Are you still presenting like it’s 1999? Take this quiz

Remember 1999? It was a magical time:

The dot-com boom promised an era of universal prosperity.

George Lucas introduced us to Jar Jar Binks, sure to be a fan favorite.

And PowerPoint 2000 was released, ushering in a Golden Age of business oratory.

Yeah, not so much.

Maybe Prince was right. Party over, out of time.

Amazingly, even Microsoft’s addition of a sparkling new feature that allowed users to view their slide, outline and notes all in one window (!) failed to put an end to “death by PowerPoint.”

Are you part of the problem? Are you still presenting like it’s 1999? Or 1989, for that matter?

Take this quiz and find out.

Test your presentation skills

  1. Do you kick things off by telling the audience about yourself? Stop. Audiences care less about you than what you can do for them.
  2. Do you believe it’s not what you say, but how you say it that counts? Wrong. Don’t let myths about body language skew your priorities. Your content is just as important as your delivery technique.
  3. On the other hand, is your presentation stuffed with information? Be careful. As a presenter, you are more than an information delivery vehicle. Try to focus your content on the essentials.
  4. Do you think facts and evidence are the keys to persuasion? Think again. An emotional appeal is more effective in changing people’s minds.
  5. Are you a different person on the podium than in everyday life? You’re doing it wrong. In an age of transparency, there’s no room for split personalities. When presenting, be yourself (albeit the best version of yourself).
  6. Choose 10 slides in your presentation, count the words, and figure out the average number of words per slide. Is it five or more? If so, you may have a problem. Bullets kill and visuals rule—science says so.
  7. When there’s bad “mojo” in the room, do you blame the set-up, the audience or the weather? Sorry, it’s your responsibility to set the tone by projecting mental, emotional and physical energy.
  8. Do you often find yourself racing the clock, powering through your last slides? That’s a sign of poor preparation. Plan ahead, time your presentation to the minute, and leave a little cushion.
  9. Do you save Q&A for the end? Don’t. You should end on your message, not someone else’s. Intersperse Q&A throughout or do it just before your conclusion.

How did you do?

Did any of these questions challenge your assumptions about how to deliver an effective presentation? If so, don’t be discouraged.

TED Talks have shifted audience expectations and raised the bar for speakers of every kind. Audiences today expect to be entertained on the way to being informed—with story, humor and surprises. Subject matter expertise is simply not enough to grab and hold people’s attention these days.

So even if you’re a seasoned presenter, it pays to keep on top of the trends in order to stay relevant. And just because you’re a successful corporate communicator doesn’t mean you’re also a natural public speaker.

What you can do to improve

Here are three things you can do right now to improve your presentation skills:

  • Watch TED Talks. Most of us don’t typically do TED-style presentations. But see what you can learn about the use of story, tight structure, minimalist visuals and energetic delivery.
  • Join Toastmasters. Find a group near you. You’ll get a chance to practice your skills regularly and get instant feedback from others.
  • Invest in training, for you and your people. There really is no substitute for intensive, sustained learning tailored to your needs.

Join the party!

A great presentation can help you win business, get programs and budgets approved, align people around a strategy, rally a team and boost your reputation in the marketplace. So join the party. Stop presenting like it’s 1999.

This article originally appeared in the CW Observer.

Learn key presentation skills by attending Rob Biesenbach’s session, “11 deadly presentation sins: A path to redemption for public speakers and everyday presenters.”

Register today!

About the author

Rob Biesenbach is an independent corporate communications pro, actor, author and speaker. He is a former VP at Ogilvy PR Worldwide and press secretary to the Ohio Attorney General, and has written hundreds of speeches for CEOs and other executives. He is also a Second City-trained actor who has appeared in more than 150 stage, commercial and film productions in the past decade. Rob’s most recent book is 11 Deadly Presentation Sins, on which this presentation is based.

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