8 Ideas for Presentations with More Zing

To paraphrase from Really Bad Metaphors:

"Presentations can be as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck,

either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping

on a land mine or something."

Here are a few ideas to create spicier presentations:

1. Get thematic. Chose a theme that drives home a general concept in your presentation, then sprinkle it throughout your presentation. For one client, we presented an analysis that ended with a movie. Throughout the presentation we offered subtle hints in anticipation of our grand finale. Avoid themes that could also be used for a high school prom (e.g. A Winter Wonderland, Magical Memories).

2. Change of pace. Break up the action with picture-only slides (see Beyond Bullets, Presentation Zen) or multimedia (i.e. audio or video clip). A little fun in the middle of a bunch of dry slides can help wake up the audience.

3. Use a human voice. Surprise your audience by departing from the traditional business-speak. Try writing slides that don’t over-qualify the message or attempt to be comprehensive in the descriptions. Lawyers need to cover all their bases with that kind of language; you need to convey a simple message that will stick.

    Instead of "IT organization has little understanding of business units’ long term strategic direction and impact on technology needs", say "IT and business aren’t on the same page."

    Instead of "Disparate and redundant technology solutions leads to increased operating costs", say "Technology tangle is taxing."

4. Just the answer. Present your conclusion, then ask the audience if they they need to know more detail. If not, meeting over. I haven’t tried this, but surely a five minute presentation with a simple take-away will be as memorable as the typical presentation death-march.

5. Something to remember. Provide a simple, memorable acronym or metaphor so they will at least walk away with your key point. For example: Good presentation = f(S,E,C) where S = coherent Story; E = credible Evidence; C = Creatively told.

6. "And one more thing." Steve Jobs is well-known for delivering one final surprise at the end of his presentation. Is there one last blinding insight that you’d want your audience to walk away with?

7. A new format. Consider stepping out of the traditional slide presentation format. Maybe you can convey your results with a science-fair type poster or with a web page or in a short book (check out self-publishing with Lulu). How about with charades or a Broadway tune? Too much?

8. Give them a souvenir. Provide your audience with something to take away that summarizes your key messages. For example, you might hand out a laminated one-pager with your most important framework and results. A colorful summary that begs to be thumbtacked to an office wall is better than a 40-page black-and-white deck that begs to be thrown out.

Bonus post: 4 Ideas from Microsoft for Presentations with More Zing (But Are More Distracting Than Useful)

1. Animation. Animation can be useful (e.g. "building" the content of a complex slide) but is overrated for livening up a presentation. The first slide animation is novel; the second is overdone.

2. Fancy template. Microsoft has been kind enough to provide a variety of dazzling slide templates—almost all of which distract from the content.

3. Clipart. A while back, we railed against Screenbeans, the little ant-like people that visually depict activities or moods. Those little buggers continue to be a bad idea.

4. Fonts. Especially Comic Sans. Won’t you join the Ban Comic Sans movement with me?