I know that many of you present material to groups as part of your job. In working with organizations over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to attend some of those presentations.
While some of you are master presenters, some of you struggle to provide presentations that are interesting and meaningful for your audience. If you’ve ever had to sit through one of these presentations, you know how painful it can be.
The large majority of real estate leaders lie somewhere in the middle, between these two extremes. Their presentations are well done, but could use some improvement. I’m not sure how self-aware I am, but I would guess I fall into this group.
This is why a recent blog written by Michael Hyatt resonated with me. Hyatt offers five simple and practical ideas to quickly tune-up your presentations:
"1. Don’t give your presentation software center stage. This is the biggest mistake I see speakers make. They forget that PowerPoint or Keynote are tools designed to augment their presentation, not be their presentation.
Never forget: You are the presenter. Your message should be the focus. Not your slides. Not your props. And not your handouts. You are in the lead role, and you need to retain that role.
No amount of 'razzle dazzle' or slide effects can overcome a weak presentation. If you don’t do your job, slides won’t save you. It only makes a bad presentation worse.
2. Create a logical flow to your presentation. Better yet, tell a story. The absolute last thing you want to do is turn your presentation into a random assortment of bulleted lists, which is what often happens, especially when PowerPoint is involved. There must be a flow.
Start with a good outlining or mind mapping program. Decide if your talk is going to be a persuasive speech or an enabling one. (It should be one or the other.)
3. Make your presentation readable. Memorize this sentence: 'If people can’t read my slides from the back of the room, my type is too small.' Now repeat it over and over again while you create your slides. If people are squinting during your presentation, trying to make out what’s on the slide, you’ve lost your audience.
In my experience, you must use at least 30-point type. Obviously, it depends on the size of the room, the size of the screen, etc. This is precisely why you can’t afford to leave this to chance. You must test your slides and make certain they are readable.
Here are some other things to remember regarding text:
- Avoid paragraphs or long blocks of text. If you really, really must use a paragraph, then whittle it down to the bare essentials. Use an excerpt—a couple of sentences. Emphasize the important words. Put the text block by itself on a single slide.
- Use appropriate fonts. I recommend a sans serif font for titles (e.g., Arial, Verdana, Helvetica, or—my personal favorite—Myriad Pro, etc.) and a serif font for bullets or body text (e.g., Times New Roman, Garamond, Goudy, Palatino, etc.). Most books are typeset this way because it make them more readable. The serifs help you recognize the characters (and thus the words) faster. It makes the text more readable. It’s also customary to use san serif fonts for chart labels.
- Avoid detailed reports. If you need to include a report in your presentation, hand it out. Don’t force people to try to read a ledger printout on a slide. (Financial people take note!) If you must show a report, use it as a picture and then use a “call out” to emphasize the part of the report you want people to focus on. Better yet, just fill up a whole slide with the one number you want people to take away from the presentation.
- Avoid 'title capitalization' unless (duh!) it’s a title. Sentence capitalization is much easier to read. For example, 'Sales are up 100% in the southeast region' is easier than 'Sales Are Up 100% In The Southeast Region.' This is especially true when you have numerous bullet points.
4. Remember, less is more. Fancy slide transitions and fly-ins get old quickly. I strongly recommend that you keep things simple. A basic dissolve from one slide to another is usually sufficient.
Also, have all your bullets appear at once rather than one at a time. Avoid sound effects—they serve no other purpose than to annoy the audience and distract them from your presentation.
Finally, cut down the number of slides. You don’t need a transcript of your speech with every point and sub-point. Yawn! People are only going to remember the major points anyway.
5. Distribute a handout. I have changed my mind on this over the years. I do not think that you should distribute a handout before you begin speaking.
If you do so, people will start reading ahead instead of listening to you. It’s just one more distraction to keep them from focusing on your message. It also eliminates any surprises or drama you have built into your presentation. Instead, I tell people that, 'I will distribute a handout of the slides when I am finished with my presentation.' "
So, here’s your homework: Spend some time in the next couple of weeks tuning up your presentations. Create a simple “rule sheet” with the items listed above and see how you compare, and then make improvements. Once you’ve gone through your presentations, do the same for your agents and those whom you manage -- Many of these individuals make presentations in their roles as well.
Editor's Note: This article was written by Ben Hess. Ben is the Founding Partner and Managing Director of Tidemark, Inc. and a regular contributor to WorkPuzzle. Comments or questions are welcome. If you're an email subscriber, reply to this WorkPuzzle email. If you read the blog directly from the web, you can click the "comments" link below.