Mike MJ Harris

Burlesque presentation


Presentations are hard but like pretty much any new skill sticking to a few simple rules can really improve what you deliver. This article gives you just two tips - limit your bullet points to max 3 per slide and make them appear as you go. There you are - you're done! Go forth and present beautifully! (but read to the end to find out why the provocative title)

These two tips correct mistakes that are often made by new presenters. Seasoned pros also make them but once you have mastered a skill you can break the rules - although do keep these ones in mind. They will help the audience be more engaged with what you are delivering. Previously I also wrote about a few practical ways of improving your presentation which goes hand in hand with this article.

1. Max three bullet points per page

Three is often thought of as a special kind of number - Google the power of three for a whole range of good theories, business cases and cod psychology. In a presentation the main reason to only have three bullet points is the fact that humans get distracted easily and have bad memories. Three points on a slide is about all that someone can easily remember. Whatever your argument, having up to three key points rather than endless lists is going to be more powerful.

In addition people are bad at listening and will try and do anything else instead of listen properly. If you put up ten bullet points the audience will generally go ahead and read all your points and not listen to you. Their focus will be disturbed, they will have missed what you said and although they may have read the bullet points they might of missed the key information of what you are trying to deliver. If you need all the bullet points, group them up with similar themes and spread over a couple of slides, each with a specific focus.

2. Have your bullet points appear as you mention them

In a similar vein, while you may have three bullet points on a slide there might be a train of thought or argument leading you on from one to the next. Having them up all on the screen immediately spoils any element of surprise and wont allow your audience to follow your argument as they will probably be reading ahead, guess where you are going and switch off for the more subtler points you deliver by voice. Even if your bullet points are independent the audience will still read ahead and as mentioned in tip 1, their focus will slip. Ideally though your points will build on each other. You tell a story with your voice and the bullet point appears as or after you make your point as a reminder for the audience of what you said.

Burlesque Presentation

Think of your presentation as a burlesque show - less is more, and only reveal one item at a time.