The Challenge of Great Presentations

Did your boss ever tell you on a Friday afternoon that you’re on the agenda for next week’s staff meeting…now a whole whopping 3 days away?

Right after…you’d just been thinking about how great it was going to be to get away for a fun week-end, with arrangements made to use your friends lake cabin…just you and your signicant other?

And did the boss mention that you’ll have 30 minutes to cover the material, including a Q&A section?

How many of you have been in that situation? I know I have.

I also know at this point…you have choices: 1) scrap the week-end plans and toil over a presentation; 2) scribble a couple of notes and do the presentation on the fly next week…not a good idea…but a choice, or; 3) put together a great presentation in less than hour…and go enjoy the week-end!

If you’re thinking about now “Yeah, right…a great presentation in less than an hour…” I want you to consider a new exercise I developed to help me cope with not only quickly putting presentations together…but getting into the mindset of knowing I could present something of value…without having a nervous breakdown!  I call it the Presenter’s Two-Minute Exercise Program!

Here are the considerations. 

Done right, with a 30-minute slot, your presentation time is between 15 and 20 minutes, with 10 to 15 minutes for Q&A.

  • Begin by spending about 5 minutes doing a mental set-up for the “basics”:
     Who’s the audience…position(s) in company, backgrounds, ages, roles?
    What’s their knowledge level…on average in the group?
    What specific benefit can they gain from your presentation…what’s the take-away that you can give them that can really make a difference in what they contribute to the organization?

By setting this framework in your head first, you’ll set the tone. By knowing the audience, you can determine what they can absorb.  When you spend a few minutes focusing on what you know that they can use to make their jobs easier…the benefit you alone can provide… you will have…the beginning… and the end.

  • With your context set, now all you really need is the middle…your content…your 2-minute exercise routine.
    Determine what your content will be and write 7 to 10 main point.  Organize the points by their priority.
    Write 3 to 6 detail headlines.
    Find visuals that explain, clarify, or emphasize.


  • Open PowerPoint or whatever other similar media you choose, and go to work.
     Use large font – 32 point or larger for the title, generally 24 or more for text.
    For contrast, use Times Roman or other serif font in the title.
    Use a sans serif font like Ariel for normal text.
    Use good grammar and correct spelling.
     Be consistent…and correct…with capitalization.
    Check your colors…don’t use primary colors together…i.e red lettering on a green background. Best…yellow or white on a dark blue or black, or vice versa.
    Add visuals and…if at all possible…determine where, how and when, a little humor can be added to the presentation to maintain interest.
     Determine several points where audience participation is possible…preferable somewhere in the first 3 slides. A reference to a particular experience someone you know will be in the audience will tie them to you, and keep them listening…just in case you mention their name again. If you can do this for several in the group, the balance of the group will also be hoping for a name “mention.”

Review your slides, then do a “dry run” – for a “live” pre-presentation audience if at all possible – if not, a video recording or even just a voice recording, so you can share it (either before or after you head off for your great week-end) with someone else at least once or twice before the actual event.

  • Start with…the “rest” of the basics: tell them what you’re going to tell them…tell them…then tell them what you told them…emphasizing how your information can benefit them!

On average, each slide should take about 2 minutes to cover the content. With 7 to 10 slides, that’s approximately 14 to 20 minutes…leaving 10-15 minutes for questions. Think about what questions might come up…and if your audience seems a little shy to start…be prepared to throw in something like: “Several people have asked me recently about . . . . . . . . and I’m not sure I covered it in the presentation. So just to add a little more detail. . . . . . Has anyone else had that experience, or something similar? …To give you the most benefit, I want to make sure I answer any question you might have on any area we covered today. ”
That will frequently get the audience involved. And…remember… if someone asks a question and you don’t know the answer…say so. Let them know you’ll find out and get back to them.
Then…Do it! Promptly! Believe me, you’ll get kudos for that.


  • Now, just a quick “Presenter” review:
    Dress appropriately. Dress “up” to look professional. A suit and tie may not be necessary, but slightly more formal than your audience adds instant credibility.
    Look at your audience…not your slides… during your presentation. Establish eye contact throughout the audience on a regular basis.
    Don’t read from your notes…nor speak in a monotone.
    Move around during your presentation, but not too quickly…or slowly.
    If your audience starts to get a “glazed over” look, pause! Have a couple of “refresher” tricks in your pocket…a quick, appropriate story that you can throw in…a quick question, etc. Get them back on track and engaged.
    If you use a pointer, make it a laser pointer. Use it selectively and put it down when it’s not in use.                                                                                            Most importantly here…finish in your allotted time.  If there are more questions that you haven’t answered, be sure to catch up during break, or ask for e-mails so you can respond.

This is it — The “2-Minute Presenter’s Exercise Routine.” 

A workout program that even those who dread presentations can easily handle!

 Each slide…2 minutes… 7 to 10 reps! Anybody can do 2 minutes at a time…7 to 10 times in a workout program… including…and especially…YOU!

An exercise program that will allow you to prepare a presentation of value in an hour…take advantage of the lake cabin for the week-end… and return to give a professional, well-received presentation  “2 minutes at a time”.

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