Presenting Skills

Good ideas are not useful unless someone implements them.

Wayne Gretzky has said you fail to score any time you do not shoot.  Leo Burnett has said that a good ad that does not run generates no sales.  Both of those seem pretty obvious, but here in the real world, you would think no one knew.

There are more failures from inaction than from action and there are no lessons learned from inaction.  If you have an 80% developed good idea, begin to implement.  Forget about perfecting the idea.  The people you present it to will correct it for you.

Most of the cynics of the world believe that Microsoft has never shipped a final version of Windows.   Every new version is some form of Beta.  The customers find the problems and Microsoft fixes them with a service pack.  How else could you get a test-bed with 100,000,000 users?  Smart, and in the longer run probably cheaper for the customers.

Learn from this.  A good idea partially implemented is superior to a great idea on the shelf.

Start telling people. You can overcome reluctance by becoming more adept at presenting.

There is a simple rule and it is one you are likely already know.  Presenting is the same thing as “Communicating with.”  Communication is interactive.  Communication is story driven.  Communication is about the audience.

The guidelines:

Make it simpler.  Have an overarching 25 word idea and the ability to add detail if anyone cares.

Present fewer than seven distinct thoughts.  People generally can process only seven new ideas at a time.  One of them is a list of the other six.  Each should have a memorable short description of the general idea.

Present for less than 17 minutes.  The limit of human tolerance.  Stories can go longer but new things may not.  Interaction does not count against the time limit. The recipe for a good speech is, “Use a lot of shortening.”

Know the audience.  What do you believe they want to get from the presentation?  Be sure to deliver that.  Know how they will interact and prepare for that.  Years ago, I did a seminar on estate planning for a national organization of newspaper publishers.  The time slot was 3 hours with a break.  At breakfast my wife asked how long it would run.  I told her that if no one asked questions 20 minutes.   We covered about 2/3 of the material in three hours but is was likely the most relevant material.

No presentation needs to be glossy and exciting.  It just has to capture the attention of the audience.

Every time you present, be sure to review how it worked.  You will get better at it and will eventually discover that you, yourself, are the presentation and everything else is just a visual aid.  That is what interaction amounts to.

Pairing good ideas with presenting skills is a superpower.


Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

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