Your Presentation: Graveyard Session or Angelina Jolie?

They may be rare – few and far between – but some presentations are like watching Angelina Jolie go by in a short skirt. They compel your attention. And if the presenter really knows their stuff, Angelina might even stop, indulge a wink and blow a kiss your way. But sadly, most are not. Most presentations are more like a Sunday afternoon in an unused municipal graveyard…in bad weather…in uncomfortable underwear.

So if you’re determined to treat your next audience to Angelina, rather than a crow-ridden plot, where do you start?

Well, logic dictates that we begin by asking what goes into creating a graveyard presentation and then, by reverse-engineering, we will work our way back to a really top notch talk.

Creating the Graveyard

Most graveyard presentations suffer from these three ills:

1. Too much dry fact, and not enough emotive language
2. Too much explanation, and not enough relevance
3. Too many slides, not enough imagination.

Presentations are not about fact. They are about Impact.

Turning your presentation back into Angelina is actually not difficult. Your task is to take the most important and poignant facts and make them really come to life. Remember: the facts are not the important thing. The impact that they make; that’s what truly matters.

So, how do you make dry facts impactful? With stories and metaphors, the two legs that Angelina stands on.

Creating Angelina

Using stories and metaphors is actually quite easy. It is simply the act of saying, “It’s like…”, and then creating a small series of mental pictures.

Using ‘It’s Like…’ is a wonderfully effective way of taking a complex, abstract idea and turning it into something that people can ‘see;’ something that they can ‘get’ quickly. It’s the difference between saying, “We’re a small company competing against big brand names,” versus: “We’re that four foot nothing martial artist that takes on the six foot boxers… and flattens them all!”

You can use metaphors in your speeches, sales pitches, articles and interviews. In fact, use them whenever you need to persuade. Metaphors get the job done quickly, in addition to being novel and memorable. Here are some examples:

An American professional speaker describing what it’s like to speak for the Youth market: “You have to smuggle your messages in-between stories. You have to be like a motivational ninja!”

The Chief Financial Officer of an investment firm, after the Recession: “This time last year, you were lost in the forest and you were afraid, and you turned to me for guidance. What you didn’t know was that I was equally scared. But that wasn’t good enough. So we dug deep, and pulled on a hundred years of experience, and sought real answers. We found a glimmer of light in one direction and led you that way. We are proud to say that we are now emerging from the forest, and the choice we made for you was borne out as the right one.”

If you regularly watch the television show ‘Top Gear,’ you will have heard the mastery with which Jeremy Clarkson makes dry car facts come to life. Here are a few of his gems:

• “It was a bit like putting a sticking plaster on a leaking nuclear missile!”
• “Look at the way it’s shaped. It looks like a dog hunkering down to do its business.”
• “Most supercars make you feel like you’re wrestling an elephant up the back stairs of an apartment building. But this one is like rubbing honey into Kiera Knightley!”
• “This thing has so much torque, it could tear a hole in time!”
• “It’s about as feminine as a burst sausage!”

The next time you’re toiling away at a PowerPoint presentation, ask yourself whether you are creating impact, or simply listing facts. If you find you’ve done nothing but record dry details over sixteen slides, consider whether you can’t do better. You may want to try your hand at turning fact into impact. Your tools are simple: stories and metaphors.

Appeal to the imagination and you will be memorable. You will have impact. Your presentation will be the intellectual equivalent of Angelina catching your eye…and blowing a kiss!