At presentations, I’m usually the one in the front of the room, but today I attended a presentation as an audience member. The best thing I can say about the presentation was that it got me to start thinking about the tremendous amount of waste that is a part of so many talks.
I’m using waste—or muda—in its formal “lean principles” definition as any activity that uses resources but does not add value to the end customer. When this lens is applied on the factory floor, a surprising amount of it can be found almost everywhere you look. While I was sitting in the audience this morning I began applying that lens and here are some of the examples I saw:
I could go on, but by now you get the picture, and any more detail would be muda.
How to get rid of presentation waste
Know your audience. Value should be defined by your audience. What do they want out of the presentation, and how much do they know about the topic going in? How will they use the information you provide? In your presentation journey, this is Point A.
Have a clear theme. The theme clearly spells out Point B. Before you start dumping words onto a screen, figure out the core message that you want the audience to leave the presentation with. The theme is where your purpose and the audience’s needs meet. What do you want them to do or to know, and why should they want to do it?
Have a clear structure. This helps you organize your thoughts in a way that will get you most efficiently and effectively from Point A to Point B. anything that does not clearly lead to the destination will be easier to spot and to remove. Clarity of structure also helps your listeners organize the incoming information in their minds so that they are much more likely to understand and remember.
Break some of these bad habits. The bad habits I observed this morning should not be fresh revelations to any experienced presenter, but we can tend to fall into these patterns through habit and laziness.
Pay attention to the audience. If you’re wasting their time, you will know and will be able to adjust.
Start with the bottom line up front. This applies to most presentations, but it’s particularly important when answering questions. Even if you have to give a nuanced answer, give the general conclusion first and then add caveats and context as necessary.
I guess today wasn’t a complete waste—it gave me an idea for a blog post!