Does good presentation matter? History suggests that strong communication skills play an important part in success. For example, have you noticed how often a person you thought you knew as the inventor of something turns out not to be the first person to come up with the idea. The person you know as the inventor is often the person who was best able to communicate the idea to others; the one who persuaded others to invest in the idea or convince people of its benefits; the one who could get their ideas heard and their key messages received and understood. Good presentation matters.
It’s funny how what we are willing to accept as good presentation appears skewed in different situations. When we go out for a meal with family or friends we expect good presentation. It doesn’t have to be Michelin star quality, but if the food is just thrown together on the plate it looks unappetising and we find it much harder to enjoy the experience and in more extreme situations just feel unable to eat the food. On the other hand, food that is well presented is far more likely to encourage us to enjoy the experience and seems to taste better.
When you are out shopping, the way products are presented to you has a significant impact on the choices you make and the products you buy. The science behind retail merchandising (presentation) is fascinating. If you walk into a shop and feel the displays are untidy and product is scattered all over the place you may well walk straight back out. Interestingly, if you are in an antique shop, you might actually really enjoy the seemingly random presentation as it gives you a sense of excitement that you might find that hidden gem and be able to retire to your own private island.
Every day, we are presented with examples of why good presentation matters. So why do we not carry that principle over to our business presentations? Goodness knows that presentations are now a major feature of business life. The internet is awash with suggested numbers of daily PowerPoint presentations. 30 million a day appears to be the most common, before you add in Keynote for Apples users and Prezi for cloud users, and the myriad of other software choices available. We don’t need to debate the numbers. It is fairly reasonable to accept that the number of presentations given every day is huge. The real question is how many of them are good presentations? Instantly, you will all know from personal experience that the number is likely to drop dramatically.
Our experiences as audience members are frequently not a good ones. The common presentation pitfalls persist, such as far too much information, too much detail, font sizes designed for an opticians chart, too many slides, bullet point overload, reading the presentation, monotone delivery style. The list is endless. Why do we appear to accept this poor standard of presentation when we know how much good presentation matters? Generally, time pressure is one of the most common excuses I receive. We typically work in a fast paced, pressurised environments and much like the poor food example mentioned earlier, our presentation ingredients are thrown together using the tried and tested ‘cut and paste’ technique. We also believe our wisdom is self evident and so our audience can’t fail to ‘get it’. Of course, if that were true, retailers would not need to throw so much time, money and effort at how their products are presented.
Good presentation really does matter. It is one of the key skills that helps successful people stand out from the crowd. It doesn’t need to be an all singing and dancing extravaganza. All it takes is the consistent application of clear and straight forward principles and approaches.
Richard Lock – International trainer and presenter.