Friday, February 26, 2010

Tork & Grunt's Guide to Great Presentations

Author:       Bob Harvey
Published:   2008
Publisher:    Marshall Cavendish
Paperback: 200 pages.

"Arrows Not Bullets", is the tagline of this book.
It takes a dig at typical presentations done within the confines of an organization or in various public events. 
The author stresses that you can be a successful presenter only by pointing the audience clearly in the right direction (Arrows), rather than hitting them with random and confusing "bullet point" statements !
By means of a story about two cave-people - Tork & Grunt,and their tribe -  and also through some modern-day case-studies this book provides a concise guide on how to effectively work on a presentation through the various phases of  its lifecycle - planning, scripting and delivery. However it is a bit difficult to keep track of the flow of these stories, each spread across several chapters. It would have been better if there was just one story to illustrate all the aspects of a great presentation.
The author also provides tips on using tools like PowerPoint and Keynote.
On the whole a useful book on making great  presentations.

The key takeaways from this book are:
A) If you don't seize the opportunities of speaking, you will never explore your full potential.

B) In every situation, the purpose of the presentation or speech is to change the mindset of the  audience. The audience should either think differently or act differently after the presentation.

C) Every audience is sitting there thinking: 
     What's in it for me?                                       

D) Content is the key to an outstanding presentation.
Albert Mehrabian's much-quoted research - communication is 7 % content, 38 % tone of voice and 55 % body language- is highly misinterpreted. This research dealt with emotional communication only NOT the  general communication and CERTAINLY NOT the business communication. As Mehrabian himself says on his website: "Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable."
However his research does indicate the need for emotional content, voice and body language to be in synch with one another. 

E) To create the content, start with a braindumping session.

F) Presentation structure is similar to a three-act play with a beginning, a middle and an end.        

G) Ten Commandments of PowerPoint:
   1. Bullet points are speaker support, not audience support.
   2. KISS - Keep it simple, stupid!
   3. Slow down: just because you're anxious about being successful, 
       don't rush to get it all over!  
   4. Decide what you want the visual to say.
   5. Put on screen the minimum amount of data needed to 
        illustrate your argument.
   6. Simplify the visual to accentuate the trend.
   7. Seperate speaker support from audience support.
   8. Every slide should carry a thousand words (A picture !).
   9. Icons simplify and improve the visual presentation of data
  10. Use your theme as the visual basis for all your audience support - if appropriate - for the whole event.
(These commandments make a lot of sense, but my personal experience is - they are very difficult to follow in a hectic business scenario. It is easier and much faster to write in bullet points. Besides the audience also likes to see more details in slides. They want to keep these slides as reference, in lieu of reading a detailed document.That's the reality ! 
By the way I just came to know today that it is slightly over 25 years since the first version of PowerPoint was released. An interesting history of PowerPoint is available at the BBC website)
H) It is good to be a little nervous before your speech or presentation. In fact you exude overconfidence, you will come across as insincere or arrogant.

I) As a speaker or presenter be proud of who you are and what you have to say. 
Apologize only for genuine failings or shortcomings - and even then, only if they are clearly obvious. It is similarily demeaning to express an excess of gratitude. Always be polite, but constant 'thank-yous' are as inappropriate as constant apologies.

K) To create impact with your ending, slow down as you draw your presentation to close, so that your proposals and recommendations are clear and memorable.

 L) Stage skills
    1. Don't hide behind a lectern. You can still glance at your notes if you stand to one side.
    2. Using different points in the room to make different points in your presentation will anchor the differences through visual connection.
    3. Don't fiddle with your hands. If in doubt, just 'hang loose'.
    4. Your gestures should be directly proportional to the size of audience  - 
         small audience,  small gestures;big audience, expansive gestures.
    5. Don't embarass your audience with long pauses, while you wait in anticipation of  their   response. Make sure you get the right answers by asking rhetorical questions and answering them yourself.

1 comment:

Bob Harvey said...

I much appreciate your comments on my book. Management Today called it "Best of its kind" and it's great to see more people are getting the message. Readers may like to browse through the slide presentation which summarises some key points - http://tinyurl.com/torkandgrunt101. Perhaps the most important thing is to ask yourself the question "Is it Speaker Support or Audience Support?" Keep connecting with your audience...!

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