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Give killer presentations: Think like a writer

Mike Elgan | Feb. 13, 2013
Most presentations are boring and forgettable. But why?

You'll want to add a bit of information to your slides, but only to make an impression, not to convey specific facts and figures.

To understand how this works, deconstruct Apple announcements, for example. They show numbers not so you'll learn the information, but to leave you with impressions. (Fast growth! Big sales! More apps than other phones!)

Your "presentation" -- the slides you show and the words you say -- should be focused 100% on making people interested in you and your message and on creating a positive impression. Communicate the nitty-gritty details in the handout.

So put each of these parts of your presentation in its place. Add pictures to your slides. Tell stories with your voice. Print information on paper for later. And sprinkle emotion throughout.

And finally: Any writer will tell you that words matter. Follow these basic tips on language to make your talk powerful:

Use short, basic words. (Isn't that sentence more powerful and memorable than "Utilize diminutive elemental units of language"?)

Use the active voice when you can. (Passive is the worst. Imperative is the best.)

Be specific and avoid vagueness. (It's impossible to be too clear.)

Avoid cliches and jargon. (If you've heard or read a phrase several times before, don't use it. Just talk plainly in your own words.)

Cut everything you can. (If any picture, point, story or other element of your presentation isn't absolutely necessary for what you're trying to communicate, get rid of it.)

Presentations are boring. But yours don't have to be. You can grab an audience's attention and build lasting memories by thinking like a writer.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture.

 

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