Public Speaking: The Vast Majority of Presentations Are Terrible
The Vast Majority of Presentations Are Terrible
As the CEO of Sunnyvale, California—based Serious Energy, Kevin Surace makes about 50 presentations a year on sustainability and green job creation. He admits to being more than slightly obsessive. And he is unsparing in what he thinks of most talks: "The vast majority of presentations," he says, "are terrible."
1. DO NOT USE POWER POINT.
You don't want your presentation to look like everyone else's presentation. So use Keynote, the Mac software that combines video and images and has great transitions that flow from one to the next.
2. DO NOT USE BULLET POINTS.
You should be shot for putting stuff in bullet points. Why would you put text on a slide? You want people looking at you. If you need to give stats, highlight a few things people should remember, or provide the numbers in a visual context, such as a pie chart or an image. Steve Jobs will put one word up onscreen, like broken, and then talk about how he's going to fix it. You've left people with the word broken.
3. DO NOT BE SELF-EFFACING
They came to see you, the expert. Stand up and be the expert. You're there to entertain. People are sitting in a room, coffee is running out, the lights are dim, and they're starting to nod off. I bring up the energy level. I have said before, "Everybody stand up and stretch the legs. Now, we'll all be able to learn from each other." I'm friendly, energetic, and try to have fun. That means I never talk from behind the podium. It's a brick wall between you and the audience.
4. DO NOT LEAVE OUT THE EMOTION.
Lots of people want to be careful and professional when giving a talk. I want to emote. The best musicals are the ones where the girl loses the guy, and she sings about everything it was meant to be. You cry along with her. Swing your audience's emotions back and forth. You need to go in and say, "Here's how bad life is. Here is what it can be. Here's how we get there together."
5. DO NOT BORE US WITH FACTS.
People think it's all about facts. I saw a guy who stood up and presented so many facts that I wanted to kill myself. He was brilliant. But how did that benefit me? If you say, "I'm going to present 19 slides on the technology we make at Timbuck Widgets," nobody cares. It's boring. What they do want to hear is how you're going to make their life better. They wasted 30 minutes of their life to listen to you. Show them how these facts are going to change their lives.
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