Dynamite Presentations: Start Here

Every time I go to a conference, there is a wide spectrum of quality in the speaker presentations. We all know the drill – some speakers hold our attention and draw us into the content, others leave us cold and drifting.

There are many elements that go into effective presentation design and delivery, but I’d like to suggest that you start right here:

Speaker Perspective 1: I am not here to re-hash facts and stats. That is Google’s job. I am here to provide context, insight, and motivation to change.

Speaker Perspective 2: I need to tell a story. Slides are background to help tell the story. The slide deck is not the presentation. I am.

Speaker Perspective 3: The audience will be able to retain and act on one or two clear messages. Maximum impact, not maximum content, is the goal.

Now, embracing those perspectives, here are your first four steps.

1. What’s the point? For the moment, put aside all materials, including prior slide decks. What is the ONE THING you are trying to get across to your audience? Summarize it in ONE SIMPLE SENTENCE. You are not ready to progress with presentation design until you can clearly articulate the point of the whole exercise.

2. How can I turn this into a story? Remember, you’re not there to do a data dump. The attention – and memory – of your audience members is going to be captured by a story line.

3. What do I want my audience members to do after this presentation? Fast forward to the end of your presentation – as people walk out of your session, what is the clear call to action that needs to be ringing in their ears? The entire presentation needs to aim at that.

4. What resources and advice can I bring forth to enable that action? Motivate, and equip. Inform, yes – but with a purpose.

Don’t even think about firing up Powerpoint and dumping data into slides until you go through this exercise. Then, you will see that your slide design becomes the handmaiden of your presentation – you aren’t the handmaiden of your slide deck.

Those are my “start here” tips – what are yours?

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

6 Responses to Dynamite Presentations: Start Here

  1. Steve G says:

    Steve – Excellent observation, and actionable steps – Love It. Your insight to the audience’s engagement (and attention span) is dead on. Your thoughts on SPEAKER PERSPECTIVES were enough to get anyone who does a presentation to stop and think. When I ever I create a presentation, I always ask myself the following question…”WHY WOULD I CARE?” If I can’t think of a good reason, than I delete the slide until I am left w/just those slides that leave the audience thinking about what I said, and question what they are currently doing.

    I love the statement…”Maximum Impact – Not Maximum Content.

    Thanks Steve


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  5. Pat Scott says:


    Here are my “start here” tips. I think about how to prepare a presentation using the WALNUT Presentation Strategy™. It think these quick 6 steps provide a useful roadmap to what to think about when putting together a talk.

    W – What is in it for me? What will the audience gain? How is this relevant for them? If the audience doesn’t find relevance, they will stop listening.

    A – Align your perspectives. Show the audience how you want them to see your information. Give them a good common frame. Without consistent interpretation, meaning can not be shared. Are the facts you are showing sad? surprising? dire?

    L – Limit your scope. We have short attention spans, and I wholeheartedly agree with you that we can only take in a couple of key messages. Don’t throw in history or other data “for completeness sake”.

    N – Navigate. Help give us a deliberate roadmap to where you are taking us. If we know it is not too complex and we know where we are, we are more likely to listen longer.

    U- Unleash your creativity. No one thinks bullet points are creative!!! Connect to us on a more emotional level – tell a story – show a picture – use a graph – help us ‘see’ what you are talking about.

    T – Take action. Practice your presentation skills – it may not just be bad slides that are making you boring. Also remember to ask the audience to take action. Persuasion is useless if nothing gets done. For a call to action to work, it has to be specific, doable and soon.

    Hope that is helpful!
    Dr. Pat Scott

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