Six Steps to Success: Step 4- Develop Great Content

Six Steps to Success: Step 4- Develop Great Content
October 28, 2008

There are many books about what makes a great presentation, but I have yet to find one specifically about multi-media content like Brainshark.  This is not to say that these books aren't helpful because they are.  There are many presenting fundamentals that apply to all good presentations such as good structure, preparation and research.  However, there are some key tenets that must be followed to produce quality multi-media content like Brainshark.

A great multi-media presentation has the following 4 characteristics in both the visual element and the spoken word:

  1. It is Clear

  2. It is Concise

  3. It is Consistent

  4. It is Compelling

1. It is Clear

Clarity starts with the overall structure or flow of the presentation and each slide.  If the presentation has an agenda slide (slide 2) where you tell the viewers what you will be discussing and then you slide titles, chapter titles and content matches what you outlined in your agenda slide (slide 2) then you have increased the clarity of your presentation.  If you cover a single main theme in the presentation and don't stray or end up on tangential material then you have added clarity.  If you keep each slide to a single concept or idea that is in support of the main theme, then you are more likely to have clear slides.  If you restrict the content on the slides to phrases only and use bulleted phrases to outline the talking points then you will be clearer.  Finally, make sure the script that will be spoken matches the flow of the slide so the viewer can easily follow where you are going.  From an auditory perspective, the foundation of clarity is the script and the window dressing is a conversational style with good pronunciation.  Don't forget that good stories are ones that the listener can follow and understand.

2. It is Concise

Less is more.  If the slide, phrase, sentence, graphic, animation, object, video, attachment, music or image does not add value to the presentation, then leave it out.  The best practice here is to review the presentation once it is complete.  Check the agenda slide and then verify that the content has delivered on the promised agenda.  If there is material in the presentation that is not covered in the agenda slide, then seriously ask yourself if it is necessary.  Your audience will appreciate that you delivered the material in the briefest manner possible and they are more likely to watch your next presentation.

3. It is Consistent

Don't make the audience work to find data or understand the flow.  Having a consistent visual presentation helps the audience understand where things are and what to expect.  Use one PPT template and stick with it.  Use one font type, color and size wherever possible and only vary to highlight a point.  From an audio perspective, having the speaker record in a single sitting will help increase the odds that they will maintain volume consistency.  The most important element when it comes to consistency is that the presentation stays on target with the objective.  All slides, all bullets, all images and all recordings are provided in support of the objective and main theme of the presentation.  Stay on track and your audience will as well.

4. It is Compelling

There are 3 keys to making the presentation compelling.

1. Always add value         

From the opening slide to the closing slide, make sure the audience understands what is in it for them.   Jerry Weissman calls this the "What's In It For Me or WIIFM factor.  You should know what the value is to the audience because you have already established and objective and analyzed what is important to you audience.  Everything you show and everything you say needs to deliver something that is useful to your viewer. 

On slide one you are setting the hook by saying hello and telling the audience why it is worth their time to watch the presentation, but the job does not end there.  Every slide, every word, is an opportunity to convince the viewer that the material is valuable or a waste of time.  If you keep proving the value - you keep the audience.

2. Stay focused

You know the objective because you agreed to it in step 1 of this process, so don't forget it!  Staying focused over the course of the presentation makes it possible for the viewer to connect the dots.  Stay away form sidebars and tangents - they cause your viewers to stop watching.

Visually - staying focused means - do not do anything that distracts the audience.  Control the number of words, the complexity of graphs and charts, the number and type of animations, the use and quality of images.  For example, don't show an image of the entire application screen when you are only focusing on the functionality of that which occurs in the upper third of the page.  Don't show a chart or graph or image or text string that cannot be read or deciphered in 3 seconds.  If you do then you have now introduced confusion.  Instead of the audience focusing on the spoken word, their brain is engaged with the visual element and no longer listening to why the visual is important.  So they miss the value and stop watching.

Orally - Say it as briefly and conversationally as possible.  Keep slides to 30 seconds or less.  Do not speak too slowly or over enunciate since this will become a distraction and they will stop watching.  Writing a good script will help with controlling the timing of the slides and practicing the script will help you to deliver the material conversationally, which is how people want to be spoken to.

3. Be engaging

Following the 2 items above will go a long way to make the presentation engaging, but there is one additional, critical, element - engaging the audience with your voice/intonation.  When it comes to multi-media content like Brainshark, you can not get away with mediocre audio.  If the speaker is average and the material is not required, they will stop watching.  Think about good radio advertising and you will be on the road to a good recording.  Your audience can interpret many things based on the tone of your voice.  They can sense interest and disinterest, they can sense excitement and disdain, and they can sense enthusiasm and ennui.  More importantly - they will be influenced by the emotion they sense through the tone in which the audio is delivered.  Enthusiasm is contagious so use it to your advantage. 

Put the 4 C's in your presentation and you will have a Sharktastic Day!