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Busting Some Presentation Myths

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If you search for the essentials of an impactful presentation online, there is a very high probability that you will see a larger volume of myths as opposed to the facts. And some of these myths have been around for so long that they are never questioned and often mistaken to be truths.
Some of these are downright absurd and make no sense and some others have been terribly misinterpreted. Very often, these tips have been passed on by otherwise ‘well-intentioned’ individuals.
This mini e-book is busts some of these. Let’s go myth bustin’

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Busting Some Presentation Myths

  1. 1. Presentation Myths Bustin’ some
  2. 2. 1 If you search for the essentials of an impactful presentation online, there is a very high probability that you will see a larger volume of myths as opposed to the facts. And some of these myths have been around for so long that they are never questioned and often mistaken to be truths. Some of these are downright absurd and make no sense and some others have been terribly misinterpreted. Very often, these tips have been passed on by otherwise‘well-intentioned’individuals. For instance, an often heard remark is that 55% of your communication happens through body language, 38% through tone of voice and only 7% through words. Really? Most of those who quote this, never question the numbers nor the validity of such a research. Bustin’ a few Presentation Myths Effective public speaking and impactful presentation skills have a huge impact on your ability to lead your teams, drive action and even your net worth. Warren Buffet feels that effective public speaking can add as much as 50% to your net worth in your life time. He thinks of it as a necessary skill. Hear it from him here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xfelKplJqA Sadly, the skill is packaged as a pack of tricks that can be mastered in a few days. This is as far from the truth as possible. In fact, it is just another myth. So we ran a campaign on our social media handles to separate the wheat from the chaff. We received a heartening response and several requests to compile them for easy reference. And this mini e-book is the result. Let’s go myth bustin’
  3. 3. 2 A detailed explanation by the presenter always leads to an enhanced retention by the audience Myth 1 The truth is in stark contrast to the reality. A detailed explanation does not lead to greater retention, it leads to boredom. In reality, the biggest gripe against presentations is that the slides are loaded with information.‘Busy’is the word for it now. This overloading stems from a misplaced belief that more details will help the audience to understand the message faster. The reality is the exact opposite. Information overload leads to three things: „ Confusion „ Boredom and „ Disconnectedness And the result is a lost opportunity! Information on a slide is not like loading a scale - more the heavier. More information does NOT make the argument meatier or more persuasive. On the contrary, excess information has a detrimental impact. This phenomenon is seen in negotiations too. This was observed in a landmark study led by Neil Rackham, the gentleman well-known for developing the SPIN selling framework. Rackham’s study revealed that expert negotiators presented fewer reasons to support their case because a bigger number of reasons steals the thunder from their best points. Similarly, a presenter too, loses ground on the weakness of their least compelling achievement. You can read the Neil Rackham paper here: http://bit.ly/38k0o6l or a summary here: https://bit.ly/2MV7BSY
  4. 4. 3 “All these points are really very important. We have to keep them,”is a common refrain that we hear from presenters. In saying or believing so, they never pause to think who is it important for? Them, or their audience? Skipping this question pushes presentations into the abyss of boredom as they end up saying what can be said, rather than what must be said. We can easily move from the former to the latter if we spend a little time in understanding who am I speaking to? Starting to create your presentation by firing up PowerPoint (or Keynote) is akin to starting the construction of a building without any architectural drawings. (if you really want to see where that leads to, search‘Winchester Mystery House’) Presenter is the HERO of the presentation and must take the centre stage Myth 2 This approach of beginning with the creation of slides ignores some very important considerations, like: „ Who is the audience „ What do they want to know, or „ How can I best connect with them, and so on A successful presentation is about the audience, not the presenter. Till the presenters keep placing themselves at the centre, they will continue to churn boring and disengaging monologues! So that makes the audience the real HERO, and NOT the presenter! Read about the parallels between the‘Winchester Mystery House’and bad presentations here: http://bit.ly/2ObgGIa
  5. 5. 4 On one end of the spectrum are presenters who are victims of the show- ‘em-everything. And on the other end of this spectrum are folks who often say,“I do not want it in more than five or six slides.” Most presenters battle hard to strike the balance between everything in only five slides. The effort exerted to strike this delicate balance wreaks havoc on slide design. But why do the presenters feel that fewer slides are better? Often, the number of slides is seen as a proxy for time. Logically, it may seem to be a rational assumption. But then do fewer slides really mean a shorter presentation? The short answer is NO, because presenters are struck by the show-‘em-everything mindset. Fewer slides means a shorter presentation Myth 3 The result definitely is fewer slides but that does not translate into shorter and engaging presentations. So what is the solution? Presenters must have absolute clarity of the message they want to convey. More than the volume of information, presenters must focus on the meaning of the message. When the focus is on the volume of the message, the collateral damage is slide design, because it is last thing on the presenter’s mind. Too much information dilutes the message. Less is More.
  6. 6. 5 “The public is more familiar with bad design than good. It is, in effect, conditioned to prefer bad design because that is what it lives with”said Paul Rand, the celebrated designer behind the IBM logo, in his book‘Design, Form and Chaos’. Psychologists have a name for it - the‘Mere Exposure Effect’, which essentially means that people develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. The situation for presentation design is far worse. Busy slides with lines and lines of ill-formatted text, cheesy images and clipart are the norm. And so common, that sometimes exceptions are out rightly rejected. Yes! good design is rejected. Remarks, like… Slide design is a nice to have skill Myth 4 ‘This is just an image’. ‘Why is this slide so empty’? ‘Add some more text, and some borders’and many similar comments are so commonplace, that we flinch no more. Tragically, the ability to deal with bad visual design has become a valuable coping skill in businesses and offices of our times. However, good slide design is to a great presentation as good cinematography is to a blockbuster movie. Just a change in the use of a particular typeface, selection of the right image and visualizing data with the right graph can lead to a huge impact in the way information is perceived and retained.
  7. 7. 6 Slide design is a valuable skill for any businessperson. And if COVID-19 has taught us a thing, it is that the slides are going nowhere. So, design is a must- have contemporary skill rather than a nice-to-have. Design as an organisational competency can reap amazing rewards. McKinsey & Company tracked the design practices of 300 publicly listed companies over a five-year period in multiple countries and industries. ...Slide design is a nice to have skill Myth 4 This also went on to become the basis of the McKinsey Design Index (MDI). It comes as no surprise that companies with the top quartile MDI scores outperformed industry-benchmark growth by as much as two to one. You can read the entire study here: www.mckinsey.com/.../the-business-value-of-design
  8. 8. 7 “I am a natural speaker” “I can wing this” “I don’t prepare, it makes me sound rehearsed and artificial. I want it to be natural” If you have heard these (or similar such remarks) before a speech or presentation, you definitely know what followed. Disaster! if we were to put it mildly. On the other hand, if you introspect about the secret behind the most powerful speeches in human history that moved the audience - were they extempore, improvised, or impromptu with no preparation, planning, or rehearsals? The answer is a big NO! Extempore is the natural way of presenting Myth 5 WHY? Simply because developing and delivering a speech or a presentation is a highly creative activity, and that calls for a focused left and right brain thinking. It calls for understanding who my audience is, what do I want them to know and most importantly, to deliver the message in the allocated time. The success and failure of any engaging speech or an impactful presentation is then a result of thoughtful planning and methodical preparation, or lack of it. A clear message, weaved into a well thought-of and structured flow is the key to an impactful delivery. The best part is, once it is done, it sounds extempore. Neil deGrasse Tyson echoes this when he says,“You need to be ten times more prepared to look as if you didn’t prepare at all.” You can hear him yourself here: https://youtu.be/iz42492xY20?t=30
  9. 9. 8 Indulge in a simple exercise. Just google“quotes about body language”and click on the first link. The first quote in the list of 43 quotes is Ralph Waldo Emerson. Interestingly, Mr. Emerson wasn’t even talking about body language. BOOM!! Google it again! Do it, before you read any further. Like we said indulge in the exercise. The volume of misinformation about body language is immense. And historically, a lot has been said and written about the contribution of body language to the success of a speech or a presentation too. Sadly, much of what you think you know about body language is really urban folklore. Recent studies on the psychology of body language suggest that much of common wisdom that most people accept as gospel is really nonsense.* Body Language is the prime contributor to the presenter’s success *Source: What you think you know about body language may be hurting your speaking career (https://westsidetoastmasters.com/article_reference/body_language_myths.html) Myth 6 There is no denying the fact that we are influenced by the appearance, posture, and the way the speaker carries herself. But by no yardstick of measure does it account for being the most important determinant of success (remember the Mehrabian Myth!) Just recall that presentation where the speaker delivered a well-crafted story, supported by a compelling argument, and data to substantiate. Now imagine the opposite - a suave and impeccably dressed speaker with the right tone of voice and making all the‘right’gestures while delivering a message that itself is garbled and is making no sense to you as an audience? Research suggests that the audience is selfishly forgiving. If their What’s-in- it-for-me (WIIFM) is addressed and the speaker is making sense, everything else takes a back seat. – accent, body language, even dressing. YES, all of these. Body language then, is NOT the most significant factor while delivering a presentation. MESSAGING is!
  10. 10. 9 Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are full of experts promising an antidote to ALL your public speaking woes. Shine on the TEDx stage in 7 days! Just 5, screams another… And there is one that says Just 3!! This, often, invokes the image of the snake-oil salesman. Sadly, those who buy into this allure, end up disheartened. Let us understand a fundamental - public speaking is a skill and mastering any skill calls for repetition and practice. Can you learn how to speak effectively in 3 days? The short answer is Yes. Become a Master public speaker in just 3 days! Myth 7 Can you master the skill in three days? ABSOLUTELY NOT!! Can three days at the gym turn you into an athlete? No, but you will learn how to operate the machines. Presentations are no different either. Confident public speaking is a result of clear and straight thinking, an empathic view of the audience and command over the language. All three of these are a result of a slow‘learn and practice’drill and cannot be grasped overnight. So, the next time you come across such proclamations; remember, some roads have no shortcuts. If you would like some help with your presentation skills or the design of your slides, reach out to us on: training@knoledge.in We would love to lend a helping hand.
  11. 11. 10 If you would like some help with your presentation skills or the design of your slides, reach out to us on: training@knoledge.in We would love to lend a helping hand. © 2021 KNOLedge

If you search for the essentials of an impactful presentation online, there is a very high probability that you will see a larger volume of myths as opposed to the facts. And some of these myths have been around for so long that they are never questioned and often mistaken to be truths. Some of these are downright absurd and make no sense and some others have been terribly misinterpreted. Very often, these tips have been passed on by otherwise ‘well-intentioned’ individuals. This mini e-book is busts some of these. Let’s go myth bustin’

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