Killing Your Audience

January 14th, 2008

Earlier this week I was at a technology conference and attended several keynote presentations and panel discussions. Most of the speakers were interesting and engaging, and provided excellent content. Others were very passionate about their topics and this projected throughout their delivery. But there was one person in particular who did not bode well. The topic wasn’t boring. Nor was it his diction, eye contact and non-verbal queues objectionable. It was his presentation.

Situated near the back of the room, I was able to take in all of the presentations just fine. But when this PowerPoint presentation was displayed, I knew the audience was in trouble, let alone the speaker. His slides were riddled with long sentences and at least ten bullets. This simply does not compute in the fast-paced, A.D.D. world we live in.

This got me thinking about the construction of a good presentation, and my reference to Guy Kawasaki’s “10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint.” The premise is very simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.

I have used Guy’s rule for my own presentations and counseled many clients on it too. One thing I have done to take this further is to use graphics and even video clips to further enhance the experience. This allows you to verbalize more and rely less on text to deliver your message.

Topic aside, integrating the 10/20/30 Rule will significantly improve your chances of keeping your audience interested. More importantly, it forces you to create a more compelling presentation and put the focus back on you to articulate and communicate, instead of killing the audience with PowerPoint bullets.

Domenick Cilea

Domenick founded Springboard in 1995. When he is not working on marketing, PR, branding or content strategy, Domenick can be found in a gym, on the road or pool training to survive his next triathlon.

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