Back to Guides

Why everyone hates your presentation (and what you can do about it)

We’ve all sat through boring presentations. Here’s how you can avoid yours being next.

1. “This could have been an email”

Aristotle knew a thing or two about public speaking. He identified five reasons to speak: to inform, instruct, arouse, persuade or decide.*

But Aristotle didn’t have email.

If you’re only trying to inform people, why not send them a well-written summary?

If you’representing information, pick the top three points and tell your audience “there’s more, if you need it, in this document.” (Three is the Magic Number will help you focus).

2. “Whaaat? Way too much info”

Compare these two presentation slides. They’re both about the US invasion of Iraq.

The first is a fiendishly complex flowchart, trying to capture every aspect of a complex situation. The second is a cartoon-ish story, arguing Americans should rely on local allies to resist insurgents. 

The flowchart gave an illusion of precision, but was out of date before it was finished. The story helped people see what the author meant. 

Guess which one proved most persuasive.**

When you need to present the big picture, zoom in on the little picture too. “Here’s the trend… for example…” (Data Detectives helps you do this).

3. “Shut up, I can read this for myself”

This is the most common error I fix for my clients: don’t put 100 words up on a screen then slowly read them out! While you’re on bullet-point one, we’ve read all the way down to ten.

You’re supposed to be the star of the show, but you’re now the annoying voice that’s interrupting us while we’re reading. 

A presentation is visual communication.

You can’t present a report, a sales brochure or a spreadsheet. You can’t put a written document up on a screen and expect us to listen to you. (Show and Tell will help you get this right – click on the video to see some examples).

Ditch dull presentations

Presento-phobia is such a common problem for our customers, we’ve decided to set up a space for the PipDecks community, dedicated to fixing dull presentations. If you’re a member, check out the #storyteller-tactics thread on Slack.

*More on Aristotle’s presentation rules here.

*More on the US army’s problems with PowerPoint in Nancy Duarte’s blog and in Dumb Dumb Bullets by T.X. Hammes in the Armed Forces Journal.

Leave a Comment

Let us know what thoughts or questions you have about this guide so we can improve it.

If you leave us your email, we'll let you know if we update this guide based on your feedback.