Monday, 16 February 2009


I believe in professionalism

I believe presenting has never been more important than in the current business climate.

More judgements are made on the basis of a presentation than ever, whether it is to a bank, a stakeholder, your peers or a boss. And the quality of a presentational performance is as important as its content.

Whatever do you look like? It’s inconceivable that you’d go along to an important meeting wearing a crumpled, shiny blue suit, a jazzy green and red kipper tie, scuffed shoes and a curry stained shirt (or if you are a woman that you’d wear a crumpled dress with laddered tights).

Yet the Les Pattersons of the presentation world abound. People who have no shame in having poorly produced, overly complex slides and a badly thought through, crumpled argument. They are going to suffer in a world that is getting more demanding.

Spot the difference

Whilst you don’t want to be remembered as a punk presenter nor do you want to be forgotten as someone who has done a completely unmemorable presentation. In a world where PowerPoint bullet point slides have become a well understood business-language it is your job, in the world of presentations, to stand out from the throng. Not as an eccentric but as someone who is mainstream with a little more polish and accomplishment.

The medium is the message

Marshall McLuan coined this phrase forty four years ago. He described the style of a piece of communication as a piece of juicy meat a burglar carries to distract the watchdog of the mind. In other words great presentations lull people into agreeing.

If you are going to do a presentation the harsh reality is a professional slide maker will do a better job than you, an amateur. This does not mean you have to spend a fortune; just an appropriate sum for an important message in an important medium. Because does this, as an alternative, sound clever to you?

“The interview went brilliantly until it came to the presentation.”

OK. I’m sold

It is becoming increasingly common for anyone being interviewed for a job to be asked to do a presentation. I’ve sat on interview boards hearing an excellent candidate – good CV, impressive credentials and skills losing to a weaker candidate on the strength of their presentation skills.

Quite simply many interviewers make their judgements on the sales and presenting skills of a candidate on the day in question and not based on their lifetime of learning. Presenting well is the difference between success and failure and between employment and unemployment.

This is showtime. We are not talking about a quick haircut here. We are talking about making sure we understand all the components of a good presentation and that we have them all in balance.

What is the context of the presentation, what is the key argument, what are the powerful words, phrases and messages that will “sell” the argument, how will we give special and memorable colour to the communication, how will the slides look professional and have stand-out but without being too slick and how can we perform the presentation so it is remarkable and compelling?

In today’s world being “good enough” at presenting is just not good enough.

1 comment:

Nick Fitzherbert said...

I would be the first to agree about the importance of presentation - especially at the moment - not least because training people in presentation is what I do for a living.

One of the problems is that many people do not get the opportunity to become good at it. Whenever I train anyone I follow it up with a plea to their bosses to let them do some presenting and to do it soon.

Only by doing it for real can you become good at the little things that make all the difference. I am interested to see Richard's mention of presentations in interviews. I was training someone recently and stressing the importance and various benefits of strong eye contact, adding that it is essential to spread it around evenly. He thought about this for a moment and declared "actually I'm surprised now that I even got the job here. I was being interviewed by the top man and two senior directors, but I gave all the eye contact to the boss. The other two, who were both decision makers, must have felt really left out".

I often argue that you learn more through your mistakes than your successes, and you need the opportunity to make a few mistakes.