How to Turn a Presentation into an Experience

by Joseph Mayernik, Creative Director, Roberts Communications

The opening credits to the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail are ridiculous. Four minutes of absurdity filled with oddball subtitles to make an otherwise dry display of endless names palatable. These crazy Nordic-like subtitles set the tone for what you’ll see during the rest of the movie. Bizarre British comedy. Ridiculous situations. Killer bunnies, and medieval knights holding coconuts. 

It’s wik. 

Kenny Nguyen, the CEO of Big Fish Presentations, set a similar tone for his ADMERICA learning lab talk in New Orleans last week. While he never quoted Monty Python in his opening statements he did follow in the spirit of the film and it’s opening credits. Kenny addressed the packed house with a classic PowerPoint slide filled with small point copy and an animation of his name that filled the screen in an awkward manner as he gave his background credentials.  It got the crowd laughing (read: of fear) and it set the tone for his presentation that bad presentations are, well bad, and that a better way is within reach.  

It was alsø alsø wik.

The success of every idea depends on the strength of how it’s presented. We’ve all had that one “big idea”—that passion project we’ve worked through the night and into the morning. Everyone has felt the drive that comes with it, and the desire to see it come to life. Kenny Nguyen created a formula for presentations to safeguard your next groundbreaking idea from a bad presentation that can hinder said big idea from seeing the light of day. 

Great presentations are simple and we are all used to seeing bad presentations… we are all traumatized. 

If you approach each presentation with engaging content, in a simplistic design and a powerful delivery with no bullet points the end result will be successful. It will equal an unforgettable experience. Kenny always uses a simple framework to outline each presentation. The Big Idea, Call-To-Action, Structure, Design, Body Language and Practice.  Great presentations are simple and we are all used to seeing bad presentations… we are all traumatized, and any pitch can be distilled down into these six main points to break the spell. 

  1. The Big Idea: Every great presentation no matter the size has a big idea, and that big idea is a central argument that you and your audience can contend with.  It’s the one area where discussion turns into engagement. The big idea is what you want your audience to remember well after the presentation comes to a close.

  2. Call-to-Action: Every great presentation has a clear call-to-action. This is one of the most important points because setting a clear call-to-action validates the reason while you’re presenting in the first place. Kenny outlines three types of call-to-actions you should start using right away. One, breeding demand: Do this. Two, provide an offer: Do this, and then get that. And three, the passive approach: What are you going to do if you don’t do this.

  3. Structure: It takes a lot of work to make things simple, but if you ensure your presentation has a big idea, a clear call-to-action and a few support points to back the big idea up then it’s easy to stay on course and deliver a concise presentation.  Kenny also suggests opening up the presentation with a personal story, statistic, joke, quote or video to break the ice. I myself like the personal story route better than say the joke angle.  Sometimes the jokes don’t resonate and then you look foolish at the start. It’s hard not to warm up to someone sharing a personal story about hardships, struggle or success that relates back to the big idea of the presentation.

  4. Design: Even non-designers can make simple slides. The slides on screen should not detail the message that you the presenter are trying to convey.  You’re the reason why people are there. The audience will always remember the presenter more than the presentation, so that is why you should let yourself do the talking and never the slides. Slides should help you say what you need to say, and not speak for you.  Audience minds start to wander when you expect them to read complicated bulleted slides. When you shift the focus of the presentation from the slides to the presenter you can turn presentations into simple, understandable and memorable experiences.

  5. Body Language: It’s very important that your presentations have great content, but it all comes together with a powerful delivery.  It’s not only what you say, or how you say it, but also how your voice says it.  Is your cadence speeding up and slowing down to emphasize key points of your big idea.  Is your body posture closed off and unapproachable, or is it open and inviting with large hand gestures that seem to reach out and give visual reference points that move the story along and show your passion about the topic. And most important, are you smiling? Before you start any presentation. Stand up, smile and pause. The pause is very critical because it sets the tone in the room. All eyes are on you and if they see your warm smile it sets the tone for a friendly presentation. Second part to body language is eye contact.  Eye contact builds rapport with the audience.  And if eye contact makes you uncomfortable Kenny provides a cheat code, a pro-tip of sorts. He suggests looking at someone’s forehead instead of the eyes. It gives the appearance of looking deep into their eyes while easing the awkwardness that can come from direct eye contact. It totally works.  I’ve used this tip twice already.

  6. Practice: Rehearsing your presentation in front of others or the mirror in your bathroom and even recording it (well not recording yourself in your bathroom, that’s just weird) to watch later is a key step in perfecting the process.  You are you harshest critic and recording yourself will show you each idiosyncratic tendencies that you don’t realize you do.

Kenny states, “People will forget what you say, people will forget what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

With Kenny’s steps everyone will be armed with the proper information to create effective presentations that are simple, have a big idea, and have a set structure focused on you and not your slides. He states “People will forget what you say, people will forget what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” So if you are committed to making yourself a better presenter and are going to use these tips to help get you there, record yourself, and most importantly in the next presentation give a yourself a promise that your next presentation will be one that you would want to see, because it’s what you and your audience deserves.  

As far as the continuation of bad PowerPoint presentations in America’s boardrooms that don’t use Kenny’s techniques? Well, those responsible should be sacked.

About Joseph Mayernik
Posted: June 2017