In this final part of the narrative, I will focus on the external factor, the supporting media in which you communicate with. The media formats that we typically use includes:
- Paper to write on
- Handouts (slides, graphs, data, etc)
- Slide decks
The general value of supporting media is to reinforce/clarify the message you want your audience to get. To review whether you should use the media or not, ask yourselves:
- Is my media distracting my audience’s attention away from me? – Don’t let your media be the main actor.
- Can the media help me illustrate my point? – Don’t use media for the sake of using it. Have a clear goal on why you’re using it.
And don’t forget to also review what kind of media can be used in the venue of the presentation/discussion. For example, you won’t use a slide deck with videos for a discussion at Starbucks due to the noise around the area and lack of space to project.
Unless your goal is for that media to stand on its own, there’s no reason for you to have word-for-word explanations inside the media.
Paper & Handouts
Imagine if you’re illustrating an idea to your boss over coffee with a paper. You will not write everything you’re saying, but you will definitely write your calculations, graphs, keywords, design ideas, maybe flowcharts.
Handouts should also do the same thing. If your handouts includes research reports / long essays, you might as well give it to your counterparty beforehand and ask them to read it first. If you give it to them during your time with them, there’s a good chance they’ll just read it there and then. It’s a waste of time that could’ve been used to discuss the matter together.
The acceptable form of handouts should be graphs, charts, or tables that’s not chock full of writing.
The same logic can also be applied to slide decks. On my first project with Accenture, the slide deck that we used was full of words and was intended to be able to stand on its’ own. Word-for-word quote from the client:
You are competing for my attention with your own slide deck.
This is the same thing that goes through my mind if I see a slide with 1,000 words in it, written like an essay. I don’t have enough mental capacity to both read and listen. So rather than focusing on the presenter, I focus on reading the slide.
You can see a lot of these slide deck issues in the Death by Powerpoint slideshare by Alexei Kapterev.
Some general guidelines that I use to develop a deck:
- It has to be aesthetically pleasing, no compromises – if you can use image/graph/chart to illustrate, then do so. Don’t depend on written format. A slide just of 1 image in the background and 1 sentence in the foreground is much stronger than a slide of 4 bullet points with white background
- 1 slide should have no more than 3 images (not counting logos or icons). If you mention company names, consider whether it makes sense to include their logo inside the slide
- Use the highest possible resolution that you have for images, and use transparent background for logos
- Maximum 4 sentences (or 50 words) in a slide
- The presentation should finish within 20 minutes. To extend your audience’s attention span, consider this article from Forbes.
- Only 1 point to be made per slide
- Colours that are not too in your face, with contrasting colours between fonts and background/images
- Have at maximum 3 key takeaways and reiterate it at the end of the presentation. Your audience is unlikely to remember anything else.
- Practice delivering the presentation and time it before actually presenting it for real. Don’t be overconfident.
A sample of presentation that I made : 2016 Fintech Presentation
These are what I hope you get from this series of writing:
- There are multiple factors that makes a great communicator/presenter, focusing on one and neglecting the others are not enough:
- Your story needs to be concise, clear, compelling, and convincing
- Be mindful of the meaning that can be inferred from your body language
- Your media must be the supporting character in your communication, not the main actor
- Practice is key and repetition helps you be better