Importance of presentation skills : 7 weird myths busted!

importance of presentation skills

This post describes the importance of presentation skills at your workplace and explains various methods to improve them and bust various myths that prevent you from getting skilled.

If all my possessions were taken from me with one exception, I would choose to keep the power of communication, for by it I would soon regain all the rest.

Daniel Webster

Communication and presentation skills are vital for personal and professional success. It is a well established and the most acknowledged fact. However, this is also one of the most ignored aspects.

While making presentations, we implement the best practices taught by environmentalists:

  • We recycle and repurpose the content without understanding the context and case in hand.
  • We become very economical with the usage of slides and start conserving slides. We feel the urge to pack each slide with maximum possible information.
  • Some people go one more step forward and use all colors that nature gave us with multiple combinations.

But sadly, no one seems to recognize and reward these ‘green presentation’ initiatives.

The outcome? Confused client and frustrated boss.

The result? Miscommunication leading to misunderstanding, deferred growth, stress, work/life imbalance and so on.

Presentations can be a way to express your creativity, impress boss/ client and fast track you to job success. Instead, most people dread them so much that they procrastinate starting them. The result of that apathy is a lost opportunity to prove relevance to the employer.

Understanding the importance of presentation skills is a crucial step in our carer progression.

Freedom of expression vs Power of expression

One of the distinct features of a Democracy is the Freedom of Expression. Similarly, the distinct feature of a Meritocracy is the Power of Expression. While a democracy offers you the freedom of expression, you need to acquire the power of expression in a meritocracy. Powerpoint skills equip you with the power of expression.

Your boss can articulate your ideas better than you do. That is the reason why he or she is your boss.

In this competitive world, your career growth is directly linked to your ability to articulate new ideas and explain them using compelling presentations. The skill to make a presentation is the most important tool in our survival kit.

In our day-to-day lives, we come across many brilliant people with several bright ideas. They have a burning desire to do something different and useful for themselves and for their co-workers.

They make vain attempts to explain the features and benefits of their ideas. Sadly, there are no takers of their fresh thoughts and perspectives. They then commit a ‘thoughticide’ and bury the idea. May their thought not rest in peace but resurface strongly!

Similarly, there are many young ‘solopreneurs’ who come up with innovative products and solutions. They bet their careers on building what they believe and making sure that they work.

Such is the importance of presentation skills in our work life..

Finally, when it comes to selling their idea or product, they fumble. They find it extremely difficult to express the benefits of their product or invention to the investors or the people who can fund their mission.

We see many people who lose opportunities, skip their salary raise or chances of moving up the ladder.

What is common to these failures?

They fail to tell the story. They fail to unveil the critical factor called WIIFM – What Is In It For Me. They lack the power of expression.

What causes communication failures?

Sales pitch
Sales pitch

Some people suffer from a condition called Thought Constipation. They have excessive difficulty in articulating and expressing their thoughts in a simple yet ‘comprehendible’ fashion.

When they start expressing their thoughts, they encounter another problem called ‘Word Salad’. And I assure you, this salad has nothing to do with good health!

Wikipedia describes this condition as follows:

Word salad is a “confused or unintelligible mixture of seemingly random words and phrases”, most often used to describe a symptom of a neurological or mental disorder. The words may or may not be grammatically correct, but semantically confused to the point that the listener cannot extract any meaning from them.

Word salad may describe a symptom of neurological or psychological conditions in which a person attempts to communicate an idea, but words and phrases that may appear to be random and unrelated come out in an incoherent sequence instead. Often, the person is unaware that he or she did not make sense.So then, what do we call a presentation created by a person with this condition? Slide Salad or Slidorrhea.

Myth#1: I am not a creative person.

Myth#2: My current job does not demand presentation skills.

Myth # 3: We have very good content on our website, plenty of advertisement material designed by our ad agency. We also have the latest research reports. I can include all these in my presentation.

Myth # 4: We have very good content on our website. I just need to copy and paste the content in to my presentation and I am done.

Myth # 5: I am part of a small team with no expertise in design or marketing skills. It is not possible to produce a great output.

Myth #6: Creating presentations is a daunting task. I don’t have an expert at presentations to help me when I am struck. Why start something that I cannot complete anyway?

Myth #7: I have seen some of the best presentations with awesome graphics, animations and brilliant presentation techniques. I don’t understand graphic design; I know nothing about creative tools.

Common myths about presentations

Communication skills
Communication skills

Myth#1: I am not a creative person.

What is creativity? It is all about questioning the basics and breaking the traditional rules of thinking. It is about finding a new angle or bringing a fresh perspective.

Creativity is neither a gift that acquired by birth or a legacy that can be inherited. Creativity is not a super- specialty like Rocket Design or Neurosurgery. We have heard people say, “Born with a silver spoon in the mouth” but have we ever heard anyone say, “Born with a streak of creativity in the brain.”?

It is a skill that you can develop and nurture any time, irrespective of your age, gender or class. By doing some simple mental conditioning, we can become creative enough to design a high quality presentation

If you have written a leave letter in the past and have managed to get a week off, then you are creative enough! We will build from there.
How can a simple leave letter demonstrate your presentation abilities?
Let’s look at how:

  • You want a week off.
  • You know that your boss will get upset if you ask for a break.
  • However, it is extremely critical that you get it.
  • There is a desire. There is a compulsion.
  • You can clearly visualize the consequence of both success and failure.
  • You will be ready with responses to the FAQs that will follow.
  • You will gauge the mood of your boss.
  • You will find the correct time to meet your boss.
  • You broach the topic, present the case and probably give him a commitment in return.
  • Finally you convince him!

All of this might happen in less than an hour, but the episode does not lack spice and entertainment!

Now, you explain this episode to your colleagues. They listen to this, theirs slack jawed.

Now we have a strong story as well. There is a hero, a villain, a mission and a happy ending. Most importantly, a captivated audience!

That’s all that is required to build a powerful presentation. In fact, this story is powerful enough to qualify for the script of a block-buster movie. If this
story is given to the right director, we can expect to see a 1,000 episode TV soap opera!

Let’s sum it up now:

  • Creativity is present in every human mind.
  • However, it may be in ‘sleeping mode’ in some people.
  • But it will surely emerge when awakened.

Myth#2: My current job does not demand presentation skills.

Many people feel that presentation skills are needed only for sales or marketing personnel. It’s like saying, “I don’t need to have dress-sense because I am not a model or a film actor/actress.”

The need for effective presentation skills is ever growing. This is no longer in the optional/desired category. We need these skills to get into a new position or retain your current one.

In most cases, acquiring presentation skills is like passing through graduation. Graduation on its own may not have value, but not becoming a graduate will certainly haunt you for the rest of the life. If you are not sure, ask any non-graduate and you will get your answer.

Look at the impact of the following scenarios. Look at the positive and negative impacts created by the presence of/absence of presentation skills.

  • Selling your ideas to the team
  • Giving the required comfort to your boss/client as to what is expected from you and your team
  • Saving precious time, energy and money that could be lost in communication gaps
  • Getting you the next pay hike or promotion
  • You will notice that all the above activities project your credibility, professionalism and your relationships within the team. It also reflects your personal growth and the growth of the people reporting to you.

This should help you appreciate the importance of presentation skills.

Myth # 3: We have very good content on our website, plenty of advertisement material designed by our ad agency. We also have the latest research reports. I can include all these in my presentation.

Good luck! If all of these are readily available, why waste time on a presentation? Why can’t we send these on and close the deal over a telephone call?

Of course, we know that it does not work that way.

Many companies spend millions in revenue on print and media advertisements, TV commercials and online ad campaigns to attract prospective clients or investors. Finally, when a hot prospect is ready to give them an hour, they get confused and end up confusing the client. Result? A happy competitor.

The messages designed for print and media ads have a reasonable life. They get multiple chances of being seen. If someone does not understand the message on the first day, he will understand it on the 100th day.

Your final pitch to a prospect is much like playing a match final. You have reached this stage after clearing several rounds and you need to get this final leg right at any cost. So, the presentation you make at this juncture will only be seen once. You may not get another opportunity to impress the prospect. Most corporates wont understand the Importance of presentation skills.

Myth # 4: We have very good content on our website. With a simple copy and paste, I am done.

  • In many ways, presentation development and website development are similar.
  • They follow a structured development life cycle
  • They thrive on good content
  • They need strong architecture and design before they are created (coding for a website or slide creation in presentations)
  • The slides or pages need to follow a structured and logical path
  • They need to be visually appealing
  • They get only the shortest possible time to impress
  • They need to take care of security, privacy and confidentiality aspects
  • They need to be designed so they can be viewed on multiple devices and resolutions
  • Finally, their potential is largely misunderstood and frequently ignored by business development personnel.

We should certainly try to adapt the best practices of website development for presentation development.

However, the content and presentation techniques should be more polished and precise in presentations. Why? Because it is the final attempt before we clinch the deal.

Myth # 5: I am part of a small team with no expertise in design or marketing skills. It is not possible to produce a great output.

Let’s consider the case of a large organization. This organization has a large manufacturing unit and a large distribution network.

A team of engineers drive the production. The finished goods are sold by their sales and marketing team using their distribution network.

Their marketing team constantly whets the consumer appetite with various initiatives like advertisements, promotions and so on.

It is feasible for large organizations to have multiple teams that fulfil various functions and responsibilities.

Now, think of yourself as an organization. One part of your brain is the manufacturing unit. You need to build another unit for thought distribution.

Assuming that you have the manufacturing unit to produce ideas, this book shows you how to build a strong thought-distribution network.

Once you become aware of building the thought-distribution network, you can even distribute thoughts that have been ‘manufactured’ by others.

People who understand the Importance of presentation skills will resonate well with this.

Myth #6: Creating presentations is a daunting task. I don’t have an expert at presentations to help me when I am struck. Why start something that I cannot complete anyway?

Agreed. Creating a persuasive presentation is a tough task. However, with the right mindset, the right tools and a structured path, we can simplify the task to a great extent. With a little effort, we can also develop our skills at creating presentations.

Myth #7: I have seen some of the best presentations with awesome graphics, animations and brilliant presentation techniques. I don’t understand graphic design; I know nothing about creative tools.

This is the biggest myth that we are going to bust. In general, most people get intimidated by technical jargons on graphic design. They are forced
to believe that they need a specialized diploma or even a doctorate in graphic/creative designing to be able to produce a presentation. The answer is ‘No’.

There is popular belief that presentations are all about managing design elements with colors, fonts and graphics. These are no doubt important but what is more important is the underlying strength of the message.
Before we think about these elements, we need to get the core structural elements right.

Think of your presentation as a model getting ready for a fashion show.
We need to build the frame or skeleton properly. We also need to make sure that the skin shows good texture. We can dress this up suitably and apply make- up as required, to enhance the overall look.

Contrary to this, if we build a structure that does not look human and the skin-texture for instance, resembles that of a tree or an animal, then dressing it up and applying make-up will only result in a disaster. The overall appearance will be that of a zombie or something equally horrendous.

People would have told you that you need to have a good sense of color, font, etc. to create good slides. These are important but only after you get the content right.

Only products with balanced design and engineering will look and feel good. Presentations are no exception. You need the right blend of Design (aesthetics, visual appeal) and Engineering (content, appropriate statements that highlight the client’s problem and the benefits of using the product).

In this connected world, Importance of presentation skills is very high. We must convert every opportunity to polish our presentation and communication skills.

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