The Presentation Survival Skills Guide author Jim Endicott believes presentations are a three-legged stool comprised of 1) content/message; 2) delivery; 3) visual presentation:
In her revolutionary book Slide:ology, Nancy Duarte explains that her Presentation Ecosystem comes from Endicott’s stool. Just as with the stool, a balance is necessary in order for a presentation to truly resonate. Consider which of the presentation “legs” you are best at… Consider which needs the most improvement. We must work to make each of these legs sturdy so that our presentation can connect with others; move people; and change the world.
As you can see from Duarte’s Presentation Ecosystem, a presenter must work to develop strong content based on intense preparation and audience needs. Ideation begins with some sort of brainstorming process, involves research and careful thought, and leads to a clearly structured, organized speech layout. Written speech planning is essential, and a speaker can even use that outline or those speaking points when it comes time to deliver the speech. When developing a presentation’s content, you never want to write a script from start to finish. Natural delivery and a true connection can never exist if you’re reading like a robot. Instead, use an outline to help keep you on track.
The next step in the Ecosystem is to develop a strong visual presentation. For the most part, Keynote and PowerPoint are used to create a visual story to support the speaker’s message. Remember to apply universal principles of design so that your visual presentation meets the needs of your audience. No more death-by-bulletpoin!
The third and final step in the Ecosystem is delivery. Rehearsal is key when it comes to delivery so that on presentation day, all three legs of the presentation stool can come together in a polished and professional fashion. Believe it or not, the only way to have natural, authentic delivery is to rehearse that speech. Consider how natural Steve Jobs appeared when presenting the iPhone launch. How many times do you think he practiced before delivering a speech?
You’ll notice from each of the three legs of the ecosystem that critique is mentioned. The only way to become stronger in any of these three areas is to hear, understand, and learn from feedback. Constructive criticism can help you transform wobbly legs into strong ones.