The 7-Slide Solution™: Telling Your Business Story Effectivtly in 7 Slides or Less

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  2. 10 Common Presentation Mistakes - Communication Skills From Mind Tools
  3. 7-Slide Solution(tm): Telling Your Business Story in 7 Slides or Less

Breathe deeply, and enunciate each word clearly, while you focus on speaking more slowly. Some presenters feel most comfortable behind the podium. Try to emulate great speakers like Steve Jobs , who moved purposefully around the stage during his presentations.

Pay attention to what your hands are doing — they're important for communicating emotion. But only use gestures if they feel natural, and avoid being too flamboyant with your arms, unless you want to make your audience laugh! See our Expert Interview, "Winning Body Language," to learn more about body language and what it says to your audience.

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Have you ever been to a presentation where the speaker spent all of his time looking at his notes, the screen, the floor, or even at the ceiling? How did this make you feel? Meeting a person's gaze establishes a personal connection, and even a quick glance can keep people engaged. If your audience is small enough, try to make eye contact with each individual at least once. If the audience is too large for this, try looking at people's foreheads.

The individual may not interpret it as eye contact, but those sitting around them will. It takes practice and effort to deliver a good presentation. But, if you know how to avoid the pitfalls, your presentations will be great. Common presentation mistakes include not preparing properly, delivering inappropriate content, and speaking poorly. Time spent on careful planning always pays dividends. Check the venue out, and familiarize yourself with equipment in advance to avoid possible problems.

Keep your content clear and concise, with visual aids to match. And make sure that you pitch it at the right level for your audience's understanding, so that your presentation doesn't patronize or bewilder. Remember, public speaking is a performance. Practice speaking clearly with a slower pace than your normal speech to avoid "rapid-fire" delivery. Use eye contact, body language, and gestures that complement your message to keep your audience engaged.

Next time you speak, avoid the mistakes outlined in this article — you'll find you can present with confidence and a clear sense of purpose. This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter , or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career! Mind Tools for Your Organization. View our Corporate Solutions. Setting Goals for Members of Your Team Setting goals for other people is a key part of management and By the Mind Tools Content Team.

Read our Privacy Policy. Key Points It takes practice and effort to deliver a good presentation. Start improving your presentation immediately with our free 7-Day course trial.


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The ability to write clear and impactful PowerPoint presentations is, for young and mid-level professionals, one of the most valuable skills you can master. The problem many young professionals face is that unless they luck out early in their career and learn the craft of creating business presentations from someone pretty exceptional — they probably suck at it. Becoming exceptional at crafting board-level presentations presentations that kick ass is tough. Much harder than most people realize. Most of us initially dismiss the challenge as a PowerPoint formatting challenge — a time consuming technical challenge that should be delegated.

In fact, crafting successful presentations is a multi-disciplinary challenge that requires the mastery of a broad SET of distinct skills:. Many from this list are either very challenging to master, or are seen by many as simply innate. Different approaches to crafting and delivering a business presentation. Pecha Kucha is a presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each six minutes and 40 seconds in total. It is a format designed to keep presentations concise and fast-paced and is often adopted for multiple-speaker events PechaKucha Nights.

PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. Here is an example from the author Dan Pink of a Pecha Kucha presentation. Dan briefly explains the format and then goes on to give a Pecha Kucha about a favorite topic of his. It is a pretty good example. Unfortunately Dan messes up the pronunciation of Pecha Kucha lots of people do.

If you are curious as to how to pronounce Pecha Kucha, have a look at this video. TED Talks are, quite simply, some of the most fascinating talks you will ever hear. The power of the ideas, and the skill of many of the presenters in the delivery of these ideas, has popularized an 18 minute presentation format that emphasizes story and big ideas. Larry Lessig is a Harvard Law Professor, founding board member of the Creative Commons, and strong proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark, and radio frequency spectrum. He is also an amazing speaker.

10 Common Presentation Mistakes - Communication Skills From Mind Tools

Lessig has, over the years, developed a very unique style that he has continued to refine. The rule states that a presentation should have no more than 10 slides, take no longer than 20 minutes, a contain no font smaller than 30pt. There are many other styles. When we say presentation, we often mentally picture ourselves standing in front of a crowd. And this is a problem. Some of it focuses on the creation of the presentation, but for presentations in a forum type setting. Our focus here is on what to do when you are sitting down. Our focus is on the creation of content for the presentations we give everyday.

These types of business presentations require a specific presentation approach that the consulting school of presentation design is tailor made for. There are a number of factors that make the McKinsey or Consulting in general style of presentation unique and powerful:. This is not an exhaustive list of the characteristics of this style of presentation, but these are perhaps the most material. Hopefully you can see how they distinguish the consulting business presentation style from other approaches.

Zen-style presentations popularized by Garr Reynolds, for example, stand in stark contrast reliance on imagery; focus on conference-style presentations. Below is an example of this type of presentation from Boston Consulting Group. We have annotated it with comments on how it could be even better, but, in general, it is a good example.

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This approach to business presentation design applies across a range of different business situations:. If you are still in doubt as to when to use this style of business presentation, here are a few tests to apply:. Have a look at the following presentation for an example of why the first test above is important ;-. The Five Disciplines To create great presentations requires skills across a wide range of areas.

7-Slide Solution(tm): Telling Your Business Story in 7 Slides or Less

There are 5 disciplines one must master to effectively write and present impactful business presentations:. It brings order, clarity. We know it when we see it even if it is just subconsciously because comprehension immediately becomes easier. Our mind is automatically sorting information into distinctive groups and establishing hierarchies of relationships between these groups semantic network model all the time. There are half a dozen or so tricks, which when employed obsessively, can allow you to quickly cut through most of the pitfalls and fairly unhelpful theory of logic to produce a structure that works.

Your mind is automatically imposing order on everything around you, all the time. You are grouping, classifying and imposing relationships on all the information your brain processes. The goal in crafting a presentation is to facilitate the mental processing that is going on in the mind of your audience. To make this processing as easy as possible. This led to a well know rule of thumb that stated people only had the capacity to process 7 chunks of information at a time. More recent conclusions state that people can really only process concepts — and only one at a time.

As a consequence, we should seek to structure our ideas into groups of or less. Put simply — there is no such thing as 7 or 9 of anything. If you have a list of 9 things, then you need to go up a level of abstraction and group them into buckets. It is easy to take this insight too far. There is no magical number of bullets per slide. Edward Tufte has some interesting things to say about this here. At its core, this is about a relatively self evident truth: Your audience will struggle to process information.

Help them out by being aware of the number of discrete ideas you are sharing at any one time. MECE stands for mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive. It is terminology that today is synonymous with McKinsey and other top-tier consultancies. The term refers to the idea of structuring lists of ideas in ways where the list is:. The following list of options for where to go for dinner is not mutually exclusive:. There is overlap within this list. There could be Italian restaurants east of us. Some restaurants south of us could have music.

You will be surprised at how many groups of ideas you will create which will fail this test — and result in you thinking about additional, great points and ideas that make you argument even more powerful. Deductive reasoning starts out with a general statement, or hypothesis, and examines the possibilities to reach a specific, logical conclusion. The scientific method uses deduction to test hypotheses and theories. The deductive argument presents ideas in successive steps.

An example of this type of argument is:. Inductive arguments can take very wide ranging forms.


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  • Inductive arguments might conclude with a claim that is only based on a sample of information. Generally, our advice is to construct inductive-based arguments. They are easier for an audience to absorb because they require less effort to understand. The challenge is that our instinct when writing a presentation is to present our thinking in the order we did the work, which is usually a deductive process.

    No one cares what you did. How hard you worked. They want an answer to a question, not a tour of what you were up to for the last month! The start of a presentation requires special attention from a structural point of view. It contains many traps which can lead unsuspecting authors astray. The purpose of the presentation is to address a question in the mind of the audience. The objective of the introduction is to establish the groundwork to plant this question, so that the rest of our presentation can focus on answering it.

    Financial performance last year was fantastic, but growth has stalled in the first quarter…. Begin at the beginning. It is comprised of facts that the audience would be aware of and agree with in advance of reading the presentation. This helps to ground the presentation and establish a common starting point. This is where the complication comes in. A strategy for returning to growth has been proposed…. The key objective of the complication is to trigger the Question that your audience will ask in their mind.

    Is this the right strategy? The Question arises logically from the Complication and leads into the Answer. It is not explicitly stated in the introduction, it is implicit. Yes, it will drive growth because…. The Answer to the Question is the substance of presentation and your main point. It is your recommendation. Summarize it first — completing your introduction — then break it down into details and write the main body of your presentations. This is where we develop our inductive argument, deploying groups of MECE ideas on the way to proving our point.

    We need to do this next. In fact, the next steps are the objective of your entire presentation. You want to identify these next steps early in the process of developing your presentation so that you can be sure to design a presentation that drives your audience to the action you desire. Storytelling is a timeless human tradition. Before the written word, people would memorize stories that shaped cultures for generations. We are wired for communicating through and learning from stories.

    Via storytelling techniques we can elevate our presentations to something that moves people. Sometimes, it is obvious that this is our goal. We are presenting at TED. We are making a speech to our employees about our new strategy. We are delivering our first State of the Union address….

    Our topic may feel mundane — lacking the grand themes that great stories seem to require. When this happens, often our mistake is in framing the objective of our presentation as an exercise in conveying information — to update. Rather, the objective of our presentations should be to persuade.

    To, in-fact, establish in the minds of the audience an important question, and persuade that audience of the validity of our answer. When we need to update — we need to identify the question the audience should have in their minds as a consequence of the update. There are a couple of reasons why stories can be more effective than fact-based arguments at persuading audiences.

    Storytelling: 7 Principles for Greater Impact

    You cannot change an emotionally charged opinion with a rational argument, but you can get your audience to empathize with a hero in a story and thereby affect the emotions they have connected to that subject. By immersing your audience in a story, you bypass that resistance. As we have discussed, our brains think in terms of stories. We find it easier and more efficient to process stories.

    In fact, we have a pronounced bias towards stories. As a consequence your audience is much more likely to remember the stories you tell them and the messages those stories contain and more likely to repeat them to others. As a primer, have a listen to Academy award nominated documentary film maker Ken Burns The Civil War, Jazz talk about story especially the fist half.

    In the video Burns explores what makes a great story. On Story from Redglass Pictures on Vimeo. Nancy Duarte does a fantastic job of exploring how story is critical to the creation of a great presentation. In this video, Nancy makes the point that stories and reports occupy opposite ends of a spectrum.

    She makes the case that in order to convey the meaning behind your report, you need to introduce elements of story, in order to engage with your audience on a more human level. The appropriate balance you need to strike between story and reporting will be entirely driven by the context of your own presentation. Pragmatist philosopher — They must demonstrate, not simply assert.

    The effort required to do this is also a key reason why so many poor presentations lack a fact-based approach to persuasion. There are no short cuts. This is where real effort pays off with discriminating audiences. They will test your assertions. Poke, probe and dissect your analysis. Your audience does this because they suspect what you are saying is important. And if they act on what you are saying, and it turns out you were wrong… well this would reflect negatively on them. So, in a way, receiving the third-degree in a presentation can be a good sign.

    It is for situations like this that you need data, facts and proof. You will be eaten alive if you simply assert. But your data, facts and proof should be in support of your structure, your story. The goal is not to squeeze in all the analysis you have done. Inevitably much of your analysis will not be required to make your central argument. Be equally ruthless in sorting and prioritizing what analysis is required to make your point. When you have data that you would like to present, resist the urge to throw it into the sexiest 3D pie chart you can create.

    Instead, think first about how you intend to use the data and what point you are trying to make with the data. Graphs and tables excel at different things and depending on your purpose, one will be a better choice than another. Selecting supporting facts 3. Elaborating in a set of seven slides The first two sections docused on developing a presentation based on the way people's brains work, Kelly suggests that a presentation doesn't need to be any longer than seven slides. Anything beyond that is wasting your time and the audiences - they won't remember it.

    He walks you through the process of developing a story, from creating a premise to establishing conflict, adding tension, and ultimately providing a resolution to your presentation. If all seven slides are used, here is the sequence: Engagement - create dramatic impact, perhaps demonstrate the core conflict 2. Backstory - give just enough, not too much 3. Bring it to a Boil - create real pressure, something that needs resolution 5. Avoid seeking the best, go for the least objectionable to all. Provide Resolution - focus on what, let them ask how 7.

    The book closes with examples of how to use the process for meetings, with third party contractors, in sales, etc. Longer and more detailed than you may expect from the title, there is some excellent guidance in this book if you are patient enough to wade through it. Kristian rated it did not like it Jan 24, Tim Crothers rated it really liked it Apr 27, Benjamin rated it liked it Apr 06, Ashley rated it really liked it Aug 17, Paul Kelly rated it it was amazing Mar 04, Alvaro rated it liked it Mar 16, Marcia Conner rated it liked it Nov 20, Bill Cunningham rated it really liked it Jul 22, Kwame Dupre rated it it was amazing May 07,