Matt Foley: I am 35 years old. I am divorced and I live in a van down by the river.

Intro: Kelly Coughlin is a CPA and CEO of BankBosun, a management consulting firm helping bank C Level Officers navigate risk and discover reward. He is the host of the syndicated audio podcast, Kelly brings over 25 years of experience with companies like PWC, Lloyds Bank, and Merrill Lynch. On the podcast Kelly interviews key executives in the banking ecosystem to provide bank C suite officers, risk management, technology, and investment ideas and solutions to help them navigate risks and discover rewards. And now your host, Kelly Coughlin.

Greetings, this is Kelly Coughlin, CPA and CEO of BankBosun, helping bank C suite execs navigate risk and discover reward a sea of risk, regulation and revenue opportunities.

One of the benefits, perhaps the only benefit, of getting older, is having a huge portfolio of mistakes. Some wise person said, “Many times what we perceive as an error or failure is actually a gift. And eventually, we find that lessons learned from that experience prove to be of great worth.” I say baloney to that. The mistakes I have made cost me and my company money. So, I reject that idea.

And another wise man, Alexander Pope, an 18th-century British poet, said “A man should never be ashamed to admit he has been wrong because he is wiser today than he was yesterday” I say, forget that idea too. Wrong is wrong. And yes, I might be wiser, but I certainly am irritated and embarrassed at a few of my own mistakes.

And one of the BIGGEST mistakes I have made over my 25 illustrious years in the business world is with presentations. And my weapon of choice was Powerpoint presentations. And for all your prospects, clients, and conference attendees who have had to endure one or more of my busy, complex, unclear, and lengthy PowerPoint presentations, I now herewith formally apologize for the harm that was done to you through boredom, confusion, and frankly lousy theater.

As many of you know, I am a huge fan of using audio. The human voice is a great tool to communicate your mission, message, and mechanics (that’s my term for product features and benefits) of your company and your products and services. Your spoken word is so much more powerful than the written word. With your voice you can communicate with energy, emotion, empathy, excitement? coincidentally they all begin with the letter E. I don’t know about your writing skills, but if I try to communicate my value proposition using words that communicate energy, emotion, excitement, they just don’t work in business writing.

This is why live presentations are great. They allow you to communicate your mission, message, and mechanics of your company and value proposition with emotion and energy – those E words.  That said, if that message is not clear, concise and credible then you should just keep your mouth shut. Take the advice of Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker, “I wish you could just shut your big yapper.” God, I love Matt Foley.

Many of the mistakes we make with presentations are easily controllable and I certainly have made my fair share of these, even before we talk about non-verbal mistakes we make, by the way, I encourage you to listen to my two-part interview with Robin Kermode, where he talked about a couple of non-verbal tips like squeezing your butt together to lower your center of gravity, and what to do with your hands and how to stand.

In my mind, after having made dozens of miserable presentations, there are five things that can dramatically improve our Powerpoint presentations.

  • Number One: Direct the audience to yourself?not the screen or the handout. My actor friend Chris Carlson, CEO of NarrativePros in an interview said only we stupid businesspeople, communicate this way: Hey audience, listen to what I am going to say, because I am so brilliant, but, by the way, don’t look at me, look at the screen over there. Cause I am not worth looking at. Don’t do that. And it starts with don’t give them content on the slide that encourages them to study and read it and not watch and listen to you. You want them focusing on YOU!
  • Number two?Get comfortable with white space on the slide. We tend to have too much content on our slides and too many ideas or concepts on each slide. Get comfortable with clean and open white space. You fill that white space with your brilliant words that you speak and not the words that you write. And be aware of the Rule of Thirds on your slides. Your slide can be divided up into nine boxes?resembling a tic tac toe grid. Generally speaking, you want your key messages on a slide where two lines intersect, that is just outside the four corners of the center box.
  • Number three: Get Your presentation down to less than 18 minutes. Frequently, presentations are too long and Q&A is too short. By capping it at 18 minutes, it forces you to distill your message into its critical and core elements. Audience cognitive learning?that is thinking and listening, is draining. There is this concept of cognitive backlog where your audience can handle up to a max of about 15 – 18 minutes of cognitive learning. If you exceed that they go into a backlog mode, where learning and listening starts to shut down. Research shows that you have about two minutes to get your audiences’ attention; five more minutes to keep it; and if they like it you get another seven to ten more minutes. So that is a total of no more than 18 minutes. The rest should be about them?no more about you. So to accomplish the mission to hold their attention, we need to carefully prepare and rehears our presentation. It takes more time to prepare a 15-minute presentation than a 50-minute presentation. Why? With both of them, you can only hold their attention for 18 minutes. With the longer presentation you are simply throwing more words at the wall and hoping something will stick. With the shorter one, you are carefully crafting your words to ensure that each message on each slide sticks with the audience.
  • Number Four: We use text too much and images not enough images. Use images either alone or to guide the viewer to the important message?again no more than two, ideally one, message per slide. I want to expand on this a bit. I had a client of mine say, but if I don’t put more detail and content on the slide, it won’t mean anything when I leave it behind. Very, very true. But that is resolved in my fifth and final point.And I really can’t emphasize this enough. Because if you do this, many of the flaws and weaknesses in the previous four points will magically be uncovered and discovered.
  • Number Five Write your complete and total speech out verbatim. Read it out loud. And record it. Write, Read, Record?the three Rs?oh wait, write is a W word?you get the idea.

To Write it, you can use an outline or a mind map or whatever works for you. I personally like the mind map approach, whatever works for you?write it out literally. Tell your story in an interesting way. If you haven’t listened to Paul Smith’s audio interview Sell with a Story or Joanne Black’s interview Pick Up the Damn Phone, you should. I interviewed both of them over the past six months. Their ideas can help you in writing your speech. So you write and rewrite your speech and then you need to connect it to your Powerpoint images. Copy and paste your script into your Powerpoint slide notes at the bottom of the slide page?.What I like to do is copy the entire speech into the first slide?and then start cutting and pasting into the subsequent slides from this first one. If you haven’t created the slides, then this text will help you with the theme and message and image you want in that particular slide. Keep editing and reading aloud and rewriting and reading aloud again. This process is terrific for creating your talk and also, by the way, recalling the talk. And then once you have it and the slides are pretty good, record your voice making the presentation. You can either record this in Powerpoint or in another audio recording application. If you have someone else helping you with the Powerpoint slides, having this audio content will be incredibly helpful for them in creating the slideshow. So, back to the client that complained about lack of detail and content, when you provide your slide deck to interested clients or prospects, you also provide them the slide deck with the transcript AND you provide them the recorded presentation with the slides advancing with your audio overlay. It’s a great repurposing of the presentation and it offers you a way to repeat it and deliver it again and again with other prospects or clients throughout the company for those who couldn’t attend, liked it so much they wanted to hear it again or perhaps they had a martini at lunch and fell asleep?