I recently sent a company wide email with the subject: “This is why I get so pissed.”
To my employees’ relief, it wasn’t because of anything they had done. No missed deadline. No mishandled client. No spilled and neglected coffee. I wasn’t upset with them.
I was upset at a piece published by HubSpot in October 2014. The piece was titled, “20 Tools for Creating and Delivering Amazing Presentations,” and was forwarded to me by a friend who had no intention of setting me off. But it did anyway.
First of all, I mean absolutely no disrespect. HubSpot publishes great content, and this is by no means a personal attack on their staff or this posts’ author Fergal Glynn in any way.
With that said, I still sent the link to my staff through gritted teeth—not because any of their suggested ‘presentation tools’ are necessarily bad ones, but because the effect of this blog post perpetuates the misconception that when it comes to building an amazing presentation it’s all about design.
This is wrong. SO SO SO SO WRONG.
To truly create and deliver amazing presentations, you must start with CONTENT. Whether you’re asking your boss for a raise or pitching to investors, creating an effective and engaging presentation is all about a compelling MESSAGE—not just the latest and greatest visual tricks. You can pull out all the design stops in the book, but if you’re not connecting with people with compelling content, it won’t mean a thing.
Did Martin Luther King Jr. use slides when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech to over 250,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial? What about the POTUS during the State of the Union address? Does he make sure his PowerPoint is up to date so all his animations work?
Of course not.
If this content-first approach is good enough for the greatest leaders and orators of our time, it’s good enough for you too. The fact is—if you have a strong enough message, and deliver it properly, you don’t need slides.
Again, it’s not that I don’t condone the use of some of these solutions–heck we use some of them ourselves–but it’s never where people should start. So what do I think are the most effective presentation tools?
3 Recommended Tools for Amazing Presentations:
- Stories that can illustrate an idea like a graph never can.
- Simple yet evocative language your audience can actually understand and relate to.
- Carefully placed moments of humor to lighten the mood and gain a bit of favorability from the audience.
This shortlist barely scratches the surface… I could go on all day, and my full answer to this question is something that spans much larger than a single blog post. In fact, we developed a whole eGuide around it for you to download for free: Code of Content: A Pirate’s Guide to Creating Amazing Presentations.
I’m obviously very strong in my convictions that conventional wisdom in the business world has the concept of presentations very wrong. It’s not all about design, and you should NEVER start creating a presentation with visual solutions. It should always start with your content. Begin with a clear, compelling and carefully crafted message. It’s all you’ll really ever need.