by Alex Smith, Planning Director, Sense
Make no mistake, business presentations are showbiz. I fail to see any difference between a pitch, and, say, a movie. In both cases there’s content that needs to be conveyed (plot), and the delivery of that content will directly influence its impact.
You might say, of course, that a business presentation is all about the content, and sure, it’s important. But as anyone who’s ever seen Frankenfish can tell you, your content might be the most interesting thing in the world on paper, but poor delivery can render even man-eating carp forgettable, and worse still, boring.
In any case, nobody’s going to disagree that presenting something with panache is preferable to without, and as such there’s plenty of advice out there on how to achieve this. Keeping the movie analogy alive, however, there are different things that belong with different genres of movies – humour, simplicity, rich visuals, and so on are often great, but not always. And the same thing applies for presentations. There are lots of different types, and few pieces of advice are necessarily key for all of them.
Here’s one of them – equally important across all genres, movies and presentations alike: pacing.
Keeping the pace
A really well made movie will be like a Swiss watch in this regard, and it’s the thing that can make you really enjoy a flick even when its content isn’t superficially interesting to you. I’m sure we can all think of times when we’ve been roped into seeing something we didn’t particularly want to, only to emerge pleasantly surprised (for me recent it was Rush – I’d no interest in Formula 1, but now I’m Niki Lauda’s biggest fan). Well, imagine if you could carry this exact same effect to audiences of your presentations – no matter how dry or challenging the subject matter. That’s the value of pacing.
The method to ensure your presentation is perfectly balanced in this way simple: write the whole thing, by hand, on one sheet of paper – before ever putting finger to keyboard.
This totally changes the way most people see their document. Typically, the author automatically splits their work into different categories and subheadings, and deals with them one after another – “now we’re going to talk about this, now we’re going to talk about that”. This is disjointed, ponderous, and tends to encourage the writer to devote roughly equal attention (say, a page of PowerPoint text) to each element – even though some are far more important, interesting, or detailed than others.
Don’t stop making sense
By setting the whole presentation out in front of you, in one visual, it forces you to view the piece as a whole – a single flowing narrative where one point has to logically lead to another. In this scenario, it becomes easy to see if one bit appears a bit flabby, if there’s a natural transition between two points, and whether or not you are being generally coherent.
Just this simple exercise can make any presentation lithe, energised, and poised – and not only that, it will trim actual work too, since editing time will be drastically reduced.
In the immortal words of Neil Buchanan, “try it yer self. Turrah.”