98 percent of all business presentations (in a statistic I just made up) sabotage their own effectiveness by starting and ending poorly. You may have all kinds of great content in your presentation and your audience may be able to glean the information they need. But people are emotionally influenced most heavily by the first and last things they see. Get those pieces right and you are well on your way to having a more effective and productive presentation.
The problem is that we have been brainwashed by a poorly stated three-part "rule" we learned when we were taught business writing, debate, or presentation technique:
- Tell them what you are going to tell them.
- Tell it to them.
- Tell them what you told them.
In most slide presentations this translates to an agenda slide at the beginning of the PowerPoint deck and a summary slide at the end. Don't fall into that trap. Those two slides are your enemies.
An agenda slide does NOT tell the audience what you are going to tell them. It tells an audience how you elected to structure the order of your content. And guess what… They don't care! An agenda slide is really all about you, the presenter. "First *I* will talk about this topic. Then *I* will talk about the next topic." Not only is it boring, it has a negative psychological effect.
Your audience comes to your presentation in a very selfish frame of mind. "I want to hear… I want to see… I want to learn…" But an agenda slide greets them with the things that are important to the presenter, not to them. The typical agenda slide offers no value proposition, no benefit to the listener, no delivery on the promises made in the invitation or session description. It is a description of session mechanics. The worst is when the agenda includes bookkeeping items such as "Introductions" and "Summary." Ugh.
Eliminate the agenda slide. You can describe the organization of your content later as you introduce the various topic points. Instead, start with a direct appeal to your audience's self interest. "Why are you here?" "By the end of this presentation you are going to be able to…" -- These phrases cue attendees that the presentation is about them and their needs, and that you are prepared to deliver on the promised value that drove them to attend.
How about at the end? If you just spoke for 45, 60, or 90 minutes, are you really going to use a single slide of bullet points to recapitulate all the important points you made? It tells the audience one of two things… Either you don't trust their short term memory, or you wasted their time with a lot of detail that could have been summarized much more concisely.
Instead of repeating the main points you just finished making, come back to the value proposition. "Now that you have all this new information, what should you do with it?" "How does this help you?"
At the end of a presentation, an attendee should know, believe, or be prepared to act on the information you gave them. Make that explicit. Your summary should not be a repeat of data, it should be a call to action. Tell them how to assimilate and apply what they have heard.
If you change the beginning and end of your presentation to address your audience's self-interests, they are more receptive to your message and feel better about you as a trustworthy and desirable resource and potential business partner. It all comes down to taking the focus off the structure and content of the presentation and placing it back on the value you are providing to your listeners.