That’s a deliberately controversial and hyperbolic post title. But good gawd, how the heck do we spread the news to more people that their preconceived notions about presentation construction and delivery style are so often SO WRONG?
There are quite a few wonderful online resources for learning about presentation best practices. I have mentioned several of them in the past. Read enough posts from enough experts, and you soon start to see basic concepts repeated over and over. There is a reason for this… All the fine points of skill development and technique improvement are worthless if the fundamentals aren’t there. And in the overwhelming majority of business presentations, the fundamentals are discarded in a heartbeat by overworked, under-rewarded presenters.
Jon Thomas at Presentation Advisors recently put together a top five list of improper presentation design practices, along with some common rationalizations for taking the wrong tack. I think every PowerPoint designer has heard these and despaired. It’s hard to fight for right when facing a “do it fast, do it easy” mentality.
Olivia Mitchell at Effective Speaking went even further on her recent blog post about learning styles. She referenced studies going all the way back to 1987 showing that the commonly held beliefs about personal learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) don’t tend to work in practice. You need to choose the right presentation technique for each piece of content, not for the imagined channel receptivity of individual audience members (aside from obvious instances of visual/auditory impairment and other physical barriers).
So forget for a moment about dogmatic guides such as the 1-6-6 rule or the 10-20-30 rule. Try helping your less enlightened coworkers understand why it’s a good idea to use some text and visuals together. Why getting the audience involved helps their effectiveness. Why the audience should be able to see what you are talking about. And most importantly, why it’s worth taking the extra time and effort to give a good presentation rather than just doing the minimum necessary to get it off their task lists.