Jan 162022

If you have the time, every presentation, every topic, can be fine-tuned into a compelling, captivating, and concise masterpiece. Here is a quick link (Killer Recipe for Compelling and Captivating Presentations) to help you create your masterpiece.

But that is not what this post is all about. More often than not, we have painfully little time before we must present to an audience. The world of distractions conspires to keep us juggling and fighting little fires, only to find ourselves staring at a sad-looking, boring-as-hell powerpoint deck on Sunday evening, knowing we must lead a discussion at 2 pm tomorrow.

I’ve put together a quick recipe I call the Sakalas Seven Checklist to help improve and renovate any presentation by 10%, 20%, even 52%. We all would like to be strategic evangelists who become trusted advisors. The Sakalas Seven is a little easy-peasy checklist that can be used to make your presentation better in short order.

  1. First, and foremost, you must capture someone’s attention immediately. Do not spend a ton of time introducing yourself. Do not tell people where you fit in your organization. There is always time for those snoozy details later. I often spend almost 50% of my personal preparation time on customizing those first few critical slides and what I will say in the first couple of minutes. Customize the beginning for your audience. What’s in it for them? What is interesting to them. It’s not about you.

2) Next, people can’t generally remember more than three points from a meeting. Figure out your three main points. Put them up front, talk about them throughout, make them the takeaways at the end. Success is not found drowning the audience with too much stuff.

3) Always start with a problem or challenge the people in the audience will relate to.

4) One each slide, try to limit the words to less than 20. If you have more than 20, even after you delete as many words as possible, highlight the words that a “skimmer” would need to get the main point, the gist of the slide — because the world is full of people who skim. It will also help you as a presenter, making it easy to remember what you wanted to say while on the slide.

5) Often, there are slides after slides after slides of idea-dense, busy, hard-to-understand information. An amazing, easy-hack is to add a one liner slide that illustrates the big idea, the big point you want to make. The contrast makes it magical.

6) There is lots of evidence that people more easily remember visuals than words. In fact, imagining a visual image in your mind’s eye activates the process that moves ideas out of short-term memory into long-term memory. The hack is simple — use an analogy that demands the listener “imagine a visual scene or object” — it will make your point sticky.

7) Features or simply saying “yes, it does that” doesn’t make it real, doesn’t make it memorable. But a customer success story, spoken like you were (almost) there, absolutely does.

Here is the checklist on one page.

The next time you have less than 24 hours to hit a home run during your presentation, I hope you remember // and Google for // the Sakalas Seven.

Best of luck,

IM Optimisman