When looking at a presentation, I’m constantly looking for new ideas but I’m also trying to look for mistakes that the presenter is making (shame on me!), so I myself can avoid them in the future. When I’m presenting myself I might not notice my mistakes, but looking at a presenter from an audience view, I can avoid making some mistakes in my presentations.
I’m always trying to structure a presentation in my head, and I usually would be able to categorize a presentation into three aspects:
- Content What do I want to say? What is the story?
- Design How is the structure of my presentation? How are my slides? How is the presentation environment?
- Delivery How do I want to say it? How persuasive?
I will go into a bit more detail in the next few paragraphs, but it’s already noticeable that they are all somehow interconnected and it’s not 100% separable, but it will give you a good idea on analyzing a presentation.
The content part deals with the message and the story that you want to communicate. If you are Steve Jobs, the message/story might be: “The new iPhone Nano is the coolest thing available in the electronics market”. To make it easier, you can imagine this as the text that you would say in the presentation. Imagine you need to write your whole presentation in a non-formatted email, this would be the content aspect.
Design doesn’t only mean the fonts you are using or what kind of pictures, but it deals with the whole “feel” to the presentation. It is about the theme and the environment of your presentation. It could also stretch out to be the room that your presentation is being held in. To make a similar comparison as in the previous point, you can imagine an automated slideshow in the room where you will be presenting, this would be the design.
This is the “public speaking” part, so to say. This is the part that deals with the “how” of the presentation, e.g. your style of presenting. Again, to make a comparison, you can imagine you being in front in a white empty room and talking; the delivery aspect deals with how you convey the message, the tone of voice, how you react to the audience.
Presenter Case Studies
As you can see, it’s still sometimes hard to separate them, but being able to break down the presentation into these 3 different aspects has helped me tremendously in analyzing them. Here are some examples/case studies of where some presenters might stand in the presentation triangle. You might disagree with me and that’s fine, this is probably due to our perception of what a great presentation is. For example, I find that a presentation from Steve Jobs is excellent and thus I would rate his presentation as a balanced one. You might choose another person as having a balanced one.
Toastmasters is the group that mostly focuses on public speaking and as you can see in the triangle it is depicted clearly. The Toastmasters groups mostly focus on how to speak well in front of audience and how to find the right words at the right time and less on the design of a presentation.
Steve Jobs (of Apple)
Apple’s CEO is something that I aim at and this is why the circle is in the middle. It’s hard to argue with the design of his slides and the whole feel of his presentations, but I also like his story build ups when he presents a new product.
Bill Gates of Microsoft (and of the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation)
I explicitly write Bill Gates of Microsoft, because since he’s working at the Foundation, I think his presentation style has changed quite a bit. At Microsoft he would go through his products one by one, and often I don’t see a clear storyline or at least it hasn’t been delivered persuasively (that’s why the light blue circle is leaning towards design). The Bill Gates of the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation approaches presentations a bit more towards storytelling and persuasiveness (though I have to admit, I’m judging this solely based on his recent TED presentation).
This is (in my judgment) where I currently stand. The light blue circle is where I used to be and I can see in which area I am trying to advance to. As you can see I’ve been working a lot on content (and that has helped a LOT) and a little on delivery and I see that my strongest “relative weakness” now is my delivery. So if I want to go to a “balanced” presentation, it might be a good idea for me to visit some Toastmasters meetings (something which I have planned for a while already but have never done).
What to take out of this
This type of analysis has been really helpful for me, because I’m able to see in which areas I can improve myself and where my strengths and weaknesses are. I am able to compare myself with other presenters and I can also compare myself to my “presenter role models” (these would most likely have a “balanced” presentation) and I can see which areas I need to improve upon. E.g. when comparing myself to Steve Jobs, I see that I need to work a little bit on my content but mostly on my delivery.
Though I still see the need to develop the presentation triangle a bit further (because it only shows the relative strengths and weaknesses), it has already helped me a lot. So the question for you is: Where do you stand? And where do you want to be in the future?