General News of Thursday, 17 December 2009
Title: Secrets to a Good Presentation
Author: Joe-Nat A. Clegg-Lamptey
Reviewer: Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey
Anyone who makes a flawed power-point presentation can be safely assumed not to have read Clegg-Lamptey’s Secrets to a Good Presentation published in 2009.
Did you know for example that on the average, your audience will forget more than 90% of what they hear within 24 hours? What about their limited 15-20 minute attention spans after which your everyday adult leaner might just be overwhelmed by thoughts of a ‘brutal impending’ dinner date? Finally, if the impact of your presentation is 10% dependent upon what you say, 50% on how you say it and 40% on how you look, then how come you don’t look so sharp this morning?
Of course what you say is determined by a myriad of factors including the purpose of your presentation, the audience and their needs, background information, the extent to which you eliminate trivia from a mass of information etc. These factors are captured in one word by the author, namely; preparation. As a matter of fact, so important is preparation that he writes that “an effective presentation is only the tip of the iceberg of hard work.” And then again, there is the other not so small matter of practice, be it of “opening sentences, timing, and rational flow of ideas and closing statements.” Perhaps, it is Mark Twain’s quote in the book that best captures the emphasis the book places on preparation and the opportunities it provides for practice when he says, “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
As for how you say words to leave an unforgettable impression, Clegg-Lamptey’s book, written using the short notes format, teaches the reader all about three-part lists, contrasting pairs, rhymes and repetitions. And while at it, you might remember to vary your tone, show some enthusiasm and good humor and end on a “high.” Of course, there are some presenters with the misguided notion that deliberately exceeding the speaking time allotted to you is the smart thing to do. Trust me, it is not! Infact so ‘un-smart’ is it that the book with its spice of thought-provoking quotes has Robert Greeleaf lamenting how “many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much.”
It is all in the book.
When is it appropriate to make your presentation fully dressed up and when may a suit appear over dressed in which case it might be more appropriate to step it down a bit? In other words, how does one dress to suit the occasion in order to make the right impact? How does one walk to the podium in order not to be seen “rushing or crawling?” And o by all means, get your microphone technique right and stop fidgeting! Never hit the microphone while testing it for performance! Of course, the only source of information on how far from your mouth to hold the microphone and at what angle is Clegg-Lamptey’s Secrets of a Good presentation.
And so it is that in 121 pages of practical magic, the author sets out the principles that enhance effective presentation laid out in eight handy and easy to read chapters. The book is also adorned with interesting illustrations and bold fonts.
What are the pitfalls that commonly plague the presenter and mar an otherwise well-prepared power point presentation? A few examples would suffice.
The first is complete ignorance of the three types of noise described by De Vito that may interfere with your presentation together with a fourth described by the author. The book also introduces the reader to the concept of an ambush and whether or not to expect one during a presentation. More importantly perhaps, what does one do when faced with a typical ambush situation during the question time?
A third common sin is that of disorganized speakers making incomplete sentences on the assumption that the audience are so plugged in that they know how the speaker intends to complete those sentences. It is irrelevant perhaps to point out that presentation is hardly the art and science of clairvoyance and many a presenter has paid dearly for this irritating and bad habit.
The next pitfall reminds me of the near misfortune of my good friend, a Resident specializing in one medical specialty who was due to make a presentation to his Consultants one afternoon at an Accra venue. The presentation had been preceded by a morning event at which his pen drive on which he had stored his presentation had exchanged hands with the organizer. A few minutes to his afternoon presentation, he frantically called me to link him with the organizer since the organizer’s regular telephone was off. When we finally got hold of the organizer, he was … chilling off somewhere outside Accra after the morning event. Back in Accra, my man was twirling in circles with no copy of the presentation on his laptop or anywhere else but the pen drive gone AWOL!
Carry hard copies of your speech in addition to the soft one which you may have stored on one device or the other! You never know which ‘demons’ may be after your presentation. The writer also points out the issue of ignorance of useful key board tips, proceeding there from to provide more than a few tips that the reader will find most useful.
The following crimes, all affiliated with the power point slide tend to be pretty common; one-too many slides, two- slides too crowded (so called busy slides), three- text font size too small and finally, inappropriate use of capitals. Hang on a minute, for this useful handy tool does not leave you hanging. It provides refreshing details on recommended lines per slide, number of words per line and the font size and style that will make the right impact. Having achieved this, Clegg-Lamptey goes for the kill with a salacious mix of what may be considered an appropriate slide colour with an eye for “weak contrast, clashing and variable colours.”
Next accused is what in my view is the worst and most unpardonable crime of reading the entire slide verbatim to your audience in what the writer terms “poor presentation technique.” He concurs because what I call “unpardonable”, he calls the “cardinal sin” in presentation. I would think the slides are supposed to guide the presentation, not delivered as a written speech read to bore one’s audience to death.
When a presenter killing his audience with a boring tedious presentation decides to turn his back to them and address the screen or use multiple distracting animations, then the otherwise rude and embarrassing ring of his fon may be a welcome break, even!
Copies of this wonderful book may be found at the Legon and EPP bookshops and at the Ghana Medical Association Secretariat in Korle Bu near the Medical School where it goes for GHC 6 only.
Let us conclude this way. If your presentation wasn’t delivered within the allotted time, in a clear and concise way utilizing the appropriate visual aids, if it did not meet its purpose (of informing/ entertaining/ inspiring etc…), being remembered long after its delivery, then forget it. It simply did not meet the requirements for an effective presentation.