Nothing undermines a really powerful presentation more than a good argument, poorly structured. I listened to a CEO offer a pretty powerful look at where technology is today and where it is headed tomorrow. He offered these words.
“I am going to make a simple argument.” And then he failed to make that argument.
He talked about other things. And I was left feeling that his perspective was correct. But I was also left with the nagging feeling that he hadn’t thought it all the way through because his speech did not center around and support the simple argument that he promised.
Here are some of the powerful approaches that can turn on you.
The numbered list that doesn’t finish. Which three federal departments are you planning to close? Rick Perry famously couldn’t remember all three. But the same thing happens when you promise to cover five things and then ramble so no one can tell if you covered five things or not.
The funny thing that isn’t. If you use these words. “This is really funny.” You are in trouble already. There is at least a portion of the audience that is thinking, I’ll be the judge of that. It is also the sort of thing that people say that are not comfortable using humor. Beware the funny story that isn’t. It detracts significantly from your whole presentation.
The missed connection. Historical references, popular references and heaven forbid, Shakespeare references all have the potential to be lost on your audience. This is particularly true if you have an international audience. Explain enough to make sure everyone understands the reference.
The “Therefore” that doesn’t make sense. Woody Allen once lampooned philosophical thinking in his book “Getting Even” this way.
- Socrates is a man
- All men are mortal
- All men are Socrates
Make sure your logical connection is logical. When you infer a relationship and it is tenuous, you run the risk of losing your audience.
The simple that isn’t. Ever have someone tell you that predicate calculus or some other complex topic was simple? You wait, hoping it has been simplified. But then hope is replaced by disappointment, anger and, in my case, confusion. Don’t try to win the audience over with the promise that you will make a tough subject easy to follow. You just disappoint.
You heard a speech recently and thought, that is not quite right. Share with me. I’d love to hear what you learned.