Great Presentations: Tips From Great Presenters

Ken Krogue is a contributer for I worked at Franklin Quest for four years right before they merged with Stephen R. Covey’s organization and became FranklinCovey. For a while we were not only the biggest Time Management Company, but the largest training company in the world. We would put on 300 or more seminars a month.

Hyrum Smith, the Chairman of the Board, and an incredible presenter himself, pulled in and often partnered with the world’s best trainers like Stephen R. Covey, Denis Waitley, Ken Blanchard, Joel Weldon, and many more.

Some, like Joel Weldon (we called him the trainer’s trainer), would give special seminars just for us. He would teach us his craft. I took copious notes. I would buy all of their tapes, but especially his.

My colleague, Chris Jorgensen, shared a book with me calledSlide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, by Nancy Duarte. It finally made me willing to use PowerPoint. Many of these points are Nancy’s, and Joel’s.

Get Nancy’s book and find a way to listen to Joel Weldon. Andwatch TED for really great presentations.

Consider this a pre-flight checklist for delivering world-class presentations:

1- Am I passionate about my message? Joel Weldon tells the story of rising up through Toastmasters and the single most important rule of a great presentation is to speak about what you love and know well.

Les Brown is probably the most passionate presenter I have ever heard. He tells the story of how he became a disc jockey. He says you must be hungry: One of the most motivating presentations I’ve experienced in my entire life.

Les Brown, "Mamie Brown's Baby Boy" shares his signature statements often and may be one of the most passionate speakers ever. He says you "Gotta be hungry!"

Les Brown, shares his signature statements often and may be one of the most passionate speakers ever. He says you “Gotta be hungry!”

2- Could I speak without notes? One way to measure how prepared and passionate you are is whether you need any notes. A true master taps into the spirit in the room and adapts the message to the specific needs of the audience. They can’t do this if they are bound in notes.

3- Do I have something really important to say? Does what you say matter? Enough said.

4- Do I need to use PowerPoint or can I go live? I don’t like PowerPoint but I use it when I have to. I love a whiteboard and markers. A PowerPoint is linear, static. You can’t anticipate a perfect presentation in advance. But a great slide deck is possible and sometimes necessary.

Salman Khan, a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School, and the founder of Khan Academy, perhaps the most exciting new development in online education, uses a dynamic tablet and just draws as he talks. At last count, he has done over 3000 online tutorials for kids and adults alike to learn at their own pace, and have fun doing it.

5- Do they focus on my slides or me? Too often we have so much content on the slide the audience doesn’t focus on the presenter. This is a bad thing. Do I want them to experience, watch, listen, or just read?

Steve Jobs made absolutely sure that everyone in the room (and often around the world) was focused on him.

6- Can they see what I’m showing? This is the single rule that kills most presentations, especially in large rooms. Nancy calls it the 30-point rule. Are the words on your slides big enough to be seen from the back of the room?

Nancy Duarte - Author of Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Great Presentations

Nancy Duarte – Author of Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Great Presentations

So basic… don’t forget the basics.

30-point fonts are where you begin. Find the size of the room and the size of the screen in advance. Don’t rely on old, worn out hotel projectors. Test them.

7- Can I say it with fewer words?

“If all you want to do is create a file of facts and figures, then cancel the meeting and send in a report.” Seth Godin – Really Bad PowerPoint.

Nancy says if there are 75 words on your slide, put it in a document and hand it out. If there are 50 words, it’s really just a teleprompter. Few or no words… perfect. Try and distill it down to one word. A Mnemonic.

Think of your slide as a billboard on the freeway… 7 words at 65 miles per hour is about all.

Mark Twain is credited with the quote (though probably penned in French by Blaise Pascal)

“If I had more time I would write a shorter letter.”

8- Are my slides well designed… or just decorated?Just because there are lots of really cool special effects, clip art, stock photos, and things you can do, doesn’t mean you should.

Less is more.

Blow away the chaff.