Presentation skills for reviews

December presentationsYou’re known to have good presentation skills, so you’ve been volunteered… It’s coming up to that time of year again – the one when you have to do ‘reviews’… presentations which look back on how the year has gone… that sort of thing. Frankly (and personally) they tend to fill me with dread, ‘cos most of them are so damned bad. So partially to try and save my own sanity, here’s some practical advice about how to make your end-of-year-review-presentation far, far less painful for everyone.

And by everyone I mean your audience mainly, but you too, as the presenter. Ready?

Ask yourself why you’re doing the presentation

Yes, yes, I know. It’s obvious but if it was that bloody obvious why would most of us just make the same old boring presentation every time? Is it (just) to entertain?  Is it to bring people up to speed?  Is it to impress visitors about how your group has done over the year?  Is it part of a reflective practice exercise to make next year better than this?

You can’t design a presentation until you know.

Chaplin - the ultimate comedy presenter!Sometimes, of course, your presentation will have to do more than one thing at a time, but at least by being specific about what your presentation is supposed to do you’ll have a fighting chance of doing it. For example, presentation that’s “just for fun” can (and possibly should) concentrate on the embarrassing mistakes you’ve all made.  “Do you all remember when Dom came out of the toilets without checking that …?”.

Obvious, right?

Pro tip here… don’t do that about the Big Boss’s mistakes if the presentation is supposed to be a formal, learning-orientated presentation! It could be a career-limiting-presentation! 😉

Don’t do a chronological presentation

Okay, so there are times when a chronological review is the right thing but I can’t think of one off the top of my head. Presentations that just go over what happened are about as useful and popular as “What I did on my holidays” with  2549 slides of out-of-focus holiday snaps. And just as pointless.

Think of a different system.

How about a presentation that starts with the third biggest success, then the second and then your group’s biggest achievement of the year? Does it really matter that they happened in October, July and November?  Possibly, but not enough to put them in the order of the months compared to, say, the order of importance.

Or what about your team’s three biggest learnings? In which case the obvious structure is:

  • Don't say this about your presentations! ;)mistake 1 – cause – solution – prevention put in place
  • mistake 2 – cause – solution – prevention put in place

and so on…

The only reason to present them in date order is if your reaction to mistake is what caused problem 2, and the solution to that caused problem 3 and so on.  Trust me, if that’s the case you’ve got a bigger problem than the order of your presentation!

Okay, so there is a single, good reason for chronology – it means your audience can figure out when you’re going to stop.  If you start in January and your presentation is being delivered at the start of December they can do the (disheartening) maths 😉

Avoid the ‘so what?’ presentation

Let me be blunt. Most presentations suck and most review presentations suck more than most ‘cos they’re done out of habit rather than to go anywhere. Go back to the first tip I posted and ask what you’re doing it for. Then ask yourself if your presentation is likely to change anything.

A ‘greatest mistakes’ presentation, for example, should include appropriate Call2Action bits, so that whatever mistakes you’re reporting can’t happen again next year. (Don’t worry – if you’re like me you’ll find new ones to make.)

A ‘big success’ presentation might want to include recognition of the leading players in those successes, so that they’re motivated to do it again next year – and perhaps so that other people are motivated to do even better than them.

looney presentations
How NOT to finish your presentation

The details of those example aren’t the point – the point is that your presentation shouldn’t end with a literal or metaphorical “errr.. that’s all!”

You might also think (long and hard!) about questions at the end of your presentation. They’re not often a good idea – and they’re particularly risky at the end of a review-style presentation… depending of course, on the way you structured it. (There’s a video of it here: how to end a presentation.)

KISS your presentations

I shouldn’t have to say this. I really shouldn’t. It applies to any presentation but for some reason, perhaps because people feel the weight of a year’s history sitting on their shoulder they seem to go to town in end-of-year-review presentations and so on. Keep it short. Keep it simple. Don’t go overboard on the props.

the worst day to do a presentation?No, you don’t need to have 25 props – two for each month and one to spare in case someone doesn’t laugh at your first April Fool’s joke.

And no, you don’t need more slides, just because you’re covering a long period of time. Go back and look again at why you’re doing it. For a presentation that talks about your three big learnings you might only need three slides!

Take the presentation seriously

Just like everyone else, I’ve been guilty of this. With Christmas coming (or the summer holidays, or whatever) there’s an increased risk of a number of psychological phenomena cropping up in your presentation. Looking back at the year, for example, might easily lead to Confirmation Bias, so you only report (because you only see!) the bad things in the year if you think the year has been a bad one. The same is true, by the way, if you’re convinced it’s your best year ever.

If the presentation is a light hearted one, don’t just knock it off thinking it doesn’t matter. Trust me – people will remember it as a car crash if it was one! The fact that you only meant to give a five minute, fun reflection before the party won’t be what sticks in their mind. Sadly. What will stick is that you couldn’t work your presentation software and the hardware seemed to have a life of it’s own.

Take this presentation as seriously as you take any other presentation!

tea - best way to recover from a bad presentation? ;)We done?

Probably not, but I’m well over a thousand words in and I need a cup of tea! 😉

Let me know about the best and worst of review-style-presentations you’ve seen this year!  Or just take three minute to giggle at this summary video…

Simon says...

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