ODE is continuing to gather interest at a phenomenal rate and we’re increasingly being asked to present the idea to a wide variety of excited potential suppliers and partners. And the first thing that has to happen is we have to describe, simply and succinctly, why ode is the best thing ever, ever, ever.

And 9 times out of 10 that calls for someone, usually me, standing in front of a group of people who would rather be somewhere else and talking at them whilst they doodle or stare blankly out of the window.

Traditionally we’d be called upon to do a Powerpoint presentation. Now if you’ve ever had any sort of office job I’m 99% sure you’ll have sat through presentations so boring you have to keep repeatedly thrusting a biro into your leg under the table to keep you awake. How many of the following do you recognise?:

  • A presenter who monotonously reads each bullet point from the screen.
  • A complex 3D bar chart with a tiny and pointless legend that looks awful more than 12 inches away.
  • A presenter who speakssoquicklyyoucan’tunderstandwhatthey’resaying or someone who speaks….so…..slowly…er…that…er….you…um or someone who speaks so quietly that you soon lose the will to live.
  • Any of the following generic sound effects: an audience weakly clapping for a few seconds, a rocket taking off, a screech of car brakes or bullet being fired. Often accompanied by a literal interpretation using cheap clipart.
  • Animated GIFs, zany and wacky fonts (I’m looking at you Comic Sans), zealous over use of the zoooooom animation.
  • The presenter talking to themselves as they try to navigate their own presentation (“Now where’s that button. It was here a minute ago. Talk amongst yourselves…Oh here it is. Oops, that’s opened the internet, hang on where was I…”)

So what makes a great presenter and a great presentation? Can you have one without the other? If you can do at least some of the following you’re half way there I think:

  • Prepare and rehearse your first few sentences – I find the first few minutes terrifying and then relax quickly after that.
  • Open with a statement of intent and/or shock your audience into paying attention. Don’t worry too much about an agenda, who cares?
  • Don’t use a stock template, that’s lazy and they’re often bland and uninteresting. Create your own and be consistent for every slide – do not chop and change backgrounds and fonts on each slide.
  • Ditch the bullet points. Everyone reads them immediately before you even have a chance to go through them and it will encourage you not to read from the screen.
  • Don’t use sentences. Use bold statements and snappy copy. Use the words as a prompt to a subject, not as the subject itself.
  • A good tip if you are speaking in a large auditorium is to have the laptop in front of you and the screen behind. Then you can use the laptop to prompt yourself but are addressing the crowd not the screen.
  • Plain white background with a large black font works. Alternatively jet black background with a large white font works well too. Keep it simple.
  • Instead of trying to open a live website take screenshots beforehand and fill the slide edge to edge – box out in red areas you want your audience to focus on.
  • Stay away from fancy animations unless they’re intrinsic to your “narrative”. ‘Fade’ and ‘Appear’ should suffice. No harm in speeding them up either.
  • Tell a story, it’s more interesting – have a clear narrative curve from your opening slide to the last.
  • Try to avoid taking questions until the end as this will ruin your flow.
  • To respect people’s right not to have to endure rather than enjoy your presentation keep trimming it down until each slide contains just the core message.
  • If you use images or screenshots make them high resolution. Try to picture what they might look like 12 foot away at the end of a boardroom table.
  • Assume the surface you might be projecting on is going to be utterly dreadful and in full sun glare, thus rendering your slides useless. Oh, and the sound won’t play, the screen won’t connect and your internet connection will be slow if not non-existent. Contingency is vital.
  • What you think is a funny slide will likely not be on the day. Trust me.
  • Make the end obvious and clear. Be interesting, be enigmatic, don’t be afraid to leave on a cliffhanger – this may lead to some interesting debate.
  • Drink heavily prior to your presentation.
  • I’m joking! Everything in moderation.

Watch and learn from the masters:

Seth Godin presenting to Google:

Watch Dick Hardt and the 1 second per slide and you’ll see how it could be done with a little imagination and grace:

Guy Kawasakis 10-20-30 rule is worth following too:

To see how to destroy a passionate and exciting talk see “The Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation” by Peter Norvig, Director of Research at Google: