What to do When Someone Asks You to Create Their Presentation

Earlier I wrote what you should do when someone asks you to deliver the presentation they have created (Seven and a Half Things to Do When Someone Asks You to Deliver Their Presentation). Now I hear more people asking what to do in the equally common situation where someone asks you to create a presentation that they will deliver. In most cases it is your boss who makes this request so assuming that this is the case what can you do? Here are three basic concepts you should focus on:

KNOW THEIR STYLE. Before you start you need to know something about their presentation style. It will not help to make a textbook perfect presentation if the boss feels uncomfortable presenting it or cannot deliver it in the way you expected. Personally I like to emphasize visuals and memorize what I need to say, but not everyone has the time or performing skills needed to do this so you might need to embed more of the content in the slides than is ideal.  Maybe you like to use "builds", where elements of a slide are added one at a time, but this will not work if your boss does not remember the sequence (it is also bad technique as I explained in Presentation Techniques; Pointing Without Pointing). Perhaps you like fast-moving dynamic presentations made with Prezi where elements rotate and zoom rapidly but your boss feels more comfortable with static bullet points.  In any case you need to understand their style. Try to watch them deliver a presentation, look at slide decks they have made and ask others to describe how they present so that you get a feel for what they will be able to deliver convincingly. To test your drafts imagine your boss delivering them and ask yourself if it sounds like them.

BE DEPENDABLE. Having to rely on someone else to do things is essential for very busy people but it is also very stressful. You can minimize this stress and make yourself very popular by being utterly dependable. This means meeting all deadlines on time, always making sure the file is in the right format and testing every presentation to make sure everything works. It also means accurate proofreading  and fact checking. It is hugely embarrassing for your boss to present a slide with a hilarious typo or a fact that is challenged. Many of the stories and "facts" that you hear in presentations are actually false. Mention that Henry Ford once said that if he had asked customers what they wanted they would have said "a faster horse" and someone in the audience will point out that this story is false. Try repeating the old myth that we only use 10% of our brains and people might not point out the error but will mistrust everything else you say. (For more about these myths see The Creation of Levi's: Why Writers and Speakers Should Always Check Facts). Today everyone has a search engine in their phone so any claims like this can be checked and challenged. You can check, too, and make sure that you do.

ADD VALUE.  Simply delivering a minimum viable presentation might get you off the hook but career-wise it is much better to add value. Stick closely to the brief you were given but try also to add some new facts, data, examples or stories that you have researched. Add these in such a way that they can be dropped without redesigning the whole presentation. Adding value makes you a valued member of the team; just creating the minimal viable slide deck makes you the guy who types the slides.

Know their style, be dependable and add value. Get these three key concepts right and your boss is more likely to be happy with what you did. It's also more likely that that they ask you to do it again and this is actually a good thing because it guarantees you more time with the boss and gives you a window into their thoughts, ideas and plans. You're also more likely to get invited to meetings if you explain that you'd like to see how they present so that you can do it better next time. You will also know about stuff before anyone else and get a chance to show that you are dependable and can add value -- two things that bosses especially like.

In addition to these three basic concepts make sure you know enough about presentation skills to do the job well. If you get chosen to make a presentation for the boss you can use this opportunity to get some advanced training or coaching so that you can do it even better -- a plus value for both of you.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching & Writing

For lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing on this and other communication topics visit http://andrewhennigan.com, email conseil@andrewhennigan.com or call 0033 6 79 61 42 81 (France) or 0046 730 894 475 (Sweden).


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