Effective Presentations: Delivering More with Less

I recently read a fun book by Michael Baldwin titled "Just Add Water - An incredibly easy guide for creating simple, powerful presentations." A quick read based on the concept of simple index cards, this primer is loaded with memorable images and reminds us how to use a clearly focused audience objective to deliver a truly informative message.

I've been in the driver's seat of presentation development for our firm and clients for more than 35 years and I have certainly seen hundreds of presentations and slide shows, good and bad. In my experience, most presenters expect their viewers to retain a long list of messages, sometimes including complex and detailed data. "Just Add Water" is a great tool to help make that intricate information more consumable and interesting.

But for many business presentations, I would argue that your true intent is really much simpler. Your goal is likely to make an impression that motivates the viewer to seek "more." That "more" could be curiosity to seek deeper information, more empathy to engage with an issue, or more confidence to pursue a business opportunity. In many cases, it's not the deep list of messages that are important, it's the engagement and lasting impression you make. With that in mind, I want to add a few more thoughts to Michael's tutorial.

1. Simplify.


My first emphasis is: don't be afraid to over simplify. It is rarely necessary to share endless slides and graphics. Entire presentations can be effective with very few or even ONE single slide when an image can emphasize your point. A former college student approached me years after seeing one of my talks and shared that, "I never forgot the concept of your one round orange slide."

Effective presenters understand simplicity. Steve Jobs was truly a great storyteller-perhaps the best ever. He knew how to focus attention and he used timing and single words or single graphics to deliver compelling content. He also created anticipation with his always-expected ending: "Oh, and there's one more thing¢€¦" that last, over-the-top product feature that cap stoned his announcement and supported Apple's innovative nature.

2. Engage the senses.

Another tool that I have found effective is to engage other senses such as touch, sound and taste. Multisensory learning is a proven approach to enhanced receptivity and even in its simplest form can enhance your presentations.


One of my most engaging presentations is a lecture about branding concepts that uses cake and frosting as an analogy. The analogy is effective, but appealing to the sense of taste always boosts viewer attention. I leverage images of tasty cake and I promise real cake after my chat. It's unforgettable and the audience truly wants more when I am finished. They also want to eat the cake-and I do serve it to them.

I wish you luck with your next presentation and hope these tips are helpful. If you keep it simple, keep it visual and appeal to your unique audience they will come back asking for more.

What are some ways you have used simplicity and appeal to create engagement during a presentation? Do you have suggestions of thoughts that can help our readers?