Death by Powerpoint is a lively issues these days. In fact, Business Communications Headline News gives us two presentations in as many days with the aim of helping us make better presentations.  Unfortunately, both miss the mark. We’ll look at each from a strategic standpoint to help you understand how they go astray and what you can learn to make your presentations more effective.

Sleepy Audience from Kapterev's Website

Sleepy Audience from Kapterev

You have to hand it to Alexei Kapterev for taking on bad powerpoint presentations and investing the time and effort to give you a solution (you can see his pdf presentation in it’s entirety here). It’s a good start. But his advice is a bit wide of the mark and his execution falls a bit short in particular ways. And understanding those missteps will help you make stronger choices.

Let’s consider Alexei’s central argument. Presentations, he says, are successful when they have Significance, Structure, Simplicity, and Rehearsal. Significance is the core, he tells us. In fact, it’s so much more important than structure that you can use any structure as long as it’s comprehensible and scalable. Alexei also gives us a definition of significance – you have significance if you’re communicating meaning that you’re passionate about.

This conception is backward and Read the rest of this entry

Much has been said in general about the ”new Al Gore” and his great success with An Inconvenient Truth. But we can say more in specific about how you can follow his lead to become a better speaker.

Of course, the presentation is compelling. It won Mr. Gore a Nobel Peace Prize, and his producers an Academy Award. An Inconvenient Truth stands as a treatise and rallying point for many in the environmental movement and beyond who simply care about the planet.  Whether or not you believe in global warming, there’s much to learn from An Inconvenient Truth, even in the first few minutes, about making your presentation more persuasive.

Wired How-To WikiThe Wired How-To Wiki gives you advice straight from Nancy Duarte, the design wizard who’s firm, Duarte Design, crafted the presentation for the former next president. There, you’ll find general suggestions such as these: Know Your Audience , Know When to Use a slide show, Memorize the Message, Keep Your Face to the Audience, Use Large Font, Use High Quality Images, Pay Attention to Image Rights, Choose the Right Tools . All these suggestions are good, of course. But Adam Pash of LifeHacker is right when he says they’re mostly common sense.

At Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds gives you more about Gore’s style as well as some nice links to a Newsweek critique and Lawrence Lessig’s comments.

Our charter here is to help you craft your message. And there’s a lot more you can take away from Mr. Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, if we look closer, step-by-step.

You can see the first 10 minutes or so on YouTube. I’ve laid below the series of rhetorical tactics Mr. Gore employs that help bring the audience along quickly and effectively.

Al Gore

Step one: Strong Introduction. Gore, a very recognizable personality and authority, opens the presentation in a simple and surprising way. “I am Al Gore. I used to be the next President of the United States of America.” Because his bona fides are so strong, Mr. Gore can afford to touch on them only briefly and give us a bit of self-deprecating humor at the same time. He also sets a light tone at the outset which is sure to relieve many in the audience who anticipate a 90 minute ride through potentially depressing territory, and who recall him with apprehension as stiff and wooden on the campaign trail. Read the rest of this entry