Why Can’t Your Presentations Be Great?

Why Can’t Your Presentations Be Great?

If you are a presenter, there is no worse time in the agenda to have me in the audience than about 30 minutes after lunch.

There have been occasions of audible snores, snorts and neck snaps coming from me at about 1:30 PM.

Usually the warning signs are clear to me. My eyes get heavy. I start to find myself transported into the pre-sleep state of lassitude and confusion. If my pre-sleep state is really bad, I might snuggle up to the guy sitting next to me and say, “Night, night Mommy. Me go sleepy.”

These are not proud moments. Especially when that guy next to me enjoys the snuggling and he begins to spoon me right there in the hotel conference room. Worse if someone snaps the picture and my wife and kids see it on a colleague’s Facebook page (always great comments beneath).

Nope. There is no worse time-slot to for a speaker than right after lunch.

 Sleeping audience

The Usual Mistakes

So how do the worst speakers begin their presentation right after lunch?

“Well, thanks for the introduction Susan. Folks, I know I am the after lunch speaker. So sit back and enjoy my 156 slides complete with spreadsheets where the type is so small, I don’t even know what they say. Hey! Can you lower the lights?” Good night…

Please people; I am begging you. Whether you are the first speaker of the day, the post lunch speaker or the last speaker of the day (“I am between you and a cocktail, heh, heh.”), please start thinking like a professional speaker.

Learn from Comedians

Watch TED.com talks and see how great speakers deliver their messages. Watch an old Steve Jobs video. Watch a stand-up comedian; I mean a really good one.

Last week I was in Kansas City and a former Saturday Night Live cast member, Jim Breuer, was appearing at the Midland Theater. A friend of a friend ran the theater, so I bought a ticket with more of the intention of touring the theater and less with seeing Breuer.


The minute Jim Breuer hit the stage, he had me.

He built his stories to frenzy. He repeated lines and built on those lines with emphasis. He told a story about his dad that had me laughing so hard I almost handed my cell phone to the young couple next to me to dial 911. I could not breathe. Then he ended the story with a touching note that made me think of my dad. What a ride!

Why Can’t Your Presentations Be Great?

Below are a few things to explore to make your next presentation better. If you work hard, your presentations can even be great.

The first is a video form Nancy Durte.

From her TED.com bio: Nancy Duarte is an expert in presentation design and principal of Duarte Design, where she has served as CEO for 21 years. Nancy speaks around the world, seeking to improve the power of public presentations. She is the author of Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations as well as Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences and the recent HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations.

Nancy is the CEO of Duarte Inc. If we are fortunate, I will convince her to be a guest on Lead or Be Led soon.
Here is a great video from a Durte team member, Eric Albertson (follow @BobandFinn).

There are two bullet points I will raise:

  • Don’t use bullet points
  • I like anything with puppets (see my comedy tab above)

Duarte even has a tool to add life to your presentations. See this link: https://www.duarteshop.com/diagrams.html

Finally, look at the infograph below. Absorb the information and take in the images. Now, why can’t your next PowerPoint or Keynote presentation use this method of make a point and telling a story?

The Habits of Smart People
Source: Online-PhD-Programs.org

The Bottom Line on Great Presentations

Here is the bottom line, people: Being invited to speak, regardless of the subject matter, the place, or the time of day does NOT give you a license to bore.

Stop it. Stop giving boring presentations. Think about your audience. Move them by using some of the ideas above.

The next time you are the after lunch speaker, look around the room for me. I dare you to be so good that I forgo a good 45 minute, cuddly nap to hear you speak. Facebook will have to find fodder in a kitty video.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.