Friday, June 6, 2008

Bad Presentations....Good Causes?

One of the professional development sessions I attended at the Nonprofit Congress was led by Andy Goodman who wrote the book, "Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes." Now I had heard about this book when it first came out, but had never read it until now.

See I've presented at conferences for the past couple of years now, however it wasn't until recently that I was critiqued on my presentation skills. The Caster Family Center for Nonprofit Research started a great practice with the Doctoral Research Assistants to have us practice our presentations and be critiqued. This process has been very helpful for me...challenging too I might add. But overall I like to think my presentation skills are continuing to improve so it was timely that I attended Andy Goodman's presentation.

The shocking statistics for me were that people think that only 40% of presentations are interesting at conferences. How disappointing!! Also most people rate conference presentations as C-.

Here is the information Andy provided about the bad and good aspects of nonprofit presentations. Academics take note...I think we are the worst and do the most boring presentations. :)

1. Reading the Slides
2. Providing Too Much Info on the Slides
-Audience attention peaks at 15 minutes.
3. Lack of Audience Engagement
4. Lack of Energy
5. Room and Tech Problems

Why do we tend to do bad presentations?
1. We fail to prepare and practice
2. We are in denial
-Andy read off some funny statistics about how we tend to rate our presentation skills much higher than our colleagues.
3. We have low expectations

Good Presentations
1. Have Interaction
2. Audience Participation
3. Enthusiasm
4. Clarity
5. Relevant Visuals

Then Andy went on to talk about power point since this is the most popular medium for nonprofit presentations. He provided some great pointers on how to improve power point slides. The only challenge for me was that I wasn't sure that people in the room got that part of the presentation. We are all smart people but unless we have taken an intermediate or advanced class in power point we won't know how to make the changes he suggested until we are shown how to do so. I'm pretty vocal and I told him that. However, as I was flying home on the plane I was taking to my colleague Rob Hutsel, Executive Director of the San Diego River Park Foundation and he suggested that Andy create a power point template that includes helpful pointers on using images in power point, animation tips, amount of text to include on the slides, as well as general layout suggestions. That way even if we aren't that power point savvy we have a tool/template we can use.


Shironda A. White said...

Great points! There's one thing that I would suggest to anyone who presents using PowerPoint: cut your slides in half.

As a yearbook adviser at a college, one of the first changes I made to the program was cutting the size of the yearbook. This forced the students to think really hard about the content and only include the most important/strongest pages. Once completed, they not only didn't remember the sections that were cut or reduced, but the yearbook was strong from cover to cover.

This also happened to me with a grant I worked on. Biosketches were limited to two pages. I found this challenging at first, but I realized once I finished that my 2-page biosketch was more powerful than my much-longer resume! Much like with finances, you don't realize what's not that important until you have no choice but to cut something.

The same goes for PowerPoint presentations. By preparing a PowerPoint presentation as if there were no restrictions, then cutting 1/3 - 1/2 of it, you are forcing yourself to stick with only the most important information and think of creative ways to get your point across (this is especially beneficial for those who find themselves reading from PowerPoints too much). The "long version" could be distributed or placed on a website for those who want to review later. And of course, the information from the long version would still be presented. This automatically elimintates #s 1 and 2 on your list of bad presentations.

David M. Patt, CAE said...

One of the things that really bugs me is when I can see the big screen and the laptop screen (slides are being managed by someone else) but the presenter can't see either.

So the presenter constantly turns away from the audience to see what's on the screen.

Paul said...

Nice post. I’d also suggest the books of Edward Tufte, who writes on how to display data effectively. He comes out strongly against slides and for the use of written documents with discussion.

Some of the most effective presentations I’ve delivered have been without slides but have included active audience participation and lots of questions.