind of floating in space or it’s looking away from the text. You know, we want that photo to be full bleed out to the edges and really draw the audience in.
The next thing is fonts. So there are a couple of schools of thought on this. And I recently encountered a lot of tension when I introduced the idea that presentations can benefit for a thoughtfully chosen font other that Calibri which is the default font of every single Microsoft application file. Some argue that the font doesn’t have any impact. People don’t care about that and that slide doesn’t fail because it uses Calibri. And to me that’s sort of right. It might not fail per se, but wouldn’t we want to give it the best chance at making an impression and sending the message home? I believe and I’ve seen this in practice that the right font can create a tone and mood that speaks to your audience that reinforces your brand. You know, there’s a lot of research supporting that and I’ll have more on my show notes page. And I argue that you know, font has more impact than we think. I always say it’s like Apple’s used of Helvetica. The vast majority of Apple customers absolutely do not notice or care about the font that’s used on their products. But I would bet money that people would feel totally off if Apple suddenly changes the iPhone’s font to Calibri or Comic Sans. That would be so entertaining. And also probably cause rioting. People may not know why but it really does make a difference, believe me.
Ingredient #4: A solid conclusion & call-to-action
Okay. So we’re up to ingredient four and that is a solid conclusion and call to action. I`ve been witness to presentations that were extremely engaging and then felt completely short at the end because they either run of time or they didn’t come up with a really compelling call to action or next step to get more people motivated out of the gate.
I always liken it to a roller coaster. You know, you brought people all the way up to the top peak during the presentation and then instead of letting them drop into the exciting conclusion, it’s suddenly sort of petering down into a.. “Okay”. And that’s the best analogy I can come up with but hopefully that makes sense.
So here are couple ways I suggest to end your data presentations. Always always always recap. Reviewing your key points is an action that commits information to the brain’s long term memory. But I find that there is a rarely ever a recap especially during internal meetings like this. And also you must give your call to action; if you didn’t do it at the beginning now is the time. Do you want your audience to approve a new A/B testing plan, allocate more funding for a paid search campaign? Make it crystal clear what your recommendation is after having back it up with all this data. Now the only time I would suggest not giving your recommendation in the beginning is if your audience is going to be resistant to your key message. So that is something to keep in mind.
Now if you’re giving a larger format presentation, the situation calls for a little more dramatism if you really want to stand out and leave an impression. So in these cases after my recap I usually include the description of my services, a meaningful and relevant quote or story and a call to action to take the next step in whatever direction that I played out. But the common thread between these two scenarios is the same, the call to action. Leave them feeling changed, empowered and motivated to take that next great leap. That, for me, is the essence of presentation.
Now the key to making this work is heeding your time limit. One of my biggest pet peeves is watching a person go way over their time and asking you know, when the people are starting to look very agitated, oh am I ahead of time? oh we just a few more minutes, oh what about blah blah blah? That makes it pretty clear that you didn’t rehearse in advance. And it leaves no time for the killer conclusion and that’s a major roller coaster fade out right there.
So now of course as I give you this, I will admit the I broke this rule recently because I had a massive technical issue which cause my session to be cut by 15 minutes. And since I was stressed out I neglected to watch the presentation view timer. So that was a hard lesson learned for me. So you can actually avoid that with a nifty little tool I created called the Presentation Timer Tool. It lets you calculate milestones for each of the sections of your session. And gives you a sense of how much time you have for slide. And I used it all the time and if you like a copy head to the show notes leapica.com/002 and you’ll find a link at the bottom of the page and I would love to know what you think about.
Ingredient #5: A deep connection with the audience
Oh man we’re at number five already. That went really fast. Okay. So I’m saving the most important ingredient for last, which is a Deep Connection with the Audience. The most valuable exercise every presenter can do before they open PowerPoint, before they chart anything, anything, is ask themselves these questions: What does my audience want? What keeps them up at night? How can my expertise solve their problems? And again, what are going to be their top arguments against me?
How often we really do this? I mean really. Ask yourself that. You know, for me before I went on this journey do what I call Presentation Enlightenment, I would just grab a bunch of data, toss it in the slides and hope for the best.
But not anymore. Now, I learn to read my audience. And the best way to do this is to observe them in advance. This is easier if you’re a part of larger meeting and you haven’t gone yet, or if you are in an industry conference and you can watch the audience there. But if it’s not possible for you, just like a cold jump in the pool, just be mindful of their facial expressions while you are talking.
If eye contact is difficult for you, pick three friendly faces throughout the audience and speak directly to them one after the other. It will actually look like you’re addressing the whole audience without you getting overwhelmed. Sometimes people just have a grumpy looking face or you know, what looks like pensieve to you is actually deeply thoughtful about you’re saying. But they might really be loving what you’re saying and eating up every word. Alright. I’m going to practice what I preach right now and do a quick recap of the 5 Key Ingredients:
- An Engaging Introduction and Message
- Well- structured and Supported Content
- Well Designed Slides and Charts
- A Solid Conclusion and Call to Action
- 5. A Deep Connection You’ve Created with the Audience
With these five ingredients you will have a recipe for a presentation that is going to blow your audience out of the water. I’d love to hear about what you do with it.
Okay. Welcome to the upgrade segment where I drop a crazy fun power tip for PowerPoint, Excel or Tableau, something like that to help you get things done better, faster, stronger.
Did you know that you can find and replace fonts in PowerPoint? So, just like you can find and replace text that you want to change, you can actually find every instance of a font you want to replace with a new font. I know I’ve spent amounting hours tracking down fonts when modifying my template. So this little trick can save you a ton of time. Do you have an upgrade? If so, please share it on the comments on the show notes at leapica.com/002.
So that’s all I have for you today. I hope you found this very valuable. If you like what you’ve heard hop on over to iTunes to subscribe leave a rating and review. Ratings and reviews are so appreciated because they actually help improve the rankings of the show and I’ll be reading out my favourite reviews on future episodes. So please leave one. And by the way if you’re curious for game shows I was on. I was a contestant on Where on the World is Carmen Sandiego at the tender age of twelve and I was actually on The NewlyWed game just a few years ago with my ridiculously funny husband and I know, I didn’t win either of them, but I have a lovely new globe basketball and living room couch as a consolation prize. You know, I will tell you game show stardom is not a lucrative career, in case you are wondering about that.
So I leave you with today’s bit of presentation inspiration that comes from Dale Carnegie and this is from a fantastic book called Stand and Deliver, and that is, “There are always three speeches for every when you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wished you gave.” With these five Ingredients, you’ll get so much closer to making sure you won’t be able to tell the difference between all three.
So thank you so much for listening today. I hope you found this valuable and I can’t wait to continue the conversation at LeaPica.com. Stay in the spotlight. Namaste.
What are your key ingredients for a standout presentation? Let me hear it!