5 tips to avoid a public "bleed-out" when delivering a presentation

5 tips to avoid a public "bleed-out" when delivering a presentation

By JD Sparks on May 21st, 2013

This year I’ve sat through a number of healthcare conferences and witnessed more than one “never event.” And despite the number of nurses and physicians in attendance during these sessions, there was nothing anyone could do to help the victims.

If you don’t know, never events are inexcusable actions in a healthcare setting, the kind of mistake that should never happen. At these types of healthcare gatherings, gross negligence usually comes dressed in suit and tie (or a suit and sensible pumps), and is in charge of delivering a PowerPoint presentation. Poorly executed talks of this nature are the equivalent of a public bleed out.

Here, then, are five takeaways from my forensics on what not to do when you’re tasked with representing your company and its products at a conference.

Don’t Be Pointless
A good presentation is like a story, only much shorter. It should contain a conflict or challenge (the beginning) and a resolution (the end). In the middle, pick and choose only those details, examples, specs or product features that advance the story. Your audience should leave knowing exactly who you are, what you do, how your product is different and why they should learn more about your company.

Don’t Clutter the Visuals
If you need to preface a visual aid with, “I know you probably can’t see this,” your presentation is low on the tomato meter. Despite what most designers say, the graphics are not show, you are. If you’re not prepared to be the main event for the next 20 minutes, then you need to sit down and stop wasting everyone’s time. What’s on the screen plays an important but supporting role. Keep the visuals clean and simple with a minimum amount of text. Rather than overcomplicating the slide, consider using a single image to sell your idea. And if you have to resort to the overused bulleted list, keep the text to one line. 

No Laser Pointers
Public speaking is hard work. Even a pro who thrives on delivering under pressure gets dry mouth and a racing heart. The stress of talking in front of people prompts the adrenals to release hormones that are incredibly helpful to avoid being eaten for lunch but the side-effects are presentation killers. Under duress, when your hands are shaking, resist that urge to pick up the laser pointer. It’s small, it’s fun, it’s shaped like a pen and it can move heads like they’re on a string. But the little red dot is supposed to direct attention to a key message, not spin around the slide or across the wall. We’re people, not cats

Don’t Read. Ever.
There is a special ring of hell for healthcare reps who read the names of all the diseases their system can help providers manage, starting with asthma. No one likes to be talked at. And some of us barely like being talked to. Present ideas in a relaxed way, summarize the information on the slide, and think outside of the screen. Find ways to engage your audience—for example, ask real (not rhetorical) questions and invite them to participate in the discussion. It shows you genuinely care about their values and pain points, and not just about pushing your own agenda.

Don’t Sponsor the Lunch
Given the option of hosting a beer and wine reception or holding people hostage over lunch, making it impossible for them to enjoy their meal or a friendly conversation, be smart: Take the former. The lunch crowd is rough. These are people who have been sitting for hours hashing through complex material and arguing in breakout sessions. Putting a drink and brochure in their hands is far more likely to pique interest and invite questions than trying to cram in your product features over scraping forks and buzzing texts.