Presentation skills

I'm back from in Athens, we had a 2 day evangelism summit (a synod ??) followed by after 3 days of Longhorn training, and those of us who will be out talking about Windows Server "Longhorn" got to spend time with a top presentation skills coach who works a lot with our US staff. It meant listening to a lot of different presenters and seeing a lot of Powerpoint. The Longhorn stuff used the Microsoft learning templates which were familiar to me from my past life as a trainer in the 1990s; the summit slides were a bit more of a mixed bag, and one of my colleagues mailed us this the link to this page on "Presentation Zen"  - which in turn has some interesting links ("How Yoda and Darth Vader would present" is well worth a look) . This video by Don McMillan is the pick of them.


I also picked up a link to Seth Godin's "Really bad Powerpoint and how to avoid it", to summarize one a key passage, Instead of communicating, Powerpoint is used 

  • As a teleprompter  - "Did your audience really have to come all this way to a meeting to listen to you read the slides? Why not just send them over ? ". In such a session I think about how getting there ate into my personal time.  
  • As a record of what was presented - "The presenter is avoiding the job of writing a formal report".
  • As memory aid for the audience.  "if you read your slides, and then give the audience a verbatim transcript of what you read, what could be wrong with that?" - actually we're constantly under pressure to do this.

Another page on "Presentation Zen" - not the only one there critical of how Microsoft people present -  says "Leaders use speaking opportunities to communicate their vision in a crystal clear fashion (otherwise, what's the point of getting on stage?).  You read it and you think, "well surely anyone uses speaking opportunities to communicate (whatever it is) in a crystal clear fashion ..?" and then to the sound of smacking your own forehead you realize that they don't - and you're left asking "why did they get on stage ?"   And that leaves a couple of interesting questions. "Does leadership depend on the ability to make things crystal clear ?"  and "Does technology hinder communication rather than help it"

Bonus link Interestingly Presentation Zen is critical of Bill Gates' presentations, but I find his e-mails are a model of clarity. I find Steve Ballmer isn't quite as good in e-mail, but is the better of the two on stage. Jason Langridge has some comments on the whole "Death by Powerpoint" thing and the advice he got from Steve B. He also has the obligatory link to Dick Hardt's Identity 2.0 session. If you've never seen it, you should.

Update / Bonus link 2. Darren's thinking about this (not for the first time) - he must have been writing today's post at the same time as I posted mine.


Technorati tags: Microsoft, powerpoint, Death by Powerpoint