Presentations should be like a conversation
Too often presenters present their presentations in a formal, wooden way. This way of presenting is boring, uninteresting and shows little or no passion in the subject of the presentation.
The best presentations are ones where the presenter is having a conversation with their audience. Where the presenter has a real passion for what they are talking about and are not just doing their job because their boss told them to do it.
The above picture is taken from Bill Strickland’s talk at TED in 2002. He began his presentation by telling his audience that he had no notes, no script and that he just wanted to talk with them for a few minutes.
It’s a great honor to be here with you. The good news is I’m very aware of my responsibilities to get you out of here because I’m the only thing standing between you and the bar. (Laughter) And the good news is I don’t have a prepared speech, but I have a box of slides. I have some pictures that represent my life and what I do for a living. I’ve learned through experience that people remember pictures long after they’ve forgotten words. And so I hope you’ll remember some of the pictures I’m going to share with you for just a few minutes.
This is a fantastic opening. The audience can tell immediately that this is not going to be a poorly scripted talk about a subject the speaker is not really interested in. Just from this simple opening, the audience can that the speaker has something interesting to say, and more importantly, something worth listening to.
One of the other unique things about Bill Strickland’s talk is that not only does he have a conversation with the audience, he also employs the services of a pianist, Herbie Hancock, to play soft music throughout his talk. The atmosphere is like having a conversation in a really relaxing jazz bar. But the wonderful twist to this story is that Herbie is a part of the story
It is quite often difficult to control the atmosphere in a room. Most rooms where presentations take place are cold, boring grey rooms with bright lights and poor ventilation. But here, Bill Strickland has dim lighting, a pianist and the atmosphere perfectly creates that conversation feel.
So, the real secret to a great presentation is not great PowerPoint slides, a wonderfully memorised script, but a real passion for what you are talking about and stories told in a conversational way – oh and of course a pianist!
You can watch the video below, and if you would like to follow the script you can watch the video on the main TED website here.