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Presentations for Impact 2.0 – Length, Density, Quality and 10 Leading Characteristics

[ 2 ] February 11, 2013 |

I’ve been thinking a lot about presentations lately. In the course of a year, I likely have the opportunity to impact over 10,000 people in a live presentation arena and plenty more online. Like any craft, it’s my obligation to stay abreast of what works.

So what am I thinking about the art and science of “the prez”?:

How is technology changing the idea of presentations?

What formats make for the best presentations?

Do audiences react differently to different presentations?

If we are truly into “engagement”, are “people on stage” the best vehicles for that?

How do I get to generate an even better reaction with my key stakeholders “the audience” before selfishly addressing my own objectives ?

You see, most of the dogmatic wisdom I hear about presentations comes from the professional presenter clique themselves. Make no mistake, they give good slide. I’ve provided examples of my five best presentation sources of inspiration below.

But what seems more annoyingly now than ever, is the sameness of the well-coiffed school of slide-ology (and yes, that is a word). Conferences are spitting out highly-opinionated and rehearsed orators, they all are using the 60-90 slide, awesome Flickr background shots with one sentence prophetic statements, TED-like mantras (admission I do love TED but it’s not everybody’s thing)  and “Look at me, look at me” delivery styles.

Is this what we want? Are other people seeing this trend toward style over substance? Quality of visual over thinking? Narcissism over selflessness? Noble-minded opinion over well-articulated theory put into practice?

So I searched for something that these presentation touring bandhands would be wise to consider – evidence!

In looking at the last 20 top, most popular presentations on Slideshare, I found some interesting grains of truth. First of all, contrary to the speaker code, I noticed a large range of formats and styles amongst these viral slide hits (no dogs in the bunch – average views for these recently uploaded decks were 14k per day).

First, the quantitative stats on top presentations  :

Number of slides: Average length – 57 slides, Range 16 to 147 – Verdict: no direct link to quantity of views/shares Conclusion – there is no rule of thumb for slide length

Number of words on slide: Average words/slides – 27 words, Range 2 to 153 – Verdict: no direct link to quantity of views/shares Conclusion – there is no rule of thumb for words on slide

Quality of Graphics: 8 presentations had truly great, likely professionally done slide work, 5 had good impactfully done slidework likely pulled together by the presenter themselves and 7 had very average looking slides (using available Powerpoint templated formats) – Verdict – although it helps and led to more social sharing, there is no standard floor for graphics in presentation impacting views or potential distribution  Conclusion – spend less time developing great graphic and more time developing great ideas, provocations, arguments, evidence and results.

Number of Shares: the average amount of shared activities per presentation each day on the four relevant social networks  (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+)  was 11 per day with a range of 1 to 158  Verdict: the only key skews being towards more emotional presentations (+88% shares vs. average) and higher quality of slide graphics (+49% shares vs. average) Conclusion: no golden rule for getting social sharing of your content, communicate humanly, clearly and desirably and you have a chance.

So if we can’t rely on these numerical rules, what did they all have qualitatively in common? 

- A Central Idea – at the heart of what was being presented, there was a solid idea on what was being covered, even better communicated when in the title of the presentation.

- Visual Connectedness - although some presentations were average looking, all slides looked like came from the same parent.

- Typography – if the fonts weren’t distinctive, they were all clear, bold and designed for impact.

- Roadmap/Arc to their Presentations – the more effective roadmap provided, the more views presentation received – some did it through absolute slide consistency, others through a paradigm/model that guided their presentation and yet others did it through numbered lists.

- Recent/Topical Experience – although some dipped into history going back 50 years for context, most of the learning was very recent and up-to-date.

- Great Examples – in the majority of cases, the presenters had curated the best examples from their own experience or more likely the “world out there” to emphasize their points.

- Quotes – a reasonable use and justifiably placed set of quotations from famous/smart people to emphasize the point being made was a frequently sued tactic.

- Asking Questions – although not uniformly used, more than half of the decks openly asked questions, either to get people to think or to lead logically to the argument being posed.

- Playful Tone – regardless of purpose of presentation (except for analysis presentations) – slide formats allowed for a bit of humour either explicitly in text or implicitly in pictures.

- Call to Action – many of the presentations had a clear call to action and waht they wanted their audience to do and links to contact info

So there you have it, get the presentation police off your back and use whatever slide format you want by following these general guidelines.

Now in spending this much time with this all-star set of 20 presentations, I’ll follow up on my next post about the breadth of styles being used in each presentation format and about the 6 main types of presentations that almost beg different formats, contrary to popular convention.

Here are some of the best Presentation for Impact ongoing resources:

 

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About Sean Moffitt: Managing Director, Wikibrands and President/Chief Evangelist, Agent Wildfire View author profile.

Comments (2)

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  1. Good post. Do you think there is a difference between the decks shared on Slideshare and those delivered as part of an in-person talk? When you speak in person, you and your interaction with the audience are at the centre. A standalone slide deck by definition stands alone and has to tell the story all by itself.

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