Presenting on strategy or strategically presenting? 04 May, 2010

Here's a few things I've learned in the last week on presenting.

The executive summary.
Always prepare and provide an audience with an executive summary of what you are going to present. Executive summaries are not just for executives. They are meant to keep the attention of the audience as well as help them get back on track if they get lost. They should be about 10% as long as either your presentation, or your research document. They help, and there is no real downside to having them. Many times it even helps to informally tell attendees about your findings. This can lower the wow factor of a presentation, but it can also make sure you didn't miss a critical piece of information.

Be open, but don't apologize.
If you've put in the time and effort required to make a presentation worth listening to, then you should assume that your information is at least as good as what anyone else has. You should be the immediate authority on the subject. Focus on facts and avoid words like could, might, and possibly. If there is something you missed, thank those who brought up the point. If the missed information is not critical to your point, move on.

Clutter is bad.
Having a large sum of information and facts to back up a point can be great if it's in the right place. A summary and presentation of a point should be just that. State the most important aspects of what it is and why it matters, then move on. If you do have a slide in a presentation that has a few parts to it, make sure you list out the parts. You don't want a long list, but if you don't have any list and start rambling off several items that are not written anywhere that the audience can see, they'll get lost.

Detailed references are great, if they're in the right place. Make sure you have everything documented, but when presenting, don't make the references your focus. Your focus should be the content of the facts and the 'so what?' factor. Try using phrases such as 'research shows.' If someone does ask for proof or where you found the information, then bring up more detailed references.

The fix.
If you present problems, or identify areas where improvement is needed, you need to specify a plan of action for resolving them.

Talking and transitions.
Unless you are pointing out specific things in a visual aid, you should be looking at your audience. You also need to make sure that when addressing those listening, that there is a common thread throughout your presentation and transitions are included. Relating ideas to each other as well as to the audience will help the audience stay interested.

These aren't items from lists that I've come across. This is the feedback that I received after presenting a school project to executives.