Your Presentation is the Ugly Baby

There's an old Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Elaine struggle with their friends' baby being ugly. Their friends, you see, think their baby is adorable. Of course they do. It's their BABY. They viewed it with bias and love and affection (and I'm sure it had many redeeming qualities), but it was objectively unattractive.

The author William Faulkner once said: "In writing, you must kill your darlings." Which was not in reference to characters or themes, but rather in sometimes having to cut a particular turn of phrase or paragraph that you are particularly in love with.

What do these two anecdotes have in common? Perspective. When one is too close to something--when it's their life, their livelihood, their expertise--it is hard to view it objectively. It's tough to see that your presentation baby is ugly and you might need to kill that darling section.

The audience, an overwhelming majority of the time, will come at your presentation with a different view--being on the outside of it--than you have on the inside.

Here are things to consider when crafting your presentation to kill your own darlings, make sure your baby isn't ugly, and keep the audience in mind:

The audience doesn't share your perspective:
Where you may see the beautiful poetry of the R&D story of your product, your audience may see unnecessary background that won't help them sell.

When you are convinced that everyone absolutely must know the last 20 years of sales data for your niche silo, your audience may struggle with seeing the relevance (but succeed at seeing the inside of their eyelids).

Consider your audience first and then think about how you fit into their needs.

Filter what's "nice to know" versus what they "need to know": 
You have limited real estate in your audiences' brains. Use it wisely. Your audience will not be able to take in your 10-point-plan-for-success. They will maaaaaybe remember 3-5 points. But are those 3 points going to be the most important?

How do you make sure the most critical things are remembered? Hone your message down to the truly important--the need-to-know--and include ways the audience can find additional information and detail as their curiosity dictates. (You may even want to play a game to get them familiar with resources they may need to find the nice-to-know stuff.)

Unlimited slides, limited words:
Everyone is familiar with "Death by Powerpoint" as an expression--so we've had clients try to limit their presenter's slides...only to find that their presenters will add more information to each individual slide (we once had a company whose standard practice became a "quad"--4 slides on one--because they limited the slide number but not the content).

We never put a limit on the number of slides, but each slide should be clean, clear, and minimalistic.

The audience must be able to see your information.
To that end; Slides shouldn't be fancy. They should be uncluttered, message-supporting (as opposed to message-conveying), and should NOT be speaker notes. Numbers should be easily seen and uninterpreted data charts should be minimized.

It doesn't matter how important your number charts are (and they are!), if the audience can't see them and easily interpret them--they're a distraction.
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