Give killer presentations: Think like a writer

By , Computerworld |  IT Management, presentation tips

Very important: Use real pictures, not fake ones.

Never use stock photography, which stinks of artificiality. If you want to represent happy customers, for example, show a picture of actual customers. Show real products, real employees, real users.

Or if you're illustrating a concept, make sure you show scenes of real life, rather than staged or faked scenes.

It's more important for your pictures to be real than to be professional looking.

One of the most striking scenes from the AMC TV series Mad Men was about a memorable presentation. In the show, advertising creative director Don Draper convinces Kodak to call its slide projector the "Carousel." It's a powerful presentation because the whole time Don is talking, he's showing amateurish snapshots of his family. The presentation is so powerful and evocative that one of his colleagues runs out in tears.

The scene was conjured up by writers who understand the overwhelming power of pictures.


The human mind is hard-wired for stories. We crave them. We need them. We can't resist their appeal. So tell stories in your presentation.

A good story has a beginning, a middle and an end and involves at least one protagonist -- a person that other people can relate to who experiences the events in the story.

In the beginning, there's a balance. In the middle, that balance is disrupted in some way. And at the end, a new balance is established. That's what a story is.

The key to bringing stories into your presentations is to personalize the information you're already giving. Instead of talking about some big change your company went through, tell a story about the person or people who made that decision that led to the change, and explain what they went through to reach that decision.


People remember and crave images and stories. The other thing people remember is emotions. In fact, when your audience leaves the meeting room, your entire presentation will be judged on only one thing: How you made them feel.

I've seen presentations where the presenter gave almost no information, or said nothing useful. But he was funny, and people walked out saying, "That was great!"

Good emotions for presentations to instill in audiences include shock, fear, nostalgia, joy and excitement. But most of all, people remember humor.

Don't do "schtick" or prepared material. Don't tell jokes. Instead, expose the humor in the material you're presenting. Instead of trying to go for the big laughs, convey the mildly amusing shared reality you have with your audience. Keep it real.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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