Creating your visual aids

A three line presentation strategy for the bravest business speaker – You?

Image courtesy of Getty images

As a guy who works with lots of big corporates, writing speeches, rehearsing speakers for big pitches and presentations, I’m forever coming up against the ‘Corporate Template Trial’.  The corporate PowerPoint pattern, usually created by the Communications Department, which everybody must use when creating slides; but which creates bigger problems for the speaker who actually wants to use them in support of her speech.

Of course these approved templates provide ‘brand synergy across all communications’, I respect and understand that, but the problem is, that most of them are rubbish as visual aids.

Most of them are designed as templates for written documents, and as Nancy Duarte or Garr Reynolds, or I might say –

Good hand-outs always make poor visual aids, and good visual aids always make poor hand-outs…

What’s the solution? A three-line strategy.  It’s as simple as that. Here it is:

If you want to present a written document, why not just hand it out and let the audience read it for themselves, at their own pace?  Then your presentation will consist of 3 lines:

  1. ‘Here’s what I want you to read…
  2. Any questions
  3. Have a safe journey home.’

It’s a risky, but honest approach, and at least you’ll get the whole thing over much more quickly than the alternative – the almost unendurable and equally dreaded – ‘supervised reading routine’.

If you’re a speaker, try it next time, or at least a variation on the theme.

  • You give a 5- minute overview of the ‘highlights’ and even provoke questions by leaving import bits of detail out.
  • You give them time to think and read and write down questions or challenges
  • You ask for the questions, respond and a conversation begins.

Much better. And the general lesson – if this specific recommendation is too radical; is to separate in your mind and on the page, the visuals from the text. Even if you just save the written document as a ‘slides for presenting file’ and remove all of the clutter that will get in the way of you, your message and meaning for the listeners.



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