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A Presentation Is Not…

A friend recently asked for some help giving a presentation to a board. She was doing this outside of work, and I love a good pet project. We started by working through her objectives, studied slide design, and I sent her off with what I thought was an excellent concept for her team. The group she was working with had a very different idea of what a presentation means and when she came in with her concepts, to put it bluntly, ripped them apart.

Being a junior manager, she could only push so far before this presentation came to resemble nothing of what we put together. Without manager buy-in and their understanding of why people make themselves vulnerable and put themselves at a lectern to give a presentation in the first place, it is difficult to even start these arguments.

I want to help people like my friend, who may not have a lot of background in presentations, give a valid argument when they are simply trying to make a good presentation that is subsequently gutted by their bureaucratic and overly diplomatic superiors. To do so, I am crowdsourcing a list of things that a presentation IS NOT and am soliciting help from the Train Like A Champion readers to help a presenter like her. I’ll go first.

Heather’s list of what presentation IS NOT:

A Bulleted List of Talking Points

This is what we think we want. I call this the can opener approach. In an ideal world we would take a can opener to our learner’s head, pour the content of the SME’s head into it, and the world’s problems would be solved. Unfortunately, that is not how learning works. I don’t have time to unpack everything about that in this short post, but it just doesn’t work.

A Brochure/ Marketing Campaign

There is a fuzzy gray line between marketing and presentations, but they are not the same. I have one simple rule to differentiate between the two. Marketing campaigns do not start out this way, but presentations do, “By the end of this presentation, attendees will…”

A Reference Manual

PowerPoint is a powerful tool and should be wielded gently. That said, standing in front of a room, handing out reference manuals and reading them with your back to the crowd is not a great alternative. Like the can opener approach, upper management wants to find a simple way to download information quickly and with as little overhead as possible. Haste makes waste, as the saying goes, and this ends with a bad experience for everyone. Management, more often than not, wants this approach. We are not here to download information. We are here to educate.

An Email

To look at the last point another way, can the main points of your presentation or meeting be accomplished in an email? Great! Don’t turn your email into a presentation. Absolutely nobody has ever told me they were happy they spent time in a meeting rather than reading a quick an email. Don’t force the presentation format unless it fits. However, if the format fits, do not neglect the process in its entirety.

Here is where you come in fellow trainers. What is on your list? We want to hear from you! Let’s keep this conversation going in the comments below!

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