I have attended literally thousands of business presentations, most revolving around technology products, applications, business systems, methods, practices, etc. Almost all included PowerPoint. Some were god-awful, a few were great; most were in between but usually sideways of good.
We're going to spotlight ten eclectic examples of some great presentations (purely subjective), some of which you probably know of. But most, not. You'll also be introduced to a resource checklist and book I bet you've never heard of, but if there's only one book you ever read on giving presentations, this should be it. It'll help you nail any presentation.
The standard corporate gobbledygook PowerPoint vomitoria presentation is anywhere from 25-40 PowerPoint slides. Although I attended one that had 87 slides (for a 20-minute presentation). That type of presentation is usually referred to by those well-versed in business presentation malpractice as a "Gluteus-Maximus PowerPoint Vomitus Eruptus."
We're Great. You're Stupid.
Most business presentations ( the standard corporate gobbledygook PowerPoint vomitoria) start off with an introduction to the company or service. It's always the same. "We've been around." "We're great!" "Our customers love us. Industry analysts love us!" "Everybody loves us!" "We're smart ... and you're stupid if you select anyone but us." Somewhere along the line the prospective customer is lost in the PowerPoint shuffle. The solution to their problems or needs always seem to be near the end of the presentation. Therein lies the seeds of discontent. And failure.
Want to See it from Their Eyes?
Online Videos by Veoh.com
(Okay, I gussied it up a little, Animotorized and Veoh-ed it to reflect real-life)
I have given a lot of presentations and polluted the business world with more than my fair share of business-presentation stinkers. Some were so foul I’m surprised Al Gore didn’t cite them as a cause for global warming in his “Inconvenient Truth.”
I’m terrible. No doubt about it. I'm the best of the worst.
When You’re Bad, You’re Good
But that’s good. When you’re bad, and know it, you’re always trying to improve. And I am. I’m also enamored (jealous) of those professionals who connect with and mesmerize the audience. They are rare, but not as rare as you might think.
I’ve written with and interviewed many best-selling authors, business presenters and storytellers. People like Steven Pressfield, author of ”The War of Art, Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae,” and “The Legend of Bagger Vance’; Al Ries, author of ”The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR”; Robert McKee, screenwriting guru and author of the best-seller ”STORY”; Dr. Paul Pearsall, international best-selling author of ”The Beethoven Factor”; Dave Stein, best-selling business author of “How Winners Sell”; Bo Burlingham, author of “Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big”; Sam Horn, author of ”POP! How to Stand Out in any Crowd”; Lynne McTaggert, author of “The Field” and “The Intention Experiment”; David Merman Scott, author of ”The New Rules of Marketing and PR”; Marc Seifer, author of ”Wizard; The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla”; Skip Press, author of more than 20 books including “How to Write What You Want and Sell What You Write”; and Jeff Thull, author of "Mastering the Complex Sale" and CEO of Prime Resource Group.
A very eclectic group with an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise. Storytellers all … but by necessity, business presenters as well.
All had one thing in common.
Well, almost nothing. All had different styles. Different methods. Different personalities. Different differents. But, all have successful histories of connecting emotionally with their readers.
Trial and Terror
One hundred percent of the business people I’ve questioned (very unscientific, I know) about how they learned to give business presentations said they taught themselves. Trial and error. Some were trial and terrors. That includes the good, the bad and the gluteus-maximus fugly presentations. They all had horror stories, even the great ones. All had flopped terribly at some point. Some had moments of high-exhilaration - spectacular moments of success when the visceral connection to the audience was almost spiritual.
None of them were taught traditionally “in school.” Most had researched, read, listened, learned and questioned others. Some had invested thousands of dollars in attending forums, conferences and classes from self-professed business gurus.
What did they learn? Each class, teacher or guru said something that contradicted the other. Or .. worse, said exactly the same thing. Boring.
Sales Survival Skill
All agreed giving a good business presentation is a mandatory sales survival skill. It should be taught in high schools and colleges. Businesses should make it a priority to train all their people, not just their salespeople, on how to make a good business presentation. Why? It helps others in the company understand the business, be involved, be more knowledgeable of the problems and solutions that can be offered to customers. It also enables employees to better advocate and evangelize for the company.
They Don’t Teach “Moving Mountains” in School
So, while doing research for this article, I ran across a book by Henry M. Boettinger titled “Moving Mountains: Or the Art of Letting Others See Things Your Way.” I was referred to it by an old and trusted friend (well not really old, he is only 82 and has 50 years of experience in the film industry as a writer and actor.)
I had never heard of the book, or the author, and was, quite frankly, prepared to use it for fireplace fuel. It took me a couple weeks to get a copy – hard to find – which in my mind meant it was probably worthless.
But then I cracked it opened and read …
"I have heard and watched practitioners in most areas of modern life in their attempts to persuade – lawyers, natural and social scientists, soldiers, civil servants, executives, physicians, engineers, foremen, politicians, mechanics, labor union leaders, shop stewards, artists, musicians, architects, philosophers, film makers, advertising men, accountants, college students, clubwomen, men of the cloth, sundry teachers, and lesser breeds without the law, to name a few.
Some were eminent, most unknown. All were persons of intelligence, having something worthwhile to say, but the range of persuasive skill ran from embarrassing, painful failures (including cases of physical collapse) to skillful performers whose presentations were perfectly tuned to their audiences, and who made changing your mind an exhilarating experience.
What makes the difference? Neither schooling, material, nor rank – of this I'm sure.
Whether the audience was one or a thousand, success invariably attended only those who both understood and presented their ideas from the viewpoint of the needs and characteristics of the persons in their audience."
Timeless - Timely
I read the book and was floored. ”Moving Mountains” was published in 1969 – but it is timeless and timely. It’s based upon observations and key concepts Mr. Boettinger identified over a long and successful career in business. None other than Peter Drucker hailed it as a "First-class and highly original, but also highly practical, treatise both on how one thinks and how one presents thinking."
Two Presentation Checklist Tools
If you could read only one book on how to give an effective presentation (for any occasion) – read this one. At the end of this article, are two checklists from the book (Henry if you’re out there still, e-mail or call me, I want to thank you.) that will help you give the best presentation possible and evaluate presentations of others. You need to read the book to fully understand all of it, but it’s a great resource document to forever change the way you think of business presentations … and the way you deliver them.
Every story a presentation.
Below are some presentations I think are exceptional stories. They run the gamut of industries and topics. Some are about business. Some are about life. Some are funny. Some tragic. Some humorous. Some have no spoken words, just images. Some use PowerPoint. Some are PowerPoint-less. But they all have one thing in common. Do you see it? Send us an email with your answer.
YOU TOO CAN MOVE MOUNTAINS - WIN A COPY!
If you have suggestions or nominations of other great presentations, let me know. E-mail them to me, and if selected, they’ll be used in the follow-up article. The first ten presentations selected will win a copy of “MOVING MOUNTAINS: The Art of Letting Others See Your Way.”
Did You Know?
Shift Happens: Effects of Globalization
Created by Karl Fisch, and modified by Scott McLeod; Globalization and The Information Age
I've Been to The Mountaintop
Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.
When it Comes to Tech, Simplicity Sells
(this is a humorous, realistic classic)
by New York Times technology columnist David Pogue
Tribute to the Challenger Astronauts
- Ronald Reagan
"We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God."
- Jim Valvano
Arthur Ashe Courage Award Acceptance Speech - March 4, 1993
Steve Jobs - 2007
Introduction of the First Macintosh
Steve Jobs - 1984
How NOT To Use Powerpoint
By Don McMillan
Single Biggest Rule in Sales
By Jeffrey Gitomer
Want to get really good at presentations? Try stand-up comedy. There is no harsher audience. No quicker road to feedback. This is a routine (presentation) by Ron White (caution ... a few profanities, and alcohol, and laughs).
But I Didn't Have the Ability
End With a Question
Question With an End
What's the Best Kept Secret of Great Presentations?
Evaluation Checklist for Presentations of Others
1. Is the opening interesting?
2. Is a problem stated clearly?
3. Are the points developed to give a well-rounded view of all relevant aspects?
4. Is the action or belief desired stated clearly?
5. Does the presentor show that he has a vital and passionate interest in the idea presented?
* Is he dominant, submissive, or does he treat the audience as equals?
6. Is the style appropriate for the content?
* Mystery or Suspense
7. Does the presentor explain or translate technical material well?
8. Are the visuals well designed and related to each other?
9. How well is cross-examination and discussion handled?
10. Is the layout of the room distracting, or does it inhibit discussion?
11. Are the examples, anecdotes, or humor relevant to points made and matched to the style selected?
12. Does the presentor's idea appeal to Reason, Emotion, and Common Sense?
13. If a "project" type presentation, does the presentor take note of all relevant factors?
* External Relations
14. Is the impression created by the presentor one which inspires the confidence of the audience?
* Are there any embarrassing points?
* Are there any nervous or irritating mannerisms?
* Is there a willingness to listen to the suggestions of the audience?
15. Did you learn anything new, or discover new ways to look at the old?
16. Did you see any new approaches which you can use in your own presentation in the future?
MOVING MOUNTAINS: HOW TO CREATE A GREAT PRESENTATION CHECKLIST
* What are the two clashing images?
* What exists?
* What do you want to exist?
* Which of the various forms of statement is best:
o Historical Narrative
o Blowing the Whistle
o Response to an order
o The Great Dream Confession
2. Opening Sentence --- Will it excite the interest of the audience?
3. What is the "plan" of development?
* Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis, etc.
4. Do you have examples or anecdotes?
5. What devices do you have to get and hold attention?
* Is there a balance between Reason, Emotion, and Common Sense?
* Can you use assertion, refutation, doubt, and affirmation?
* Have you made it as brief as possible?
o Is it oversimplified?
o Is it overembellished?
o Are there any tortured passages?
o Are there any embarrassing ones?
* Is every point clearly expressed?
* What alternations in mood exist?
* Is there a mixture of the lofty and commonplace?
* Can you use suspense or mystery?
* Do you need a recapitulation?
* If a multiple presentation, is a leader appointed?
7. Is the tone one of equality, dominance, or submissiveness?
* Do you really believe in the idea itself?
8. Is the group small or large?
* If large, do you have some humor to "break the ice"?
9. What prejudices, fears, or constraints can you expect from this audience?
10. Have you checked the room for distractions? Have you neutralized them?
11. Is the room layout one that encourages discussion?
12. Are visual aids appropriate?
* Does each one carry a statement of its significance?
* Are the best graphical methods used for statistics?
o If technical, have they been checked for competence by experts?
* Is their size correct?
* Are they related to one another so that someone could extract your message from the set of visuals alone?
13. Have you identified the weak points?
14. What cross-examination questions would you ask if you were in the audience?
* Do you have an answer for each one?
* If challenged on your competence, can you reply appropriately?
* Have you identified those in your audience who may oppose, and who are neutral?
15. Do you state clearly: (1) What you want the audience to do when you are finished? (2) What you wish them to believe?
* Does every point made lead to your ending statement in some way?
* Does the audience need to make great leaps to get to you conclusion?
16. Does the presentation use any special vocabularies unfamiliar to your audience?
* Have these been translated into terms intelligible to them?
17. Are unfamiliar techniques employed?
* Have these been explained?
* Have you established why these are used instead of more familiar methods?
18. Have you considered alternative methods of presenting technical points?
19. If the presentation is a "project" type, have you touched the five areas common to all programs?
* External Relations
20. Have you exposed the ideas involved to the original, inquiring, and skeptical minds among your acquaintances?
Contact: Steve Kayser