Why Presentations Fail
“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”– Abraham Lincoln
I have been reading an interesting book called Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson. It details the predictable reasons why nations fail. It is a great read.
I started thinking to myself there are reasons presentations fail also. So this is what we will discuss in this article.
Presenters fail because of the lack of audience knowledge, lack of an attention step, and lack of a call to action.
Lack of Audience Knowledge
Are you in sales? Everyone reading this article should have their hand up. In living your life, you are either selling a product, service, or idea.
During your presentations, you may be selling a product or service or not. However, you are always selling an idea.
Sales 101 tells us the first step in sales is to know your customer. The analogy here for presentations is every presenter should know their audience. If you do not know your audience, your presentation may be “off the mark” badly. So how do you go about knowing your audience?
What do we mean by the term “know your audience?” Some questions to ask are: What is the average age of your audience? What are your audience’s professions? What is your audience’s depth of knowledge on your presentation topic? You get the idea.
Three ways to get to know your audience are:
Ask the presentation event organizer questions about the organizer
Read what your audience is reading
Find out what social media platform is preferred by your audience and read what they are saying
The first step in developing a presentation is getting to know your audience. There is no way around this. Creating your presentation without this information is a trap you should avoid.
The second step to prevent your presentation from failing is to have an attention step at the beginning of your presentation.
Lack of An Attention Step
Why do you need an attention step?
Your audience deals with an endless stream of information vying for their attention. Therefore, you must focus on your audience quickly at the beginning of your presentation, or you will risk your audience daydreaming during your presentation about all the other things in their lives.
There are several ways to draw your audience’s attention to your presentation. Below are three of them:
A powerful, relevant quote
A startling, relevant statistic
A touching, relevant story (personal stories are the most powerful)
Some other attention steps include relevant videos, questions to the audience, short discussion with your audience. There are many more.
Also, make your attention step entertaining. Entertained audiences are attentive audiences
Lack of a Call to Action
You never want your audience to ask themselves the following question as they walk to their cars in the parking lot: “That was a great presentation, but what can I do with the information in the presentation?”
To prevent your audience from asking this question, give them a Call to Action at the end of your presentation.
You should give them a SMART Call to Action. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bounded.
I am sure you have noticed these articles all have a Call to Action at the end. My purpose in writing these articles is not just to have a pleasant read on a subject in which you are interested. I want you to implement what is in these articles to make you and the people you love lives better.
Presentations like nations can fail. There are definite reasons for both of these.
Presentations fail due to a lack of audience knowledge, lack of an attention step, and lack of a call to action.
Considering knowledge of your audience while preparing your presentation and an attention step and call to action when delivering it will go a long way to preventing a failed presentation.
Constantly seek knowledge (e.g., presentation books, podcasts, Internet, etc.) about improving your presentations.
You won’t regret it!
Call to Action
Only applied knowledge is power. Know your audience, and you will significantly increase your presentation power(/p>
Include attentions steps in your presentations or risk audiences who are lethargic, uninterested, and sometimes sleeping
Include a call to action in all of your presentations, and your audiences will be more likely to implement what you say
“When you find an idea that you can’t stop thinking about, that’s probably a good one to pursue.”– Josh James
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”