Handouts can set you free
After seven minutes, have they stopped listening?

Great presentations are great conversations

StoryRemember The Cluetrain Manifesto? It's the kind of dotcom era book that Tom Peter's surely endorsed in 2000. I remember reading it before I joined Apple back in 2001. One of the Cluetrain authors raved about how "Markets are Conversations!" Or at least, how they should be. Seems pretty obvious now, though many companies still do not get that. The author of that bit is Doc Searls. Turns out that Doc has given a little advice for giving better presentations. It is worth a read.

I particularly agree with the idea of "Telling your story." I often stay that it is better to think of your entire presentation as a story. As Doc points out, stories have three parts: character, problem, movement toward a solution/conclusion. The problem in 1998, when Doc wrote this little piece, is the same as it is today: Presenters still focus too much on their products' features. And when they do talk about benefits it is often in an abstract way. Such as, "Our product last quarter increased overall efficiency 75% for 90% of the people who used our product in a recent on-line poll....." Whatever.

How about talking about real people with real names? How about talking to actual audience members live? Should not great presentations be more like conversations?

Ask the audience questions? Yes, that is scary and unpredictable, perhaps. But is it any different than the conversations we have with people? Are we afraid to ask questions and be honest because we fear what we might hear in return during our daily conversations? Maybe. Sometimes. But most people are pretty straight shooters in their conversations with friends and coworkers. This is natural. This is real. Why should presentations be so different. Audiences appreciate a good story, and audiences want to have a conversation with the presenter (or at least eavesdrop on a good one).

For your next presentation, think of it as a 20-minute conversation, complete with examples, anecdotes, and of course a genuine interest in the other person you are talking with (the audience).


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