What it is: When people present an idea, they often use presentation software like Keynote or PowerPoint. The problem is that software alone is never enough. You also have to know how to use these tools to make a proper presentation.
Here are two ways people make boring presentations. First, they cram each slide with lots of text and then proceed to read the text directly off the slide. This is boring because people can read faster silently than a presenter can read out loud. Even worse is there’s no point in the presenter reading out loud if the audience can simply read the slides themselves. The presenter is pointless in this case.
A second way people make boring presentations is by being disorganized. They may have great looking slides in their presentation but if their presentation doesn’t make a point and keep the audience engaged from start to finish, it doesn’t matter how great the presentation might look. It’s still ineffective.
To make a great presentation, you need a great topic properly organized. Then you need to present that information in a way that engages the audience. In “Show and Tell” by Dan Roam, the author suggests that you keep each slide simple, focusing on a single point, which is a lesson that the book “Presentations Secrets of Steve Jobs” also advocates (which many presenters at Apple’s WWDC 2015 conference sadly ignored as they bored the audience to sleep).
Each slide should enhance and support the speaker’s talk, not replace it. Too often people use slideshows as a crutch to present all the important information. Of course if you’re letting your presentation software present all the important information, that means you (as the speaker) must not be important at all. The result is a boring presentation.
By focusing on making you more important then the presentation, you force yourself to think of your slides as a way to enhance what you say, not replace it. For example, you might talk about rising sales and then your slide can show a single graph showing rising sales. Rather than let slides distract the audience, you want slides to enhance you as the presenter. That way the focus of the audience always remains on you.
Dan Roam also suggests telling a story. A story has a beginning, explains problems, and then concludes with a triumphant solution in the end. Stories always make information easier to understand rather than the presentation of dry facts. We remember more through stories than from facts. After all, what’s more memorable? A classic novel like “Moby Dick” or “The Scarlet Letter” or the dictionary, which contains all the same words used in every classic novel ever printed?
Facts are not interesting. We need to understand the meaning and story behind those facts. By learning how to structure your presentation using the techniques in “Show and Tell,” you can create the best possible presentations whether you use Keynote, PowerPoint, or just scribbling on a whiteboard. The tools you use to give a presentation are far less important than the way you present your information itself.
So don’t get wrapped up behind the features of Keynote or PowerPoint. Both can help you make a presentation and both can be used poorly if you’re not careful. Just learn how to make a great presentation without presentation software and then you can use presentation software to make your great presentation even more memorable. People learn and remember best when they see pictures, so presentation software can complement your spoken words and provide images that make each point of your presentation memorable long after your presentation is over.