10 Minutes to a Presentation that Rocks MUCH More

by Laura Fitton on February 11, 2008

Why aren’t presentations becoming generally better despite so much great thinking on how to fix them? Is it because many come together at the last minute?

Presentation Zen (which is awesome) got me thinking. What can you fix if you only have a few moments? Say you don’t have time to master the concepts in Garr’s book, you haven’t been reading presentations blogs, your company didn’t invest in training or coaching, and you’re on the spot. What then?

10-minute overhaul to improve any presentation:

Audience & Objective
Put your slides (or script/visuals/etc) away and get out a piece of paper. Imagine that you just gave the presentation. Now write down answers to:

  1. Who was in the audience? What motivates them? (2 mins)
  2. How did my presentation connect directly to their interests and motivations? (1 min)
  3. What did I achieve? What is the audience going to repeat from my presentation? How will they answer “What did you just learn?” (1 min)

These answers determine your purpose. They show your “audience-specific objective.” Know who you’re talking to and how to connect their needs to your goals.

Get Darwinian
Back to your slides. Delete or hide any that do not support your audience-specific objective. (2 mins) (If you MUST, promise you will click swiftly through with little comment. If knowing it’s there makes you calmer, well, calmer is better.)

Start and end the presentation with your big idea expressed as “what’s in it for them.” Tie it to your audience’s interests and motivations. At the end of the presentation, connect your big idea to what you want to achieve. Your presentation should start something. It should stimulate an active response from the audience. (2 mins)

Extra time? Arrange your entire deck to build up the case for your big idea. Illustrate with simple stories. Sort concepts and stories into coherent sections and use clear transitions between them. Find a sequence brings the audience to your conclusions.

Lightning Round
Race through your presentation using no more than one sentence to explain each slide. Take no more than five seconds per slide. State the point in just one short remark. If you can’t, kill the slide. If you can’t kill it, “maim” it until it has a point. (2 mins)

Extra time? Go through the presentation several times in “lightning round” mode, and do significant edits between rounds. Work in teams to collaborate on the best “main points” of the presentation.

Come see this in action. Join me on ooVoo (sign up at www.MyOovooDay.com/signup.php) at 4 PM on 2/12, 2/14, 2/19 or 2/21. We’ll experiment with the ooVoo videoconferencing software (download required) by discussing how to use this fire drill. The seminar is FREE and benefits the Frozen Pea Fund.

I use the word “slide” in this drill. Most formal presentations still use slideware. They DO NOT have to. If yours does not (YAY!), substitute “paragraph” “supporting point” “story” “example” to best suit your presentation.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Don Lafferty February 11, 2008 at 4:03 pm

This is Killer.

Tim Walker February 11, 2008 at 5:25 pm

Sweet! I’m using this to vet my next presentation . . . and I even have two weeks to do it. :)

Doug Haslam February 14, 2008 at 11:41 am

Laura, you really put me through the paces in the ooVoo chat the other day– very helpful!

Plus, I finally figured out which of Bryan Person;s slides to delete form our joint presentation from PodCamp Boston ;)

Andrea Vascellari February 21, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Great oovoo session, great suggestions, great Laura!


Connie Crosby February 21, 2008 at 6:43 pm


Thank you so much for the session via ooVoo. I wasn’t sure how much we would be able to do in that format, but I found running through our example presentations to be extremely helpful. I am comforted to know I figured some of your tips and tricks out for myself, and delighted to learn some new things!


Lafeeu March 13, 2008 at 12:07 am

ooVoo is the next evolution in online communication

Barce March 20, 2008 at 1:26 pm

How do you find out a particular audience members motivation without point-blank asking, “What’s your motivation?”


Joan Curtis March 24, 2008 at 1:37 pm

This is great! When I teach presentation skills, I emphasize three things the Sender the Audience and the Message (SAM). Most people forget that middle one–the Audience. And, it is the MOST important. You’ve nailed down the kind of thinking necessary to focus on the audience.

What good is a presentation that no one hears? If we don’t keep our attention on the audience and what that audience wants, we lose them.

Learn more about public speaking by joining the Total Communication Community. I just posted 4 new articles. Watch for the new virtual group, Speak Up for Success, beginning in May. http://www.TotalCommunicationsCoach.com

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