De-clutter Your Presentation

I’m in the process of moving house and boy is there a load of clutter! But there’s something very satisfying about dumping piles of paper in the recycling bin and putting piles of junk out for the council clean-up collection. The particularly pleasing part is being able to enjoy the tidiness of what is left – the clear spaces!! So I’m going through piles of things determining whether each thing brings pleasure or adds purpose.

Recently I was coaching a client who was preparing an hour-long seminar. Listening to the framework of his presentation, I realised that there was about two hours’ worth of information going into it. When you’re cramming two hours’ worth of material into a one-hour presentation, there’s no “space” left for the audience to reflect on the material. Clutter is as overwhelming in our presentations as it is to our homes!

“De-cluttering” is probably the most common technique I use as a speech coach. It’s all about finding the short cut to getting the message through. Don't fill all the available space with repetitive waffle.

Have you noticed how much people repeat themselves in conversation in an effort to explain themselves? This is largely, I believe, due to lack of confidence. They aren’t sure they’ve explained it well enough the first time, so they re-phrase two or three times in the hopes that one of the versions will land!

This is a problematic communication style, because if you do tend to be a bit repetitive, people will tend to tune out when you get started, knowing full well they’ll have ample opportunity to pick up what you’re saying on your third go!

Thinking about a good story or a metaphor to illustrate your point will have far more power in terms of getting understanding. It is a much more interesting strategy than paraphrasing a point, and it will also be much more memorable for the audience.

Here are some strategies for de-cluttering your presentation:

  1. Plan it carefully with a clear framework
  2. Think about how many points you want your audience to remember
  3. Ensure you can summarise each point with a short phrase
  4. Can you illustrate each point with a story or a metaphor?
  5. With each bit of information, ask yourself “Does this add value?” If in doubt, leave it out….

And finally, when you deliver it – leave some “white space” for thought. Pictures in articles always draw the eye if there’s enough room around them to bring the focus in. Your ideas will have more effect when there is enough silence around them. Let them sink in before you race onto your next point!

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